Monday, September 28, 2020

Minimize the Risk of Servicing Your Car During the Covid Pandemic

One of the most frequent questions I get on my radio show [Earl Stewart on Cars, Saturdays 8-10 AM EST 95.9 FM, 106.9 FM;] is “How can I be sure I’m servicing my car properly when I’m afraid to drive my car into the service department for fear of Covid?”

Following are some tips to be sure that your car is getting the right care and not expose you to the Covid virus:

- If you’re concerned about maintaining your car’s warranty, call your dealership’s service department and explain your concern. All makes recommend that you follow the recommend service in our owner’s manual, but it’s very, very rare that warranty repairs are denied because of being late or even missing a recommended service. To do so would require proof that neglect specifically caused a repair…running low or out of oil for example. Call your service department and explain your concern and they’ll likely understand your delaying a service. Also, most service departments provide for “pick-up and delivery” service at an additional charge. The single most critical thing you should watch is your oil level. You want to be sure your oil level doesn’t drop far enough to cause engine damage. I you can’t do this yourself, please have someone do this at lease every 6 months or 5,000 miles.

- Online Owner Forums: Every make car has large numbers of owners who “gather on the Internet” to trade ideas and problems. If your car has a particular problem, noise, rattle, fuel consumption or anything at all that is worrisome, the odds are almost 100% that some people in a chatroom have discussed it and offered solutions. For example, you might have 2016 Honda Accord that stalls at stoplights. Just Google, “2012 Honda Accord stalling at stoplights” and you’ll be amazed at the amount of useful information you’ll see.

- Another way to learn if you have a serious or minor problem, is to describe it carefully to the service advisor or technician that normally works on your car. You can do this by phone, text, or email and be sure to include pictures and audio recordings from your smartphone. Given a good description, especially with audio and video, a good tech can usually give you a diagnosis by phone.

- If your “Check Engine Light” comes on, it’s usually nothing serious. In fact, about half the time it’s because your gas cap isn’t tight enough! Almost all “check engine light” warnings are related to excessive emissions, and this is rarely a serious problem requiring immediate service. You can decode your “check engine light” yourself with a code-reader. The highest rated and best seller on Amazon is the Autophix OBD2 Scanner Enhanced OM126P for $49.99, free one day delivery. Rick Kearney, the technician on my radio show, recommends Auto Zone, Advanced Auto Parts, and O’Reilly’s for a FREE code check. Don’t go to Pep Boys, they’ll charge you.

- If you must take your car to a service department, ask them ahead of time to describe their precautions against Covid. EVERYONE should be PROPERLY wearing a mask, social distancing should be being enforced, hand sanitizers and hand washing stations should be readily available. Your car should be DE sanitized before it’s returned. The tech who was inside your car and the person that returns your car should be wearing masks. Especially careful companies are testing their employees (and even their family members) for Covid periodically.

One thing to remember is that you and your family’s lives are far more important than buying or servicing your car. This pandemic will pass, things will greatly improve, and the day will come when you can safely service and buy a car again. Better safe than sorry.

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