During a season that’s usually devoted to adventure, many of us have been forced to stick a little closer to home. When it’s finally time to return to our globetrotting ways, it’s vital to make sure our vehicles are ready.
That means taking active steps now, while our cars are mostly idle. How do we make sure they’re in top shape for the journeys to come? There’s no one better to ask than Charles, the Humble Mechanic, whose YouTube tips have helped millions get the most out of their vehicles.
Get charged up
If you’re charged up for adventure, we don’t blame you. As we wait for the pathway to become clearer, Charles notes it’s important for our batteries to stay charged, too.
“Things like big temperature swings and not being driven for extended periods of time cause extra strain on the vehicle battery,” he says. “With the average life span of a vehicle battery being three to five years, we want to do everything we can to keep it healthy.”
The key to getting your battery in gear? Using it regularly will keep it charged. Other tips include making sure your car is locked — so all computer systems know to sleep — and unplugging items from your cigarette lighter.
Be entirely confident
Tires are your car’s only safety device that touches the road. While you wait to head back onto the highway for an extended trip, make sure they’re in excellent working order.
There’s a danger to look out for if your car has been sitting for a long time: flat-spotting, or isolated flattening in parts of the tire that are in contact with the ground. The easiest fix: driving your car at least once each week.
“Flat spotting is variable and worse with heavy vehicles,” says Nokian Tyres Director of Products Steve Bourassa. “Cold weather will make it more prominent. Some might see it overnight while others might only experience it after sitting for a week.”
If you’ve driven several miles and still feel vibration, this may be the problem and you should take your car to a tire dealer.
Now is also a good time to make sure you’re driving the right tires.
“Seasonal tires are the optimal choice for those living in a northern climate,” Bourassa says. “It is important to change to appropriate tires for spring and summer. Winter tires will wear quickly in hot weather, and braking distances will also increase compared to your summer rubber.”
If you drive one set of tires year-round but live in an area with unpredictable winters, it might be a good time to consider all-weather tires, which allow for year-round use but better protect you from wintry roads.
Once you’re confident you’re riding on the right tires, be sure they’re up to speed. Use the penny test to check tread depth, and use a tire pressure gauge to ensure they’re properly inflated — you can typically find your car’s recommended psi level inside the driver’s side door jamb or owner manual.
“It’s important to ensure appropriate inflation pressures for your vehicle,” Bourassa said. “Also check the condition of your tires, looking for cracking or discoloration that could be a sign of damage. If you notice anything unusual, bring it to your tire dealer for an expert opinion.”
Embrace the fluid situation
Next, make sure your car’s juices are flowing properly.
“There are about eight fluids in most cars,” Charles says. “That includes engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant/antifreeze, power steering fluid, brake fluid, differential fluid, windshield washer fluid and, of course, gasoline.”
Check your dipstick to make sure your oil is at the right level. Check the other fluids while you’re at it, seeking out a dealer for help with tougher-to-measure fluids.
Keep your motor running
There’s one main rule of thumb Charles recommends: Keeping your car active, even though you aren’t able to go everywhere you want right now.
“Cars are meant to be driven,” says Charles. “Cars with high miles always seem to have fewer issues than cars that were barely driven. I take my cars for a cruise every 10-14 days. This gets the tires up to temperature and rolling, the fluids circulating, and the battery charged. Windows down and radio up is also good to clear the brain.”
Here’s to recharging now, so we’re ready for the days when the journey is beautiful once again.
Visit NokianTires.com/FreshStart for more ways to get the most out of your vehicle.