Car care after Corona: All the do's and dont's

Bob Rupani Updated: April 03, 2020, 12:39 PM IST

The moment this lockdown or the "Corona Closedown" ends, we will all be raring to go. But hi, don't just go rushing into your vehicle, hold on.  After staying at home to be safe, you don't want to jump into a car that has been sitting idle and gathering dust, and who knows what else. So it's very important that you disinfect and sanitize your complete car before going anywhere in it. Here is a detailed guide on how to do this.

The one advice that the whole world has been following to curb the spread of COVID-19, is washing of hands with soap. So please wash your hands before, after and even in between, disinfecting your vehicle.

Soap has never played as important a role on our planet, as after the arrival of this Coronavirus. This is because soap breaks down molecules and is the most effective weapon against invisible pathogens, including the COVID-19. Therefore you need to give your car a "soap bath or shampoo", both on the outside and inside to get rid of any viruses like Corona. Start by preparing a bucket or two of soap solution using whatever liquid soap, shampoo, washing powder, you have handy. In case you have a soap bar, break it into small pieces and drop it into the bucket of water and mix well until foam forms.

Prepare a soap solution

Check for any animals that may have gotten into your car's engine compartment or wheel wells. Even normally if a vehicle is unused for a while, mice and rats have a habit of getting in. Sometimes snakes, squirrels, hares, kittens and even small birds seek shelter under a car's bonnet. Now with this lockdown, we have seen the movement of wildlife increasing, even in urban areas, so it becomes that much more important to check for animals under your bonnet. But before opening first tap gently on the fenders and bonnet and then also kick the tyres and blow the horn to indicate to any wild visitors, that it's time to leave.

Rats often get into the engine compartment

Sometimes snakes also seek shelter in a car

Many of us are also in the habit of eating and consequently littering in a car, and any fallen food crumbs, wrappers, etc, are a medium to attract germs and bacteria. Hence clean out the complete vehicle including the boot and remove everything you can pick with your hands. Wearing gloves before doing this is a very good idea too.

All such litter including food crumbs must be removed

Now onwards stop eating in your car

Whatever cannot be removed by hand needs to be removed with a vacuum cleaner, and if you don't have one that connects to your car, use the one you have at home. But before vacuuming, please try and beat out a bit of the dust by dusting the seats, dash, door pads, roof lining, etc, with a clean cloth. This will loosen the dust and make the vacuum cleaning more effective.

Gently spread the soap solution over the upholstery

Now that the car is hopefully litter and dust-free, it's time to start the disinfection and it's best, to begin with the passenger compartment. But before that let me tell you that many studies show that a car steering wheel has four times more germs than a public toilet seat! And approximately 700 different types of bacteria are to be found in a vehicle whose interior is not cleaned regularly and properly.

A steering wheel has the most germs in a vehicle, so disinfecting it is most important

So what all needs to be washed with soap. Certainly not any touch screens or any electronics; for these, you can use some wet wipes that contain alcohol. Alternatively, you can soak a clean cloth in an alcohol-based sanitizer or if it's available, isopropyl alcohol. The rest of the areas you can clean with the soap solution, but with a light and gentle hand, no strong scrubbing please.  And you must let the soap solution stay on the parts (remember the 20 seconds rule for handwashing) for a while before you wipe it off with a damp cloth. The most contaminated parts in a car are - the steering wheel of course, followed by cup holders (especially if there has been any spillage of milk or sugar), seat belts and the buckles, gear shifter, door handles (both inside and outside), all controls and switches or stalks for lights, indicators,  etc. In short, anything that is touched often. Apart from these one must also clean- the car key or fobs, seat adjustment controls, floor matting's, hand brake, horn button, start-stop button, glove box (inside and outside) and also all that is stored in it, centre console (again inside and outside), rear-view mirror, interior lights, fuel filler and bonnet release controls, complete glass area and all upholstery including seats, dashboard, door pads, roof linings, door pads, parcel shelf, etc.

Vacuum clean the entire passenger compartment

Normally cleaning of the air conditioner and its filter is best done at a service station. But this is not the ideal time to go there. So clean the a/c vents carefully with an alcohol sanitizer, and to get at the difficult to reach areas inside, use a cotton bud to coat and clean those parts. In case you can locate the a/c filter, which in most cars is typically located behind the glove box or under the bonnet or dashboard, please clean it too. The best way to do this is to remove and soak it in soap water or then with a vacuum cleaner. In case you wash it with soap, let it dry properly before putting it back in. Honestly, if you are habituated to working with your hands and are a bit familiar with your vehicle, this is not too difficult.

Air-conditioner vents should be cleaned properly

The air-conditioner filter is generally located behind the glove-box and cleaning it is good for car hygiene

Once you have cleaned the entire interior, it's bound to be a bit damp therefore you need to give the passenger compartment some air and sunlight. So roll down all windows and park the vehicle directly in the sun. Thoroughly airing your car after you clean it is very beneficial. When we hang our clothes out to dry in the sun, you find that all the bad odours are gone. Similarly letting your car have a bit of a sunbath will also make the interior smell better. And just like our human bodies get Vitamin D from the sun; the UV light from bright sunshine is known to kill many germs.

The boot or luggage compartment is normally where you also keep all your groceries or shopping, so it's important that this area is clean too and that's why you must provide it with the same treatment as the interior.

Next, it's time to roll up those windows and give the car's body a nice shampoo. Spread the soap solution all over the car with a soft sponge and let it stay on the body before washing off with water and drying with a cloth. Kindly clean the door frames, luggage compartment handle, fuel filler cap, etc, also very well.

Cover the entire body with a soap solution

Now that your car is ready to be taken for a drive, please ensure that in these Coronavirus times you keep the following in it- a tissue box, hand sanitizer, a small bottle of liquid soap, bottles of water for both drinking and washing your hands, some alcohol-based wet wipes and some masks.

The first destination you drive to should be a fuel station to fill the tank and check the tyre pressure. Please maintain social distancing and kindly tip the attendants.

As the car has been immobile for so long, do check the air pressure

Your first drive after the car has been dormant for so long, should not be a short one. Drive it for at least 30 minutes or 8/10 kilometres to let all lubricants and components come up to proper running temperature. The alternator will also get a chance to charge the battery properly. While on the drive please try and use all the lights, wipers, and other features to give them a workout too. You don't want things to start getting stuck because of disuse.

Drive the car at least until it has reached proper running temperature

Please ensure that you only travel in a car that has been cleaned and disinfected

And finally, this corona thing is not going away anytime in the immediate future. So we will have to learn to live with it and change our ways. So please while you maintain personal hygiene, here onwards kindly also observe some "car conventions" or hygiene. Hereafter no eating or drinking any beverages apart from water in a car. No littering. Clean your hands with soap or sanitizer before and after getting into a car. Disinfect your car (as has been detailed here) regularly. And drive safe and stay safe.


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