Sometimes I think I spend half of my life in my car – there’s the morning school run (two separate schools now Big Sis is at secondary, 10 minutes away from each other), followed by a trip to the gym around lunchtime.
Most days there’s some life admin to be done, a trip to the bank or the post office, or maybe the shop to pick up some bits for dinner, then it’s straight back out to pick the kids up. Some days we go straight home, other days we’ll take a drive to one of our local parks or cafés for an after-school cupcake.
But these are far from normal times. We’re halfway through week six of lockdown, and – bar the weekly shop and a trip to the bank – my poor Evoque has sat on the driveway this entire time. Which is great for the environment and my bank balance (no more costly service station visits), but not so great for the car.
The reality is cars are built to be driven. They don’t enjoy being left idle for long periods of time, and when they are things can start to go a bit skew-whiff. So, once quarantine is over, what should you check before hitting the road?
Caring For Your Car During The Coronavirus Lockdown
First off – if your MOT has expired since lockdown, don’t panic – the Government has announced a six-month grace period, so you can safely stay at home, and essential workers can continue to get to and from work PROVIDED your vehicle is kept in a roadworthy condition. Once restrictions have been lifted, make sure your tax is up to date and your MOT is sorted as soon as possible.
Weeks of sitting on the driveway had left our car covered in dust and the unwelcome deposits of the red kites that circle constantly where we live (the birds of prey, not the kids’ toys!). Bird droppings contain uric acid, which is corrosive and can actually damage your paintwork over time.
To avoid this, and take advantage of the amazing weather, we decided to give it a good old-fashioned driveway carwash. After being cooped up inside for weeks the girls jumped at the chance to get outside; armed with sponges and a bucket of warm, soapy water, they rinsed off all the dirt and grime, until it was sparkling again.
If we had a car cover this would be a great time to use it, to prevent dust and droppings from building up again.
When regular life resumes I’ll check the water and oil levels and refill the window washer tank, then take the car straight down to check the health of the tyres. Tyres lose pressure even when they’re not being driven, but it’s simple to find and fix any issues.
If you need more than a top-up of air, a quick look online will find your nearest tyre specialist (for example, search for an authentic RAC-approved tyre garage in Kirkcaldy and it will pull up the Fife Autocentre, where you can order your tyres online and have them professionally fitted on site).
Your car battery recharges itself while the car is running, so long periods of disuse can mean you have no juice left when you next need it. If your battery is quite new and in good shape, it should easily last two weeks without a charge (if you’re nervous, or the battery is older, the AA recommends checking once a week). Start the car up and take it for a 15-minute drive to clear out the cobwebs and fully recharge the battery.
The RAC also recommends turning off accessories, such as your dash cam, so the battery doesn’t get drained unnecessarily, and suggests using a battery conditioner to keep it topped up (however, this only works if you have off-road parking as you’ll need to run cables from the car to your power source).
It’s also a good idea to fill the tank completely with diesel or petrol otherwise condensation can build up, particularly with older cars. Water in the engine can cause all kinds of problems, from rust and reduced performance, to your car not starting at all.
If left for long periods with the parking brake on, there’s a chance your handbrake cable can stretch, or your brakes could seize up. To prevent this, the AA recommends starting the car, (safely) releasing the parking brake and moving your vehicle a short distance back and forth. Never get tempted to leave the parking brake off unless the vehicle can be securely stored on private land and the wheels are securely chocked (wedged so they can’t move).
Check your lights to make sure they’re all working and none of the bulbs need replacing.
Finally, drive safely!
• if you enjoyed reading ‘Caring For Your Car During The Coronavirus Lockdown’ you might also like ‘How to Grow a Monstera Plant from a Cutting‘