Remember, you should only be driving to the shops for necessities as infrequently as possible or travelling for work purposes (if you cannot work from home) or to help vulnerable people.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) changes to MOTs:
All MOTs due after 30th March 2020 have now been extended by 6 months. If your MOT was due on 29th March 2020 or before, you must book it as usual unless:
- You or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms; or
- You are in an ‘at risk’ group and vulnerable to the virus;
You must stay at home (self-isolate) if either of these situations apply - do not take your vehicle for its MOT.
How should you adjust your vehicle maintenance routine to keep it looked after and operational during this period? Here are some recommendations so your car stays in optimum condition during and throughout the lockdown period.
How long a battery holds is charge depends on the age of the battery, how often you drive and for how far. Alarms systems and onboard computers can drain the battery even when your car is parked, so it is important to keep it topped up.
A short weekly run of about 15 minutes is ideal (but not essential). This could be tied into an essential journey or shopping run, if the car is required. This weekly run will help recharge the battery properly and help to keep the engine in good condition.
The following checks are recommended before taking your car out:
- Start your engine once a week;
- Warm the engine up;
- Run the air conditioning and other features that run on your car battery to make sure everything is fine;
- Check the battery indicator for any hint that your battery needs attention;
- Before driving anywhere, gently check your brakes (and handbrake); and
- Put your car in gear and drive slowly, checking for any “strange” noises or jolts.
Electric and hybrid vehicle batteries charge differently to batteries in petrol and diesel vehicles. It is good practice to aim to keep an electric vehicles battery charged between 50% and 80% to prolong its lifespan. Try not to let the battery drop below 30% as this can affect the long-term performance.
For Hybrid/PHEV vehicles, if you are not driving your car, put the electric battery into saving mode. This will help protect the car battery should it be stood for any length of time but do check your owners’ manual for specifics.
PHEV drivers need to be aware that, during the lockdown, any public chargers are currently limited to key workers.
By not moving your car during this period you could do damage to your tyres. For example, tyres could potentially deflate and develop cracks under constant pressure if you leave your vehicle in the same position for weeks. There are a couple of options to tackle this:
- Move your car a bit every alternate day to ease the pressure on the tyres; and
- If you have a driveway at your home, try moving the car for a few minutes every few days to give the tyres the much-needed roll to stay in shape.
Check your tyre pressure regularly. You can find the recommended PSI/bar figure in your vehicle’s manual or on the inside driver or passenger door.
Top up vital liquids
You should check fluid levels to keep your engine well maintained and have your car ready to drive when you need it.
- Screen wash; and
- Fuel (see below).
As you will not be taking your car out regularly, keep the fuel tank sufficiently filled for any emergency. This is just to avoid situation where you might be left high and dry on the road during a lockdown.
If the fuel tank isn’t full, then the air above the fuel might condense and store moisture inside the tank over the lockdown period which could cause rusting. In case you do not have your tank filled up, there is no need to go out now, make sure your fuel tank is checked and cleaned when you head out after the lockdown ends.
As you will not be using your car regularly for a while, you’ll need to leave it parked somewhere safe and sheltered from the elements. A private garage is the best choice, as it could help deter would-be thieves and vandals, while also protecting your paintwork from adverse weather and other outdoor threats. Make sure your car is dry and the garage is well ventilated too. As the garage is a secure location and off the main road, this means you can even leave your car in gear with chocks behind the wheels instead of the handbrake to save the handbrake cable from stretching.
If a garage isn’t an option, try to park somewhere shaded during the day and well-lit at night. Trees offer protection from some types of weather but will leave your car more vulnerable to bird droppings and tree sap, which you’ll have to clean up later!
Scrubbing your car before storing or when using it less frequently will not only help keep it looking its best, it could also prevent damage further down the road. Waxing your car can stop tree sap, bird droppings and harsh weather leaving its mark on your paintwork, but make sure you give the car a thorough clean before applying a coat. Cleaning your tyres will make sure that brake shavings, mud and grease are removed, which can help to prevent corrosion.
Cleaning the interior is now more important than ever. If you’re concerned about the risk of spreading coronavirus see link or more detail: https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/how-to/how-to-clean-your-car-interior-to-reduce-the-risk-of-spreading-coronavirus/#cleaning-your-car-during-the-outbreak
If your interior is left particularly dirty, it may even attract insects and vermin, leading to further damage from these unwanted tenants.
Lastly, should your vehicle break down during the lockdown you can still call for recovery assistance, although wait times may be longer. If your vehicle is broken down at home, continue to carry out your regular maintenance checks, but leave any mechanical work until the lockdown is over.
Remember – stay at home and save lives!