Our vehicles are idle, but we don't have to be

What a journey we’ve all been on.

During a season that’s usually devoted to adventure, many of us have been forced to quench our desires for exploration 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.

One of these days, the road will call us again. Now is our chance to make sure our cars are ready to answer.

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 one bit. But as we all wait for the pathway to become clearer, Charles notes that 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.

“One simple thing is to get out and drive. This will help keep that battery charged,” says Charles. “When we drive our vehicle, the alternator will recharge that vehicle battery.”

But if that’s not possible right now, there are other steps you can take.

“If getting out and driving is not an option, I recommend a battery tender,” he says. “A battery tender connects your car’s battery to an external power source to keep it properly charged when it can’t be driven. Most tenders today have very smart electronics built in to help prevent overcharging. This will keep the vehicle battery in optimum condition so it’s ready to ride when you want to jump behind the wheel.”

Other battery 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.

Our tires protect us and our loved ones. We need to do our part to protect them when they've been sitting idle.

According to Nokian Tyres Director of Products Steve Bourassa, that means three things: moving your car, making sure you have the right tires, and doing a quick maintenance check.

There’s a potential 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 heavy vehicles will have it worse,” Bourassa says. “Cold weather will make it more prominent. Some might see it overnight while others might only experience it after sitting for a week. It is usually normal and will cease after driving 5-10 consecutive miles.”

In extreme cases, flat-spotting can be permanent. That’s especially likely if your car has been sitting for a month or longer. If you’ve driven for several miles and still feel uncharacteristic vibration, this may be the problem and you should take your car to a tire dealer. Click here to find dealers in your area, many of which remain open. 

Now is also a good time to make sure you’re driving the right set of tires.

“Seasonal tires are the optimal choice for those living in a northern climate, Bourassa says. “It is important to remember to change over to appropriate tires for spring and summer months. Winter tires will wear quickly in hot weather, and braking distances will also increase in both dry and wet conditions compared to your summer rubber.”

If you drive winter tires during the colder months and haven’t switched into all-season or all-weather tires, do so as soon as you can – winter tires aren’t designed for spring and summer use. If you drive one set of all-season tires year-round but live in an area that experiences unpredictable winters, it might be a good time to consider all-weather tires, which allow for year-round use but better protect you from icy and snowy roads. Click here for more information about finding the right tires for your vehicle.

All-weather tires are a great year-round solution for drivers who experience unpredictable winter weather.

“Choosing high-quality tires can make a significant difference in your safety and pocketbook,” Bourassa says. “Products from Nokian Tyres offer safe traction in a variety of weather and driving conditions, in addition to low rolling resistance properties that help save on fuel and emissions.”

Once you’re confident you’re riding on the right tires, be sure they’re up to speed. Use the penny test to check their tread depth and bust out a tire pressure gauge to ensure they’re properly inflated – you can typically find your car’s recommend psi level inside the driver’s side door jamb or owner manual.

“It’s always important to ensure appropriate inflation pressures for your vehicle,” Bourassa said. “While you’re there, check the condition of your tires, looking for any unusual cracking or discoloration that could be a sign of damage. If you notice anything unusual, bring it in to your local tire dealer for an expert opinion.”

Embrace the Fluid Situation

Another important step: Making 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. Checking your power steering fluid is similar – many cars have a dipstick to measure it. Washer fluid and gasoline level are also each to check.

The others may require a mechanic’s help if you aren’t a car expert.

“Which fluids can be checked, and exactly how they are checked, varies by vehicle,” says Charles. “Refer to your vehicle’s owner manual for proper steps to check fluids.”

Keep Your Motor Running

When it comes down to it, 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. “In all my years as a technician, cars with high miles always seem to have fewer issues than cars that were barely driven. I try and get each of my cars out for a 20-or-so-mile cruise every 10-14 days. This gets the tires up to temperature and rolling, the fluids circulating, and the battery charged up. I also use this as a little four-wheel therapy. Windows down and radio up is good to clear the brain.”

Clear heads, full fluids, can’t lose. Here’s to recharging now – literally and figuratively – so we’re ready for the days when the journey is beautiful once again.

Visit NokianTires.com/FreshStart for more detailed information about getting the most of your vehicle.