Car Care & Maintenance Tips During COVID Lockdown
During the COVID lockdown a lot of cars are going to be tucked up in the garage or on the drive with little to no use, especially if you are working from home. Although you may think an unused car does not need any maintenance, there are some things to consider.
Keep Your Battery Charged & In Tip Top Condition
Your battery can and will lose charge if unused for a prolonged period and if you’re battery is in the latter stages of its life it will most certainly lose charge quicker.
If your vehicle is parked in a garage with access to a power source you could invest in a battery conditioner or trickle charger, which will keep it healthy and charged. When using a trickle charger, you should always follow guidelines on how long it should be connected to the battery as overuse can result in overcharging and a damaged battery.
If you do not have access to a power supply, take you car out for a quick spin 1 or 2 times per week, ideally if you can jump on a motorway or major road and drive at over 50mph for 15-20 minutes that is going to be the best solution for getting a full battery charge. This will also pump oil and fuel around the engine, which can prevent engine flooding in petrol-powered vehicles.
You may be tempted to just start the engine and leave the vehicle running while parked up, this is not necessarily going to be the best thing to do, especially if your battery is old.
If your battery is losing its charge on a regular basis you may be due for a new battery.
Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Cars
If you have an electric car or hybrid car you should consult your owner’s manual on best practices for looking after your battery if the vehicle is going to be unused for a prolonged period.
Recommendations may include putting the vehicle in ‘ready mode’ every so often and it is usually recommended that the main high voltage battery’s charge is kept at a minimum of 50% and not below 30%, again consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on best practises.
Air Con Maintenance
Run your engine for 5-10 minutes and turn on the air conditioning system. This will help keep the seals in tip top condition and reduce the chances of any mould build-up in the system which could potentially cause component failure and be expensive to repair.
Maintain Correct Tyre Pressures & Avoid Black Spots
Even when you are not using your car, the tyres will lose pressure over time and something called ‘flat spots’ can also occur when you do not use your car, during the winter months flat spots can be more of an issue.
Ensure your tyres have the correct pressure (consult your owner’s manual), if they need air or you need to check the pressure, you should be able to do this at your local garage.
If you are reluctant to go out to the garage, you can invest in a tyre inflator with pressure monitor, there are some relatively affordable options for light use that will plug into your 12V cigarette lighter socket for power.
Preventative measures to avoid flat spots recommended by the RAC include rolling your car backwards and forwards a few yards (safely) but the ideal solution is again to take your car our for a short spin once or twice a week, this will warm up the tyres, help keep their shape and prevent flat spots.
Check Fluids and Bulbs
Keep on top of fluids and check your bulbs on a regular basis, it is a good idea to always keep a spare set of bulbs, so you are not caught short.
Check and top up your oil, if you know how to drain your old engine oil before topping up with new oil that is a good idea. When you top up/change your oil, make sure you take the car on a decent run to get the oil circulating around the engine.
Topping up your fuel is a good idea; it can help prevent build up of moisture and potential rusting in the tank while the car is left unused for prolonged periods.
Don’t forget to keep on top of other fluids like windscreen wash and coolant too. In the winter months also be mindful that you are using anti-freeze in your coolant. A typical ratio of coolant to water is 50/50 or you can purchase some ready mixed coolant/anti-freeze solution.
Check Spare Tyre, Jack & Other Accessories
Keep on top of and check all accessories and things like your spare tyre and jack, it is too easy to get complacent when your vehicle is unused for a prolonged period.
Other things you may want to consider are keeping a torch in the car and checking batteries are OK. During the winter months makes sure have ant-freeze and a scraper, if you need to use the vehicle in an emergency, you will be glad you didn’t leave anything to chance.
Prevent The Handbrake Getting Stuck
If your car is stationary for a prolonged period, there is a small change the handbrake could get stuck. The quick fix is letting the handbrake on and off on a regular basis, obviously caution is advised here if your vehicle is not parked on the flat.
If you do not have off road parking, park as safely as possible, especially during the winter months when the roads could be icy/slippery. The last thing you need is to find you’ve lost a wing mirror or worse damage while it’s been stationary.