Last Friday, the 30th July 2021, marked the 500th day the nation has been under a Movement Control Order. Most of us will know the many different names of these and more.
Currently, we are in the National Recovery Policy (NRP) which is divided into a few distinct phases as the country gradually moves to reopen.
Now while it's open to interpretation whether the government has dealt with the pandemic in the most effective manner, one thing is for certain – these 500 plus days or 72 weeks (as you read this) have changed the life of each and every Malaysian, forever.
In these 500 days of our lives in the “new norm” we got used to SOPs, roadblocks, lockdowns, limitations on how we could work, socialise and where we could go – and yes, it hasn’t been easy.
No doubt, many Malaysians have had it tougher, some have lost their jobs or earnings, businesses have shuttered, some have had to live far apart from their families throughout this time, but none have had it tougher than families that have had lost loved ones because of this deadly pandemic.
On the plus side, many of us have found productive ways of using the time we have had at home. Most of us would have become better cooks, some may have picked up a new skill or new hobby, others may have found ways of earning a supplementary income and some may have even turned their fortunes around for the better in this challenging time.
These 500 days will never be forgotten.
Given much of our mobility has been reduced to preset radiuses to/from our home – our cars have also travelled less. In many cases, some of our cars have travelled just as much over the last 500 days, as we normally would in a couple of months in the time before the pandemic. Therefore, has this been a good or bad thing, well the short answer is yes, it’s more good than bad, so let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Of course, our cars have travelled much less in the last 500 days so they would have clocked much less mileage over this period. This is a good thing, simply put, there’s less wear and tear and therefore parts and components will still have a lot of life left in them. For those who capitalised on the SST exemptions that have been around for just over a year, It’s highly likely that some of them might not have covered more than 10,000km since they were delivered.
Manufacturers assume a yearly usage of 20,000km a year, so it's highly likely that your car has only travelled one-fourth to one-third of that distance in the last 500 days. A car with lower mileage also means a better resale value later on, as lower mileage cars will typically fetch higher values down the line.
As many Malaysians have pusing-pusing a lot less in the last 500 days, we have surely spent much less on fuel, and this is a good thing because it has allowed many Malaysians to reallocate these funds towards other necessities. In addition to lesser travel, the pandemic has probably also altered where you travel to, given restricted travel, it is highly likely that you have changed your consumption habits to purchase goods and necessities at places closest to your home instead of simply driving 20km for a cup of coffee.
A by-product of travelling less has meant we have less spent less on car maintenance as well. There is a flip side to this which we’ll get into but for the most part, we have stretched the regular service intervals and incurred less wear and tear, simply because we have not been able to drive our cars as much as we normally do. This has meant smaller bills for the upkeep of our cars.
Due to the closure of certain services, Malaysians may have had to roll up their sleeves and conduct regular TLC of their cars by themselves. At the very least, you might have had to wash your own car, learned to inspect your tyres and keep them properly inflated, and perhaps for some, conduct periodic oil changes. This has been an immense positive, because now, you not only know your car better, you know how to care for it better as well.
Not using our car as much also has some negative implications. For one, our tyres need to move regularly enough so they do not form flat spots (which happens when the car is seated in one position for a long time). This is perhaps more true for drivers with more than one car. That’s why it's important to start your car every few days and at least drive it around the taman to get it warmed up and get some rotations into the tyres.
Elsewhere, cars that have been seated for too long also can develop issues with suspension bushes and rubber components later on. Rubber components, such as those fitted to our car’s suspension systems require usage to stay flexible and well, rubbery. Prolonged inactivity and exposure to the weather can cause them to harden and crack later on.
At the very least, start your car every few days to keep the battery charged, and drive it for 20-30 mins every week at the least, to ensure all these components get their necessary usage.
We may have used our cars less and stretched our service intervals, however, not conducting our regular oil changes because of inactivity can also cause issues later on. The engine oil in our car eventually breaks down after a predetermined period and can no longer properly lubricate the engine. That’s why we are told that service intervals have a mileage and time limit (for example 10,000km or 6 months). However, with little usage, it’s highly likely that your car has not covered the requisite mileage, but approached the time limit of the service interval.
This issue is compounded by the fact that authorised service centres and independent workshops are working with a limited workforce which will cause delays in booking a service appointment.
While you can afford to stretch your service interval by a while, it’s highly recommended that you perform your oil change at the soonest once it’s reached the required time period. This doesn’t just cover the engine oil but other consumables such as the spark plugs, cabin filter, transmission, coolant and brake fluids.
Perhaps worst of all is the fact that some of our cars would have been parked out in the elements for long periods of time. Not all of us would have access to shaded car parks, and prolonged exposure to the elements can degrade our car’s paint and other components such as the weather seals.
The easiest way around this is to purchase a car cover so it protects your car from the sun and rain, but make sure you remove the cover (especially after a rainy day) to release moisture that will be trapped underneath. This moisture can seep into the cabin space and cause mould and bad odour.
These 500 days have been tough on all of us, but we must forge ahead despite the challenges for the sake of our own survival and the survival of our great nation. It’s good to know that at least with a well-maintained car, we can all enjoy a great drive once the roads open up again.