How to Maintain Your Car Engine During MCO

With the increase of Covid variants and transmission rates, the Movement Control Order (MCO 3.0) has been put in place until June 28th, 2021. For some of us, this might mean not using our cars as much as most offices are following work-from-home orders, school children are studying online and most non-essential items can be bought online.

Unfortunately, cars left unattended for long periods of time could suffer from a variety of problems. Some common problems include bad starter motors, seized engines, dead batteries, and corroded hoses that are all affected by time and the environment. If you find yourself affected by these common problems, here are some tips that could save you a trip to the workshop!

How to Jump Start a Car

The easiest step to start a car that has been sitting for some time is to jump-start it as it is common for your car battery to lose all its charge if left unattended for a while. This will leave you no juice to power up your car. 

Jump start a car

Here is how you can jump start your car:

  1. Replace your car’s fluids; oil, coolant, and trans fluid.
  2. Using the jumper cable, connect the red clamp to the positive terminal on your dead car’s battery and the other red clamp on the live car’s battery. The positive terminal has either a red cover or a “+” symbol on it.
  3. Connect the black clamp to the negative terminal of the live car’s battery. The negative terminal has either a black cover or a “-” symbol on it. Connect the black clamp of your car to a grounded-metal part or surface of the car.
  4. Start the live-battery car and let it run for a few minutes as this will start to recharge the dead battery.
  5. Start the dead-battery car. If the engine does not start, keep the other car running for a few more minutes and try again.
  6. Once the car starts, remove the clamps in reverse order, black clamp from the grounded surface, black clamp from the good battery’s negative post, red clamp from the dead battery, red clamp from the good battery. 

Car Battery Replacement

A dead car battery is the next most common reason why your car won’t start. You can easily solve this problem by replacing your car battery with a new one.

Replacing a car battery

Here are the steps:

  1. Remove the old car battery by removing the negative cable from the negative terminal (the one with the “-” sign and remove the positive one from the positive terminal (the one with the “+”). If you are using a metal tool, make sure it does not get in contact with the terminal as that can cause a spark.
  2. Loosen the battery hold-down, connectors, and/or fasteners that secure the battery in place. Lift the battery out and in a safe spot.
  3. Using a skinny wire brush and some water or baking soda, clean the clamps before you add the new battery. Try to remove any corrosion, dirt, or debris from the clamps. You can also clean the battery terminals to clear it of build-up.
  4. Put the new battery into the holder and secure the battery.
  5. Reconnect the positive terminal and the negative terminal.
  6. Test your car by cranking up the engine or turning on the electronics. 

Replace Your Petrol

Just like milk, your petrol can also turn bad if it is left for too long. Petrol has a shelf-life of about six months, so do take note of the last time you filled up your tank. If you need to replace the petrol in your tank, here is how you can do it:

  1. Using a fuel transfer pump, slide the pump’s hose into the gas tank’s input opening behind the filler cap and pump a small amount of petrol into a clear container.
  2. Let the petrol sit for approximately five minutes so it can settle. 
  3. If you see the petrol separating into discernible layers or contains particulates, that means it has gone bad.
  4. Remove as much as possible using the pump and replace it with new petrol.
  5. You will likely have to crank up your engine a few times to flush out the remaining petrol through the system.

Read also: Latest Petrol Price in Malaysia

Change Your Starter Motor

If your car still does not start after your have jump started it or replaced its battery, you might need to change the starter motor. As placements differ according to car model, you’ll have to do a little investigative homework to determine the starter motor location and what you need to do to replace it.

starter motor

  1. Disconnect the battery terminals and locate the engine’s starter motor using your car’s manual or by looking for official guides online.
  2. Remove any parts necessary to access the starter motor. Take a picture of the parts in their original location before disconnecting so that you remember where to put them back after.
  3. Disconnect any connections running to the starter motor. 
  4. Remove the starter motor and replace it with a new one.
  5. Reconnect any connections to the new starter that you removed from the old starter and replace any parts you removed to access the starter.
  6. Reconnect the battery terminals and crank up the engine. It might not fire right away, so you might want to give it a few tries until it starts.

As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. In this case, the best thing for you to do is to maintain your car even though you are not driving it as often.

How to Maintain a Non-Moving Car

1. Start Your Car Once A Week

If you have not driven your car all week, you are advised to start the engine and leave it running for 10 minutes. This is to keep your car’s battery charged and ensure that the car’s alternators and other components function properly. Do not turn on the air conditioner or car infotainment system during this period to maximize the battery charging process. 

2. Clean the Interior of Your Car

Make sure no trash or food waste is left inside your car especially if you leave your car for a long period of time. This not only invites pests such as cockroaches and ants, it also causes an unpleasant foul odor that could linger on in your car. In warm and humid climates such as we have here in Malaysia, car interiors could be susceptible to molding. Having a dehumidifier in your car could help to keep your car mold-free.

3. Increase Air Pressure of Tires

Leaving your car for long periods of time can cause flat-spotting of the tires. Flat-spotting causes the tires to lose its shape and this will cause your steering wheel to vibrate when you drive. To prevent this from happening, increase the air pressure by 3 PSI if you are not planning to drive your car for a long time. You can also drive your car forward and backward once every few days to rotate the tires to avoid the risk of flat-spotting.

how to maintain your car engine

We hope that this guide has helped you become more informed on how to maintain your car during this lockdown period. The most important thing to do is to keep your car “alive” by starting it every week and if you were unable to, we hope that the tips to re-start your car have helped. If you are not using your car as much and would like to consider selling your used car, make sure to check out Carsome to get a free valuation of your car! 

This article was originally published on 10 February 2021. This revision includes new information and tips.