Coronavirus: How To Maintain Your Car

Red car and parts on the floor

With the coronavirus pandemic putting normal life on hold, it’s understandable that car maintenance may not be at the top of your list. However, there are plenty of reasons why it’s still vital to take proper care of your car. Whether you’re a key worker or volunteer depending on your car for travel, or are keeping your motor locked safely in your garage, there are some important steps you need to take to keep things running smoothly.

We’re going to explain why it’s important that you maintain your car during the coronavirus pandemic and also offer up some top tips to keep your car in tip-top condition. Get the full lowdown below!

Why it’s important to maintain your car during lockdown

With the lockdown in place, drivers should only be getting behind the wheel in order to shop for basic necessities, take care of medical needs, or to travel to and from work (if you’re not able to work from home). If you don’t need your car for any of those reasons, then you shouldn’t be on the road. If you’re unsure what counts as essential, check out our guide to where you can and can’t drive during lockdown.

The government has issued a six-month extension for those with an MOT due from 30 March 2020. Though this means you won’t have to take your car in to get looked at, it comes with the stipulation that you are now completely responsible for ensuring your car remains roadworthy until your MOT rolls on by. If you’re caught driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition, you could be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and end up with 3 penalty points.

Whilst garages are still open for essential work, you don’t really want to be wasting their time on a problem that could have been avoided had you taken necessary precautions. Meanwhile, though breakdown services are still running, they are warning drivers of significant delays. So, if your car breaks down during the lockdown, it’s likely that you’ll be waiting hours for recovery.

Of course, it’s not just those currently using their cars that have to take care of them. If your car’s going to be parked outside of your home for the duration of the lockdown, it can end up with an assortment of problems if you’re not careful. So, without further ado, we’re going to move onto some maintenance tips that will help you keep your car in shape.

Store your car properly

red sports car stored in garage
Image source: Viktor Theo (via Unsplash)

If you’re not going to be using your car for the duration of the lockdown, or you’re only using it on occasion, then you might want to think about storing it somewhere. With how temperamental UK weather can be, your car could end up facing all kinds of adverse weather conditions.

Ideally, you’ll want to store your car in a dry, damp-free garage—too much moisture can damage the inside of your car and cause a build up of rust. Of course, not everyone has access to a garage. So, what do you do if you’re parking your car on a driveway or pavement? Invest in a waterproof car cover. This cover will need to be large enough to provide apt coverage against the weather. Once it’s in place, it will also help stop dirt and debris from building up on your car.

If you are leaving your car outside, and you’re not planning on using it often, you’ll want to make sure that it’s safe. (Just because you’re on lockdown doesn’t mean thieves will be!) We recommend reading up on our top tips to keep your car secure for some much-needed help.

Give it a thorough clean

Whether you’re storing your car away for the duration of the lockdown, or you’re using it to get to work every day, you need to make sure your car is spick and span. The longer you leave any dirt or mess that’s inside or outside of your car, the worse it will be by the time you come around to cleaning it. If you make it part of your routine, it will get to the point where you don’t need to be as thorough each time.

Start by cleaning the interior of the car. You’ll want to clear away any rubbish, clean all the surfaces and give it a good hoover. Next, check the boot of the car. Whilst we’re sure most of the items will only be essentials, you’re bound to have something in there that needs to be removed. (Just think about how awful it would be to open your boot to find your smelly gym socks after a month or two!) Your next step will be to give the exterior a wash. If you’re far too used to taking your car to the car wash, you might not know where to start. Fortunately, we’re way ahead of you. Read up on our tips to help you keep your car clean and extra steps to keep your car clean during the pandemic.

Take care of the battery

Shot of the BMW 3's engine
Image source: Ludwig S (via Unsplash)

Unless you’re a key worker or volunteer, it’s likely that your car’s going to be sat idle for most of the lockdown. Unfortunately, whilst this is very eco-friendly, it’s also pretty damaging to your car battery. The longer your car goes without being used, the more likely it is that your car battery will go flat. The end result here is that the car will eventually be unable to stay once you get back behind the wheel.

