THE self-quarantine and stay-at-home orders under the enhanced community quarantine has rendered many cars useless for over a month.
Many of my friends have used the ECQ to clean and detail their cars. Washing their cars, doing a full vacuum, some even taking out the seats and carpets. Soaping, rinsing and cleaning every nook and cranny. Doing a full body wax and wrapping their cars under protective automotive body wraps.
Those with the equipment, parts and money to do so have made engine, suspension and interior modifications. One friend posted on Instagram his full decked new audio system with a 45-inch TV in his van. Another spent the time installing parts that were just on his garage shelves for years.
But for most car owners, cars will just be parked along the subdivision roads or in garages.
Now if conditions improve, and the lockdown will be reduced to smaller pockets of community quarantine, then we can start bringing our cars out again. EDSA will be filled again. Traffic will come back which will be everyone’s measure of the old ways in the new normal.
There are a few things that we need to pay attention to before we drive out back into the roads though. Reviving our cars from their slumber is important. Storage will create problems. Here is a compilation of issues I faced with my own cars.
1) Fuel degradation – expect that in the long time the vehicle has been parked, the fuel may slightly degrade. The biggest culprit would be moisture build-up—even when conditions are not wet. This is especially true with blended fuels such as bio-ethanol mixes. Ethanol is an alcohol that naturally contains water. Fuel can separate, and water vapor can accumulate in your gas tank.
The slight fuel degradation will lower the Rated Octane Number (RON) and may cause noticeable performance differences—a lag in acceleration or “tope” which is Tagalog for an engine knock. This is not dangerous, most cars will compensate for the flatting out or lack of power electronically or electromechanically. Topping up with fresh fuel will usually fix the problem.
2) Tire performance – one of the biggest concerns with tires for cars in long term storage is flat-spotting. This is different from a flat tire. Flat spotting occurs because the weight of the vehicle sits on only one part of the wheel or an extended amount of time. For cars with brand new or relatively new tires stored for about 15 days, it may not be noticeable and will self-heal. But for cars with thinner treads—those that have run for 20,000 kms. or over, flat-spotting happens even after just two weeks.
Normally, there is no cure for flat-spotting for older tires, and there is no truth to the supposed solution that overinflating the tire to 10 pounds about normal and driving it around will cure it. Once one spot flattens out a portion of the rubber on the tire, will remain there until tire wear catches up with it. Severe flat-spotting affects the ply and the sidewall and may require tire replacement.
Flat or underinflated tires happens when there is a valve leak or a hole in the carcass. Parking a car with low tire pressure will definitely result in flat spots of a different kind—affecting the sidewall.
It is true that by overinflating by 3 to 5 pounds while the car is in storage will be beneficial to prevent flat-spots. Remember that, at the time of liberation from mothballing, to bring the tire pressure down to factory specifications. Find the manufacturer recommendations for tire pressures on a sticker by the driver’s door.
3) Stopping power. There are two important points here, the parking brakes and your vehicle’s actual brakes. In storage, brake rotors can begin to develop rust on the surface. That it normally easy to slack off when you drive the car. There are no anti-rust chemicals that can be used to prevent rust build up, but there are spray-on brake rotor and pad cleaners that work very well.
The parking brake may bind to the rotors or drums when engaged for a long period of time. Rust may develop around the rotor or drum too. The solution is simple. A few days before, disengage the parking brake. But do this when the car is in P (park) for automatics and 1st gear for manual transmission cars.
If the parking brakes bind to the rotors, disengage it and shift the car the reverse (it unlatches faster in reverse) or gently push your car backwards. Remember, to always put safety first and only do what was suggested on a flat surface. If the parking brake does not release, a spray of brake cleaner may do the job. If that does not work, get a mechanic and do the needed repairs.
4) Pests in control. Rats, roaches and even birds are problems for long or short term storage. Cars that are stored in garages with open fields nearby are prone to rodent attacks from brown field mice. But the black city rat is quite destructive, attacking the plastic electrical insulation or hide in between the warm parts between the tire and the wheel well.
Cars that are stored without being cleaned become long term housing for roaches. Birds will use our cars as bomb sites for their poops. Before driving off after the ECQ, check your car’s wheel wells and engine bays for any critters.
5) Take charge. Batteries, over time will discharge. Especially in newer cars, the electrical loads in cars, even when just parked is enough to drop voltage by up to 2 volts after three to four weeks of not being used. Cranking voltage is 12.4 to 13.8 volts. If you try to start your car at 10 to 11 volts, it just won’t turn over.
In this case you need to jump-start your car with another battery or from another car. You can plug your vehicle into a battery charger if you have one. If proper storage procedures were followed before the ECQ, disconnecting the negative side of the battery is part of it.
6) Rehydrate your car. Fluids are a major issue for mothballing a car. Even a month’s storage. Oils will settle. Water in the radiator may rust or unseen leaks may deplete the level of water. Brake fluid will settle in the piping and in the flasks. Gaskets and hoses that aren’t kept lubricated can dry out and become brittle. Check on all necessary fluid levels before driving out.
7) Don’t just drive it. When bringing your car out of mothballing, the simplest solution to discover all the issues that happened during storage is to drive it. Drive it for about 20 minutes—that’s more than enough time to warm up the engine and get the fluids moving, the tire rotation will keep it rounded and protect it from flat spots. Driving also bring up the battery to a good level of charging, scrapes the rust off the brakes. Drive it at least two days—before the dropping of the ECQ—that gives you extra time to fix anything that needs to be fixed.