How Your Car Can Keep You Entertained During Quarantine

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a host of changes to nearly everyone’s daily routines. Whether it’s working from home, transitioning to online grocery shopping, or eating out less often, we’ve all had to make some changes in the midst of the enduring nationwide stay-at-home orders.

For many, this means spending a significantly larger portion of our time at home rather than out and about, which can leave us wanting in the “things to do” department. So in an effort to curb your COVID-19 induced boredom, I’ve compiled a list of ways that you can stay entertained during quarantine, and of course, they involve your car! So if you’ve been looking for diversions, and are interested in saving some money, read on!

Changing your own oil is simpler than you might think. (image credit: Pennzoil.com)

1. Practice DIY maintenance!

If you’re like most car owners, having maintenance done means taking your car to a mechanic or the dealership. However, there is a cheaper, quicker, and, in my opinion, better way to keep your car in shape: do it yourself! Quarantine is the perfect time to learn how to do basic DIY maintenance on your car, and doing so comes with the added bonus of saving money on labor you’d normally pay someone else to do.

I recommend starting with an oil change as it’s one of the most basic maintenance practices that exists, and learning how to do them yourself will save you countless trips to the shop over the course of your life as a car owner. If your car isn’t currently in need of an oil change, it can’t hurt to do it early. If you’ve literally just had one done, it still won’t hurt, but it is a bit wasteful—so in that case give changing your engine air filter a try.

Whatever you end up choosing to do, here’s how I recommend going about it. Simply Google the make and model of your car followed by the words “oil change” or “engine air filter change.” Chances are at least a few DIY videos or articles will pop up. If no well-established sources have made a video about your specific car, ​ChrisFix​ makes fantastic general guides on YouTube.

Your next step is to order the parts and tools seen in the video! There are a number of different parts distributors, but to start I’d recommend ordering from your car’s OEM, so if you drive a Honda Civic, simply buy the parts from Honda online. Alternatively, if you’re willing to invest the time to find a good one, ordering from a reputable 3rd party distributor is perfectly fine, too.

As a rule of thumb, you should be ordering the following for an oil change: engine oil (check your owner’s manual to find out exactly what oil to use), an engine oil filter and gasket, and an oil drain plug and crush washer. This may vary from car to car slightly, so you may just have to do a bit of research to find out exactly what your car needs. Finally, you’ll need some tools and a way to elevate your car. You could just spend a few bucks to get ​just​ the tools you need for this job, but if you plan to continue with more DIY maintenance in the future (which you should!), I’d recommend getting a “starter set” of tools on Amazon.

This can be a more significant investment, but after you get a few uses out of them with a few DIY’s, you’ll still be saving money compared to going to the shop. Regarding elevating your car, a pair of ramps will do just fine to give you enough room to get under your car to drain the oil. And don’t forget a bucket to collect the old oil!

Detailing can be a rewarding way to spend some time.

2. Learn how to detail!

Most owners’ first instinct when their car is dirty is to run down to the nearest drive-thru car wash and call it a day. However, both your paint and your wallet would prefer if you washed your car yourself. Drive-thru car washes are notorious for scratching up paint and causing swirl marks, as those big brushes and wipers collect all the mud and grime from other cars, and then violently rub them into your paint. It’s generally something that people who care about their cars try to avoid, so you should too!

The best alternative is to simply wash your car in your driveway with a wash mitt, two buckets, some soap and a good drying towel. Some detailing enthusiasts will get picky with mitt materials, soap pH levels, and other details, but keeping it simple with basic name brand products will probably suit your needs just fine.

Googling “two-bucket car wash method” will yield countless tutorials on how to wash your car while protecting your paint, but the general idea is this: use one bucket for clean, soapy water, and another to rinse your wash mitts in before going back for more soapy water. It’s a very simple process, and quite rewarding in that you get to see the fruits of your labor in the form of a nice shiny car! If you want to go the extra mile, you can also pick up a bottle of spray wax to apply if you really want that glass-like paint look.

Look at that shine… (image credit: stopandpose.com)

3. Try out some automotive photography!

A creative outlet that I’ve found quite enjoyable during quarantine is automotive photography. Chances are you’ve already got a camera (smartphones work just fine) and a car, so the only thing you need now is the motivation to go find a cool location and snap some shots. And don’t worry if you don’t have a particularly photo worthy car, you can still create some beautiful shots with even the most mundane vehicles. As far as photography tips, you’re probably better suited doing some outside research than you are listening to a complete amateur like me, but here are some basics to get you started:

Never shoot a dirty car

Unless, of course, you’re going for that dirty off-road vibe—then by all means, shoot a dirty car. If that’s not what you’re going for though, it’s always best to wash your car before a photoshoot so it looks its best in photos. Nothing ruins a good photo faster than a dirty car!

Pay very careful attention to lighting

Lighting is one of the most fundamental aspects of photography, and for good reason: lighting can completely make or break a photo. You should never just park your car and start shooting; your first thought should always be in regard to where the best lighting would be. As a general rule of thumb for beginners, shooting with the light source (probably the sun) behind you is easiest, as you’re less likely to get any odd shadows or lens flares. Additionally, you should try shooting close to sunrise or sunset (golden hour!), as the light is softer and has that nice orange glow. The best way to learn more about lighting is with experience, giving you a hands on feel for how light interacts with the camera.

– Location, location, location

Unless you’re going for up-close detail shots, the backdrop of a photo is almost as important as the subject itself. You don’t want to be taking photos of your car in the Target parking lot, as this is a fairly mundane location and it won’t make for a particularly engaging photo to look at. Instead, you should ask yourself whether this shot would be worth taking ​without​ the car. If not, you probably don’t have an interesting enough background

– Don’t be afraid to edit your photos

Lightly editing photos is a great way to make them pop, and it’s never something that should be overlooked. However, know that the photo is more important than the editing: a bad photo cannot be turned into a good one just with some editing. I’d recommend snapping some photo you’re happy with, and downloading a free photo editing software like Lightroom for iOS to make some basic adjustments. After playing around with different edit settings, you’ll stumble upon a style that you like. As a bit of inspiration, below is a photo that I took with my iPhone and edited in Lightroom of my (left) and my cousin’s (right) car. I think it turned out great for someone that’s just trying out automotive photography for the first time, and I’m sure you will be proud of your own work, too, so give it a try!

Taking car photos can be a fun hobby to experiment with.

I hope that this list has given you some ideas on how to keep busy with your car during quarantine. Do some maintenance, give your car a wash, and snap some photos! All are great ways to save money (okay, taking photos doesn’t save money, but it’s still fun), learn more about your car, and most importantly, stay entertained and safe during our time at home.

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