If anything is routine in life, car repair and regularly scheduled maintenance certainly fit the bill. In “normal times”, regular oil changes, tire rotations and battery checks, and the occasional car repair have been, for the most part, without fuss or inconvenience. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, car repair and scheduled maintenance have become less routine and can feel scary. But even with pandemic restrictions and safety precautions in place, you can still get your car repaired during COVID. It’s just a matter of how to do it.
The state of the pandemic
While many things are returning to normal since the pandemic hit in March of last year, we are still in the midst of a global public health threat. Stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, and other public mandates have largely been lifted or significantly curtailed, and it’s nearly been a year since COVID vaccines have become available for immunization in the U.S. Schools and businesses, to some degree, have opened their doors or developed phased-in returns, and COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths overall have declined. However, the COVID pandemic remains a threat and we’re still not at the end. This continues to have ramifications in our lives in terms of routine matters, such as getting our cars to shops for car repair and maintenance while continuing to minimize the risk of the coronavirus.
Considered an essential business, vehicle service and maintenance shops stayed open during the worst of the pandemic and continue to do so with safety protocols in place for both staff and customers. Guided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state requirements, many auto repair shops have implemented safeguards that focus on cleaning and disinfecting within their shops, in interactions with their customers, and prior to and after car maintenance. Car keys are routinely disinfected, plastic panes are installed as a buffer between staff and customer, and surfaces in shops are wiped down every few hours. Many repair shops disinfect the interior of your car before repairs have been completed and afterwards. This is important, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be detected in aerosols for up to three hours and on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to three days. And of course, depending on your state or region, mask-wearing and maintaining six feet of distance is still a required and important safety protocol.
To meet the challenges of the pandemic, car repair and maintenance shops have implemented these practices and precautions as well as offered other options where customers can receive services and provide payment without contact.
Do your research
If you need service for a car repair or maintenance issue, you should first conduct some research to determine your options while the pandemic is still going on.
Go online to check out safety measures
Because your health and safety are important, go on a car shop’s website to check out what safety measures they have in place and read the online reviews from customers on their experience with safety in the shop since the pandemic began. If you’re looking for a car repair shop for the first time, searching online is also a good first step to narrow down choices.
Call ahead to inquire on service options
Find out if you will need to make an appointment for your service issue or if you can drop off and pick up your car with contactless service and payment. You can also inquire directly on safety measures and how they will specifically limit your risk of COVID infection, such as asking if they require staff and customers to wear masks or how often they clean and disinfect their shops.
Can you stay in your vehicle?
Inquire if you can stay in your vehicle for oil change services and other minor routine services while the mechanic performs the work on your car. Many shops, such as Jiffy Lube and Valvoline Instant Oil, are offering this as a way for customers to be free of contact and keep themselves safe.
Car repair alternatives
Instead of traditionally going to a shop and waiting for car repair or maintenance, there are other options to consider.
To make things much easier, some auto repair shops are offering mobile service, where a mechanic will come to your home or work to pick up your car, perform the repair or maintenance at the shop, and then return the vehicle to you, fully sanitized afterwards. This may be ideal for those individuals who want to limit contact outside of their home as much as possible. Some shops may offer this service at no additional charge.
Alternatives to road tests
Traditionally, to diagnose a problem in a vehicle that isn’t easily detectable, a mechanic would perform a “road test” and drive the car around to figure out the issue. Because of the pandemic, your mechanic could suggest that you keep a log of the things you experience, such as certain noises and vibrations and the road conditions at that time, to help the mechanic determine what may be wrong with it.
Learning to perform basic maintenance at home
Instead of going to a car shop for basic maintenance, you can learn to perform some basic maintenance on your own, such as checking and inspecting your tires, checking and replacing your air filters, and checking your fluids. Windshield wipers are recommended to be changed every six months, though you can clean them before that time. Oil changes, if you have the experience, are also something you can do on your own. You should also be sure to consult your car manual before performing any of these services, and aside from limiting your exposure to the COVID infection, you’ll also be saving money.
If you do go to a shop
Assess your comfort level, find a shop that makes you feel safe
If you do go to a shop, conduct enough research, know what your service options are, and make sure you feel comfortable enough with the safety precautions they have in place to get your car repair done.
Sanitize as necessary
If it’s a safety protocol for the car shop to sanitize after repairs, as an extra precaution, wipe down the interior and key touch points of your car, such as the steering wheel, keys, or keyless system buttons, gear selector and door handles that the mechanic has touched.
If you don’t feel comfortable going to a shop
If you don’t feel comfortable enough to go to a repair shop, make sure you relay this and the issues with your vehicle to your mechanic. He or she may be able to come up with an alternative or possibly suggest postponing your repairs. If you stay at home more since the pandemic and have limited time on the road now, you may be able to postpone routine services, such as oil changes. If you find that the pandemic has caused you to drive much less, don’t get comfortable with letting your car sit. You should drive the car once a week for at least 20 minutes to keep the battery charged and to prevent any problems from inactivity with your car.
The pandemic has made us adjust in ways we didn’t think were possible, including in the care and maintenance of our cars. Make sure you have enough coverage for an added peace of mind or get a quote today!