So, what can you do to combat this problem? If you’re using your car for essential travel (for shopping, medical purposes or for work), you can use this time to keep your battery healthy. As long as your car’s being driven for around 15 minutes every couple of weeks, your battery should remain in good condition. But what happens if you’re not using your car, even for essential travel? Well, due to the restrictions in place, it’s not like you can go on a few long drives in order to keep your battery healthy. In this case, you’d want to invest in a smart battery charger.

Look after your tyres

Your tyres go through a lot of wear and tear throughout their lifespan. Did you know, however, that they can be damaged even when your car’s sitting still? Yep, that’s right. The weight of your car gradually causes the tyres to lose air. If your car doesn’t move at all for weeks on end, flat spots can emerge. By the time you need to use your car, your tyres will be underinflated and damaged.

As with the previous point regarding battery care, using your car every now and again will decrease the chances of flat spots emerging. If you’re not going to be using your car at all, however, you should inflate your tyres to their maximum capacity. (You’ll find the manufacturer’s recommended tyre pressure in your vehicle handbook.) This will prevent your tyres from deflating too quickly. You’ll want to monitor tyre pressure for the duration of the lockdown, just in case.

Beyond making sure your tyres don’t go flat, you should also take some time (especially if you’re still using your car) to inspect your tyres. At least every two weeks, you should carefully check each tyre for cuts, bulges and any other damage. You also need to ensure that their tread depth is at least 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the breadth of the tread. If one of your tyres ends up out of action, and you’re not sure how to change it, have a look at our guide to sorting out flat tyres.

Fill up your fuel and other fluids

man pouring fluid into car engine
Image source: Tim Mossholder (via Unsplash)

Another problem with not using your car much, is that condensation and rust can start to build up when the fuel tank is low. Before you store your car, then, you’ll want to head out and fill up your fuel tank to the top. Not only will this stop condensation from building up, it also means that when you finally start using your car again, you won’t have to worry about filling it up right away!

It’s a good idea to change the oil and filter, in order to prevent contaminants from building up. You’ll also want to fill up on other fluids like engine coolant, brake fluid and water in the radiator or expansion tank. Once you do this, run the engine for a few moments so that the fluids can circulate properly.

It’s important that you stay on top of your car’s fluids, even if you’re using your car as normal. If you let things slide, a minor problem could turn into a major one. The last thing you need during this lockdown is to end up breaking down on the side of the road.

Give your handbrake a break

Another component of your car that starts to see damage after staying still for a long duration of time, is your handbrake. When you leave it engaged for too long, it can become difficult to release. And that’s not all. The longer it stays in place, the more likely it is that the brake pads can end up fused to the discs. For the most part, this will only crop up if you’re leaving your car for a few months or more.

There is a solution to this problem, but it’s only viable if you’re storing your car in a garage, or another safe and secure location. You can opt to leave your handbrake off and instead, leave your car in gear and chock the wheels. If you’re leaving your car parked on the pavement, however, keep the handbrake engaged. As long as you take your car out every now and then, your handbrake shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Apply for a SORN

Man writing on blurred out paper
Image source: Helloquence (via Unsplash)

If you’re still using your car heavily throughout the current lockdown, you’ll want to skip this section as it isn’t relevant. If, however, you don’t intend to use your car for the duration of the lockdown, it might very well save you some money!

Those of you who don’t need your car, or have opted to walk for any essential shopping, may want to consider taking it off the road and applying for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). If you do this, you can stop paying car tax and, potentially, receive a tax refund for any remaining full months. You’ll also be able to stop forking out for car insurance. To find out more about this process, head on over to our guide to cancelling your car tax.

Take it in if absolutely necessary

If you’re currently using your car for essential travel, it’s not only important that you maintain your car, but also that you know when you need to let a professional take care of it. If you’ve got a persistent warning light, for example, or your clutch pedal has started acting up, it’s time to take it in to get looked at. Whilst MOTs have been postponed for the time being, local garages are still open for essential work.

If your car is in need of repairs, then you’ll need to check that your local garage is still open. Give them a ring to see if they’re available to look at your car. Then, follow any precautionary steps they give you.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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