Motormouth: Keeping your car healthy while sheltering in place
Q: Our cars have been sitting in the garage for long periods of time because of the coronavirus lockdown and because we’re retired. When we do drive, it’s usually short distances to stock up on groceries. What kind of mileage should we be putting on them to keep them running well?
— R.C., South Elgin, Ill.
Q: Now that many of us are stuck at home, we are also driving much less. Is there anything different we should be doing with our vehicles? I filled my car with gas about six weeks ago and the tank is still full.
— M.W., Oswego, Ill.
Q: I’ve been staying home and only moving the car in and out of the garage. I had a dead battery this morning. I jumped it and took a half-hour drive, and all is well. You may want to remind readers.
— D.C., Chicago
A: There are several things we can do to keep out cars healthy while sheltering them in place. Connecting a smart battery charger will keep the battery up without the danger of overcharging it the way some old chargers did. A full tank of gas will be fine for probably six months. If you are the worrying type, pouring some fuel additive such as StaBil in the tank is like insurance.
Because I live in an exurb, I go for a drive once a week. Driving down a country road, I keep my social distance from others. Plus, gas is cheap. Pray for a quick end to all of this.
Q: First, I want to express my appreciation because Rides is the first section of my Sunday paper that I read. Second, it looks like a correction is needed on the tire tread test information that was posted in reply to B.K. from Emmaus, Pa. I didn’t catch it myself. My brother did after I sent him a snapshot of your column. It should have said that [2/3]2 is equal to 1/16 of an inch, not [1/8]. I looked at the Goodyear website and everything else checks out.
— M.B., Riverside, Ill.
A: You and about a thousand other alert readers caught the error. Thank you all. I hope that I may claim to be a better writer than mathematician. That is my brother’s specialty.
Q: Regarding B.K.’s question about tread depth, most tires have wear bars between the lines of tread. When the tread depth gets to an unsafe depth of [2/3]2 inch, the bar is the same thickness as the tread. With the financial climate we are in, keep your pennies in your pocket and read your tires.
— R.R., Evergreen Park, Ill.
A: You are right. The wear bars resemble bald spots (lines) across the tire tread. They are evenly spaced around the tire and arrows on the sidewall point to their locations. These tires are definitely due for replacement!
Q: In an auto review next to your column recently, it was noted that the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid has 232 pound-feet torque. Most car ads now carry that piece of information. Why? I have no idea what this means and assume many other people don’t either.
— D.C., Chesterton, Ind.
A: Torque refers to the oomph that gets the car rolling. The more torque, the more neck snap factor you feel when accelerating from a stop. It is what you need to do a burnout and accelerate hard. Trucks often have high-torque diesel engines to get those heavy loads moving.