When will the Covid-19 lockdown be lifted in the UK? It’s a question that’s been on everyone’s lips every day for the past few weeks. But what everyone should really be asking is: “What do I need to do to make sure my car keeps running during this pandemic?”
It doesn’t matter how little or how much you know about cars, there are a few simple checks you can perform to keep yours in tip-top condition while it’s parked up.
Today’s cars use a host of hungry electronics that demand a lot from the average battery, and even a week or so without use can leave it in a sorry state. As long as you’re sitting in the car when you do so, you could leave yours parked up for 20 minutes with the engine running. But you really need to take it out for a good half-hour drive - something that’s not really possible unless you want to risk being stopped by the police during the coronavirus outbreak.
A battery trickle charger is a good way to keep it topped up. Easily connected to the battery and a wall socket, it will charge your battery within a few hours. But a battery conditioner is even better, because it has intelligent electronics that can better sense the battery’s health and look after it long-term.
A pair of jump leads is a short-term fix for a flat battery, but being discharged fully isn’t good for its health. If your battery is going flat quickly, and nothing in the car is to blame (also consider the alarm’s cabin sensors as well as light bulbs in the boot and glovebox), it's time to get a new one.
Use the KnowYourCar app as a one-stop shop to find the best battery for your car.
Check your tyres' general condition and tread depth. The UK legal minimum is 1.6mm but KnowYourCar recommends buying new tyres when the tread gets down to 3mm – find the right ones for your car in the app.
While you’re checking the tread, it’s worth testing the tyre pressures. Keep a pressure gauge in the glovebox – you’ll find digital and manual ‘pencil’ type versions via the vendors listed within our app. To find your car’s recommended tyre pressures, look in your car's manual or find them on the inside of the filler cap or on the A-pillar.
We’re focusing on brake discs here, rather than drums. Yours will have them at the front and possibly at the rear, too. The discs are made of iron, and are exposed to the air so tend to rust, but this is usually worn off by the pads as they clamp onto the discs’ surfaces as you brake. However, park the car for a few days and you’ll notice brown surface rust on the discs.
Don’t allow this to this build up. Drive the car to the supermarket at least once a week – hopefully a trip of a couple of miles at least – and brake heavily now and again to get rid of the rust. The brake pedal will feel a little odd at first, and you’ll hear a graunching sound if you wind down the window, but all will be well when you've braked a few times. If you can put the car away in a garage while it’s dry, your brakes will be free of rust for longer.
Brake pads – especially the rear pads – can stick to the discs after a while, so if your car is parked on level ground your own property and there's no risk of the car rolling away, put it into gear but leave the handbrake off. We’d also recommend using chocks behind (or in front of) at least two wheels.
Take a look under the bonnet. The car should be on level ground to get an accurate reading, and the engine should be cold before checking the coolant level, the windscreen washer fluid level, the power steering fluid (some cars have electric power steering, do don’t need fluid), the brake and clutch fluid and the engine oil level.
Wash your car
Finally, there’s probably a lot of muck in the form of bird muck and dust on your car, so give your car a good wash before applying a layer of wax. Even with wax, always wipe off bird poo with some damp kitchen towel ASAP – it can mark paintwork if you let it sit there for a week or so.