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Two senior citizens, both widows, got to talking about their cars during a FaceTime Video chat on their iPhones.

            Since the sequential quarantine periods imposed by the coronavirus pandemic bans seniors from going out without a Quarantine Pass, and they are disqualified from getting a QP, their cars were sitting idle most of the time in the garage. They wondered whether a car’s dependability is compromised when it is parked and not used for a long time.

             Mrs Emmy wasn’t worried because her son has a driver who now and then takes her car out for a spin inside their subdivision to warm up the engine.

            Mrs Sarah, on the other hand, has never hired a driver in her life. She has a daughter who drives her own car to run errands to the supermarket and drugstore, having obtained a QP since her age qualifies her to have the precious pass.

            For a person who had been driving cars all her life, Mrs Sarah became negligent and didn’t bother to warm up her car’s engine until two weeks after the Enhanced Community Quarantine began.

AAP RIDER MECHANIC

            Her car, a 2016 compact crossover, wouldn’t start. The engine wouldn’t even crank.  She phoned a friend who owns an auto repair shop, but he couldn’t come over to help because his shop was closed and the village where she lives was locked down. He told her it was probably the battery since her car was almost four years old and still had the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) battery.     

            Fortunately, Mrs Sarah is a member of the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) which dispatches an Emergency Roadside Service (ERS) First Responder riding a motorcycle to assist members in Metro Manila disabled by a flat tire, dead battery, insufficient fuel and other minor automotive problems.

            Mrs Sarah contacted the barangay chairman to get a permit for the AAP rider mechanic to enter the village and change her battery. Safely clad in the AAP rider mechanic uniform with hood, goggles, face mask, boots and gloves, and observing social distancing, he not only replaced her battery with a new one, but also checked the air pressure of her tires and changed the right front tire of her daughter’s car that had a nail stuck in it.

            From that day on, Mrs. Sarah became more conscientious about keeping her car roadworthy. She did a lot of research on car care and maintenance during the pandemic and discovered the following tips after reading Consumer Reports online:

PROTECT THE ENGINE

            Gasoline sitting in the tank of an idle or rarely used car could become stale because moisture can get into the tank over time, such as three months, and cause the gasoline to break down. Using old fuel in your car can sap engine power, cause hesitation and stalling. Before parking a car for an extended period, protect the engine by filling up the tank all the way with good quality gasoline to leave less room for air and the possibility of condensation in the tank.

            Luckily, before the lockdown, Mrs Sarah had topped up her tank with Petron Blaze, which is Euro 6 compliant and contains no moisture-attracting ethanol.

DRIVE THE CAR

            Drive the car at least once a week for 30 minutes or longer to prevent the battery losing charge, tires gaining flat spots, rubber components such as belts and wipers drying out.

             Mrs Sarah enjoys driving solo within her village for 10 kilometers or more at least twice a week.  She observes quarantine protocol by never disembarking until she gets home. She not only manages to shake off cabin fever while driving around, but also gets to explore streets and admire beautiful houses and parks she hasn’t noticed before.

CHECK THE OIL

            Check your oil levels when the car is parked on level ground and the engine is cold.  If the oil is low, you can have it topped off at the nearest service station, choosing the oil recommended in your owner’s manual.

            Oil change intervals can be drawn out and postponed for weeks during a quarantine. According to some motorheads, oil may be changed every 5,000 km if your car is relatively new. Check the mileage posted on the official receipt issued by your dealer after the last Preventive Maintenance Service (PMS) to find out if you need to change oil soon.

            Mrs Sarah did so and noticed that her car had been driven less than 3,000 km since its  PMS in November 2019, so there was no problem.

EXAMINE THE TIRES

            Check the tires for uneven wear and damage to see if they need replacement. Note the sticker in the driver’s door jamb for the recommended air pressure and check the inflation when the tires are cold, before driving off. Also check the spare tire. If your tread is low, avoid driving in heavy rain and slow down since worn tires have reduced wet traction and resistance to hydroplaning.

            After the AAP rider mechanic changed her car’s battery, Mrs Sarah asked him to check the air pressure and condition of the tires.  Since her car had run only around 20,000 km, her car’s OEM tires were still in good condition.

PROTECT THE PAINT

             Protect the paint by maintaining a clean exterior. You can wash the car in the shade with a car wash soap and sponge or mitt, one section at a time, starting at the top and working down.  Use a separate sponge for the wheels and tires to avoid transferring sand, brake dust and other debris that can mar the car’s finish.

            Mrs Sarah supervises her helper when washing the car. Since her car underwent Ziebart Diamond Gloss finish and Super Rust Protection immediately after she bought it in 2016, keeping her car’s exterior nice and shiny is easy, thanks to to the annual maintenance service, plus engine shampoo and dressing.

DISINFECT THE INTERIOR

            Clean and disinfect the interior with warn soapy water or isopropyl alcohol to kill the corona virus. Bleach or hydrogen peroxide is not recommended because these chemicals can damage the interior. Neither should you use ammonia-based cleaners on car touchscreens because they can damage their anti-glare and anti-fingerprint coatings.

            Wipe the dashboard with damp microfiber cloth sprayed with a mild cleaner, also the steering wheel, gear shifter, air vents (use cotton swabs), knobs, door handles, cup holders and seatbelts. Vacuum-clean the carpet, floor, seats and wipe the windows from the inside with damp microfiber cloth spayed with a mild cleaner.

            Mrs Sarah has a better idea: Call MyCasa for professional home service interior detailing or BactaKleen organic non-toxic anti-bacterial treatment.

SUMMING UP

            Even as lockdown restrictions are relaxed, senior citizens like Mrs Sarah prefer to stay home to avoid coronavirus infection. One way senior citizens can keep constructively busy while under quarantine is to attend to the care and maintenance of their car to the extent possible at home. It is a rewarding activity that can save senior citizens money by keeping their car in roadworthy condition for the post-pandemic future.

Photo lifted from istockphoto.com