COVID-19 and cars

It’s fair to say that 2020 is proving to be a rollercoaster of a year, one that many of us would rather not be on this year. Who would have thought when we rang in the new year that we’d face such enormous challenges. As much of the world goes into lockdown to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, this is a time for reflection and contemplation. We may take this opportunity to bemoan the restrictions that the current situation has placed on our travel plans (from international vacations to good old fashioned road trips). We may lament our feelings of frustration and cabin fever. We might even wonder just how different a place the world will be in six months.

For drivers, the current situation is especially tricky. The lockdown and whatever may lie beyond, represent some potential challenges, as well as some exciting opportunities. While this is a time of considerable uncertainty for many, it should also be a time of cautious optimism. Who knows what the rest of the year holds for our roads, our cars, and our lives? But below are some of the challenges that drivers will be thinking about in 2020 so far.

Car care and costs

We’re all used to looking after our cars while they’re on the road getting regular use. But even the most seasoned gearhead may flounder when it comes to taking care of their vehicles and mitigating car costs while under lockdown. The COVID-19 era is a time of great economic upheaval for many. Lots of us have been placed on furlough or let go from our jobs completely. Even those lucky enough to be able to work from home will likely have taken a pay cut of at least 20%, even at the upper levels.

Now’s the time when drivers need to be keeping a watchful eye on car costs. And if you’re no longer using your vehicle at all, the steps you take now could save you a great deal in the future. If you’re concerned about your car care and associated costs while we’re on lockdown, here are some preemptive steps you can take.

Talk to your insurance provider- Auto insurance companies aren’t exactly known for their charity and generosity. Nonetheless, if you’re not using your vehicle (and it’s off the road), it makes no sense to pay for a premium from which you can’t hope to benefit. Get in touch with your insurance provider and see if you can pause, cancel, or remove a driver from your policy to mitigate costs during this difficult time. The Nerd Wallet has some great advice on this right here.

Gas up now- With crude oil prices at an all-time low, the cost of gasoline is at a historic low. Even if you don’t anticipate needing to use your vehicle for weeks or even months, it makes sense to gas up now. A full tank can potentially save you the cost of a repair. As days turn into nights, the fluctuations in temperature can cause condensation to occur in a half-empty fuel tank, causing droplets of water to accumulate in your fuel supply. This, in turn, can cause damage to your fuel injectors.

Wax, wash, and cover- Of course, the internal workings of your vehicle aren’t the only things you’ll want to protect. You’ll also want to take care of your paint job as well. If you have no idea when you’ll need your vehicle next, you should take steps to protect the paintwork. Before you garage your car or cover it with a tarp, give your car a good wash and waxing. This will ensure that your car looks and feels good as new when you’re ready to take to the road again.

New technologies

Even before the pandemic, 2020 was shaping up to be a transformative year for the auto industry. From better digital connectivity to high-performance electric engines and autonomous vehicles, there have been a lot of significant innovations in the pipeline, which expect to bear fruit in 2020.

Some of the most exciting technologies coming to the market include exit warning systems that promised to take blind-spot monitoring to the next level and reduce the risk of embarrassing bumps in parking lots. There’s also the Variable Compression (VC) Turbo Engine designed by Nissan. This technology means that drivers will no longer have to choose between performance on the road and fuel efficiency. Wireless phone charging is an emerging feature in new vehicles, which drivers will also no doubt be anticipating with excitement, as are newly redesigned options for Apple and Android Car Play.

We may have to wait a little while longer to get our hands on newer models, but there are nonetheless some cool features for drivers to look forward to when choosing a new car.

The sharing economy

New technologies aren’t the only thing changing the way we think about our vehicles in 2020. Broad economic and industrial trends have seen the sharing economy change the automotive industry in ways that may benefit motorists.

For starters, the sharing economy could be a boon for drivers who need to make a little extra money when the lockdown lifts. While taxis and ride-sharing services are not available while the lockdown is in place, since there are restrictions on all non-essential travel, this may prove prohibitive for those trying to make their fortune as Uber or Lyft drivers in the immediate future.

Speed and Stupidity

We all know the early signs of the COVID-19 virus. However, there’s another symptom that’s experienced only by drivers. The virus is making them break out in speeding tickets! With fewer vehicles on the road, the appeal of long straight open stretches is entirely understandable. However, the temptation to drive recklessly should be tempered with a desire to live, and drivers should be especially mindful of their speed at present with the lockdown in place.

Highway patrols have fewer vehicles to keep an eye on, so they’ll be extra vigilant when it comes to clamping down on speedsters. Furthermore, some runners and joggers may feel emboldened to run on the roads with less traffic. The last thing any driver needs at present is to be the cause of an unfortunate incident because they were traveling too fast to react in a timely manner.

Health and hygiene

The coronavirus outbreak has shone a spotlight on health and hygiene and made us realize just how the little things we do every day can make a huge difference to our health. Even a little thing like washing our hands can be potentially lifesaving. While many have been bulk buying hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes at great personal expense, those paying attention to the science understand that nothing protects us from viruses more effectively than soap, warm water, and proper handwashing technique. This is because soap dissolves the outer layer of fats (lipid membranes) that surround viral cells. Thus, when we wash our hands, we tear the virus apart. Wash your hands.

Of course, while the virus may have got us thinking more about our health, we’re not just safeguarding ourselves against viral infections. We’re thinking more about our exercise routines and getting creative without the luxury of gyms. We’re thinking more about food and nutrition, cooking more from scratch, and experimenting with new recipes- buying more wholefoods and relying less on processed convenience foods. We’re taking the time to understand our diets and nutrition, as well as learning about allergies and food intolerances, which may have gone unnoticed for some time. If you’re worried about undiagnosed food allergies, you might want to read this useful resource on Peanut Allergy Testing. As well as our diet, we’re also drinking a lot more water since coffees, teas, juices, and sodas are harder to come by in the current climate.

All told, with less access to convenience, we’re picking up more and more good habits which will keep us in good stead long after the lockdown lefts.

Ecological footprint

It’s still a little bit eerie seeing all those virtually empty roads that were once teeming with nose-to-tail traffic. What’s even more jarring (in a good way) is the total clarity of air, which was once suffused with smog.

When we watch the news, we see stories about how the global lockdown has caused massive reductions in air pollution, which in turn is getting drivers to think more about their ecological footprint.

We may be thinking about using our cars less going forward, walking and cycling more, joining a carpool, or even switching our vehicles for electric or hybrid alternatives. Of course, your vehicle isn’t the only way you can reduce your ecological footprint. Reducing household waste, recycling more responsibly, and relying less on single-use plastics can also make a huge difference, as can relying less on meat dairy and animal products since animal agriculture contributes even more to greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation industry.

The world may be a very different place when we usher in 2021. Still, we can expect to have learned a lot about our vehicles, our habits, and ourselves during this time of introspection.