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Don't let your car fall apart while you quarantine

Long periods without driving can lead to noisy brakes, dead batteries, and funky smells in your car

PORTLAND, Oregon — Use it or lose it ... you've probably heard that a few times when referring to your physical health.

The same can be said for your car.  Yes, we’re talking car care during COVID-19. Maybe it should be a thing.

A lot of our cars are just sitting there collecting pollen, bird droppings and tree sap (not great for your paint). Your tire pressure is dropping, your battery is slowly being drained, and your brakes are getting rusty.

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"Your calipers and your rotors are steel, so they're going to rust just sitting there. The first thing people notice when they get in and they go to move is a grinding noise," says Brent Allen, a veteran car technician with Point S Auto in St. Johns.

The noise is normal. That thin layer of rust on your brakes wears off with a few stops.

Just getting your car to start is another matter. Don't take that for granted if you haven't been driving at all for weeks. It's another strike if you have a marginal (maybe older) battery to begin with. 

Batteries are constantly leaking charge ... slowly. That tiny daily leak is usually alleviated with your daily commute. Not commuting? That tiny leak is cumulative, so you might not have enough juice to actually start your car. Brent recommended a 20-minute drive once in a while to help stave off a dead battery.

Lastly, funky air. It happens. Your air filters collect dirt, pollen and mold. Those should be changed at least once a year, and there's nothing stopping you from doing it much more often. They clean the air you breathe in your car.

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Without air circulating through your cabin air filter, mold can grow. So there's a chance you're gonna have a mildew odor in your car when you do hit the road again.

If you smell something really funky ... check to see if some unwanted animal guests have set up shop in your engine compartment.

Tire and automotive shops are considered essential businesses. Your local tire shop is open if you need car maintenance, a new battery, a clean air filter, or studded snow tire removal. ODOT has extended the studded-tire season to May 15 due to COVID-19.

Chris McGinness is a meteorologist and transportation reporter for KGW. Got a story idea or a great photo you want to share? Email him at cmcginness@kgw.com or reach out on FacebookTwitter and Instagram