During the winter, our powerful, pleasurable, indestructible Patreon donors voted for DIY car maintenance in one of our Patreon exclusive content polls. And I decided to sit on it, because spring is the ideal time for a lot of routine car maintenance. I thought I would be topical.
Well, now it’s become either entirely too topical… or not topical at all? Perhaps both at the same time. On the one hand, I have never driven less than I have over the last month. In the last two weeks, I’ve driven just once: to the local grocery store and back, a round-trip of less than one mile.
On the other hand…
I drove my car so infrequently it broke down.
Yep. My nine-year-old battery finally up and died! So as usual, the moral of the story is don’t be like me!
In retrospect, it’s obvious that trying to be a good girl and go on as few trips as possible would obviously backfire and create the need for more trips! I hadn’t planned on going to an auto supply store during a pandemic, but my new minimalist bike-everywhere lifestyle successfully murdered my geriatric battery. Cause of death: involuntary Mustachianism?
I had to leave my car idling and unlocked in the parking lot of the closest AutoZone because I was afraid it wouldn’t start again, but I refused to let my asthmatic partner join me on any errands while Rona’s out there, causing havoc.
I was able to get a new battery. Between myself, my partner, a set of imperial wrenches that didn’t quite match our metric nuts, and the living catalogue of human knowledge that is YouTube, we were able to replace the battery ourselves. But this got me to thinking about car maintenance for people who rarely drive.
Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that basically includes… <checks notes> everyone. But it’s not exactly a niche topic, either. Many frugal people, minimalists, and environmentalists own a car out of necessity, but are interested in driving as little as possible.
So today we’re going to discuss how to take care of your car when you barely drive it at all.
If you have a garage, good for you! Park there. (Assuming it has space for a car between the towering mountains of old crap your parents are saving for mysterious and unknowable reasons.)
If not, you need to find a solid spot to park. If at all possible, you want a legal parking spot somewhere on firm, level pavement or gravel that isn’t directly underneath a tree.
The legal part is obvious. No one needs a garnish of parking tickets on top of their steaming entrée of fresh hell. And this is not the time to be blocking any space an ambulance might need.
Level is best because engaging your parking break for too long can make it sticky, especially if you initiated it when wet. If you go long enough without driving, the brake pads could even fuse to the rotor. No bueno.
Grass and dirt isn’t the ideal footing, for a few reasons. It makes your undercarriage hot and wet. (Wow, that’s the first time I’ve used that phrase about anything other than pussy! I have HAD IT with this quarantine sapping all my joys.) That will cause rust. If you live somewhere with very muddy spring weather, you don’t want to end up stuck in a muddy rut. Finally, grass underneath makes your car a more appealing place for varmints to hide underneath—and inside.
Finally, you want to avoid parking underneath a tree for cosmetic reasons (bird shit and tree sap can fuck up your paint job) as well as risk-aversion reasons (spring is the windiest season, and you don’t want to find a tree limb jutting out through the pile of tempered glass that was once your windshield). When cars and trees fight, cars usually lose.
Clean the interior
A clean interior serves three purposes.
For one, you shouldn’t store anything valuable inside your car to avoid theft. You may have to work to stretch your personal definition of what’s “valuable.” Have you ever had to pay $200 to repair a car window someone smashed to steal a GPS unit that was probably worth less than $8 to a pawn shop? Because I have! And I cannot recommend the experience. Two out of five stars, if I’m being honest.
Two, you don’t want anything perishable sitting in your car. Food crumbs and old wrappers will attract rodents, who love to fuck up cars by chewing through wires and building nests inside engine blocks, the sneaky fucks…
Finally, it just feels psychologically good to sit in a clean space. And now is a fine time to grasp at anything that helps you feel psychologically good.
Clean the exterior
If you live in an area that gets snow in winter, take a hose and spray the underside of your car. The road salt that’s spread on roads, sidewalks, and parking lots damages your car’s delicate guts. Spritzing it off will prolong your car’s lifespan.
If you’re stir crazy and would love to get outside for an hour or two, consider washing and waxing your car as well. The wax creates a seal that protects you car’s paint job.
Go for a drive
This is our most important advice. So don’t skip it!
Take your car out for a 20- to 30-minute drive at least once per week.
And yes, it has to be driving—you can’t just start the car and let it idle. This is important for several reasons.
Your car’s battery charges every time you drive it. If you drive it very infrequently, or only on very short trips, you aren’t giving it enough time and power to get its full charge back. And the older your battery is, the less total charge of which it’s capable. That’s how you’ll end up in a situation like mine: an old, dead battery during the one time you can’t knock on your friendly neighbor’s door for help with a jump start.
This is especially true it you live in colder climates, as cold weather wears the batteries down faster.
Your car’s moving parts—like MAH PUSSAY—are also designed to be highly lubricated. (Sorry, sorry, it’s my Space Madness, it’s really getting to me today!) If the car sits unused, those parts dry out. The fluids that keep them lubricated can crystalize, separate, and evaporate.
Your tires are also designed to be in constant motion. If they sit for too long in one position, they can develop flat spots. Once the flat spots develop, there’s no fixing them. And a new set of tires will set you back several hundred buckeroos. Again, more bills right now are about as useful as an asshole right here. (And with “here,” I gestured to literally any part of my body that wasn’t between my butt cheeks.)
Driving around is also a great way to get out of your house and soak up some vitamin D without breaking social distancing. I’ve found long drives very relaxing, especially when you use the opportunity to scream-sing cathartic songs that are just outside of your vocal range!
Top off your tank
Oil prices are cheap right now. So cheap that fossil fuel companies are crying about it while saying “wah wah” and shaking their big cartoon rattles as they sit in their filthy, polluted, gigantic diapers. Thoughts and prayers!
So there’s no time like the present to fill your tank to the brim! A full tank of gas prevents condensation, which keeps nasty fumes from building up inside your car. And since you’re following our advice to drive it, the gasoline won’t be sitting so long that the gasoline goes stale.
Mostly, this is one of those peace-of-mind things. If some kind of emergency rears its head, you don’t want to have to stop for gas. Be as the boy scouts and/or fascist lions say: be prepared!
Just remember to wash or sanitize your hands immediately after. Many dirty hands have touched that same pump.
More of our wholesome wisdom on buying, owning, and using cars:
- The Joys of Getting Around Without a Damn Car
- Buying a Car with the Bitches, Part 1: How to Choose Your Car
- Buying a Car with the Bitches, Part 2: How to Pay for Your Car
- Ask the Bitches: “I Just Turned 18 and My Parents Are Kicking Me Out. How Do I Brace Myself?”
- Understand the Hidden Costs of Travel and Avoid Them Like the Plague
That’s all for today, my kittens! Thanks again to our amazing Patreon donors for choosing this question in our content poll. If you’d like a say on which topics we cover, head on over to Patreon to join the rest of the Bitch Nation. There you can also get videos, answers to direct questions, free merch, and many more pert and perky perks!
So how’s everyone’s cars doing today? Please rate them on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “too Mustachian to start,” and 10 being “Alyssa Edwards versus Tatianna lip-syncing Shut Up And Drive.”