Why the Coronavirus Lockdown Is Bad for Your Car

Unhappy driver
Photo by Sergey Mironov / Shutterstock.com

Saving money on gas is one of the few silver linings to the coronavirus-inspired lockdown. Most of us are logging just a fraction of the miles we normally drive every week.

Eventually, the pandemic will pass, and we will return to the open road. But if that day is months away, it’s possible your gas might go a little stale.

Most gas remains fresh for a couple of months. But if your car sits longer than that, it can begin to degrade. The gas will lose octane, which has negative impacts on both the air-fuel mixture and the combustion in the cylinders.

Old gas also becomes less explosive with age, which impairs engine performance. As residues and water build up in both the gas and the engine, performance degrades more.

Fortunately, the fix for this is pretty simple.

As John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief automotive services manager at the Auto Test Center, told Family Handyman last year, all you have to do is top off the tank once you are ready to drive again:

“The new gas will mix with what’s already in your tank, and any variance in the octane will be adjusted for automatically by your car’s engine computer.”

Of course, it is probably better to simply avoid that problem of stale gas in the first place. If you are not going to be driving for a while, you can take a couple of steps to keep your gas in great shape:

  • Fill up your car’s fuel tank, which keeps water from accumulating.
  • Add fuel stabilizer, which can extend the life of gas for more than a year. You can find fuel stabilizer at Amazon.

Gas is dirt cheap now, but that doesn’t mean you cannot save even more. For tips, check out “7 Smart Ways to Save Money at the Gas Pump.”

Just be careful when you fill up. The threat of COVID-19 seems to be everywhere, even at the gas station. Before you make a fuel run, read “How Pumping Gas Puts You at Risk for Coronavirus.”

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