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Essential car maintenance tips after lockdown restrictions ease

If you’re a driver who has been staying at home whilst self-isolating or shielding during the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, you might find that when you next want to use your car, it’s not quite ready to get back on the road right away. As lockdown restrictions start to ease, there are expected to be more cars back on the road and people are likely to be undertaking longer journeys than they have been recently. We’ve compiled a list of tips so that you can make sure your vehicle is in a safe and reliable condition when you do next use it.

Car battery health after lockdown

If you have been using your car occasionally for things like food shopping or essential travel, your battery is unlikely to have suffered too much during the lockdown. However, if you haven’t used the vehicle at all for several weeks, or have only done very short trips, the battery may have gone flat in the meantime as it hasn’t been able to recharge as you drive to keep it topped up.

car battery

If possible, as soon as it is safe for you to do so, we recommend going for a drive of a decent length in your car to make sure the battery has a chance to recharge. Somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour should be long enough for most cars. If your car won’t start when you try it for the first time, it may be that you need to jump start the vehicle to get it going so that you can drive and charge the battery again. If you have off-street parking at home, you can use a trickle charging device to slowly recharge your battery enough so that the car can be started. This will need to be plugged into mains power (or another 240v power source, like a generator) and will have trailing wires, which is the reason why this type of device should only be used off the public highway where it can’t be a hazard to others.

Even electric vehicles (EVs) or plug-in hybrids can suffer similar issues with the 12v battery they use to power the car’s systems. Check your vehicle’s manual to see what it recommends for when the car won’t be used for a period of time.

Tyre degradation can happen when your car sits still

While you’re not driving as much as normal, your tyres won’t be getting worn down by the road surface as they usually would, but a car that has sat unused for too long can develop flat spots where the rubber hits the road. This can mean that tyres need to be replaced, which can be costly as well as inconvenient.

A weekly drive can help to stop this from happening in the first place and it’s always important to check your tyre condition and pressure before travelling, especially long distance. This is even more important if your car hasn’t been used for journeys of any real length in some time.

Prevent car mechanical parts drying out during lockdown

Driving your car regularly means that the various fluids that lubricate the engine, brakes, gearbox and other mechanical parts are able to circulate properly. If the vehicle isn’t driven for a few weeks, the motor oil can begin to settle, seals can start to dry out and fluids separate, which can cause damage to the car when next driven. Ideally, the car should be driven properly for a while, at least fortnightly, rather than simply being left with the engine on but stationary, to allow the parts to be lubricated effectively.

Check your fluid levels before driving after lockdown

If you haven’t been using your car, it won’t have been using much of things like oil, coolant and washer fluid, but you should always check the levels of these things before driving again after the car has been inactive for a few weeks and before any long journeys. Keeping the car’s tank full of petrol or diesel can also help prevent rust from developing in the fuel tank as there is less room for moisture to develop.

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Avoid a stuck handbrake after your car has been unused for some time

It is sometimes the case that a handbrake that has been on for some time can stick. This can usually be avoided by driving the car every couple of weeks, or if that isn’t possible, simply sitting in the vehicle and taking the handbrake off before applying it again. This must always be done on a flat surface or when the foot brake is applied at the same time, to ensure the car doesn’t roll forward or back.

When you start driving again…

If your car hasn’t been started for a few weeks, ideally you should let it run for at least a minute before setting off so that the oil can circulate properly and ensure the mechanical parts are lubricated.

Don’t use your wipers on a dry windscreen as this can result in scratched glass if there is any grit present. Check your washer fluid levels before starting the car if you have automatic wipers, or switch this function off before you start the car.

You might notice that you hear your brakes when using them. It’s common for some rust to develop on the brake discs when the car isn’t used for a while, but this should soon resolve itself after you have gently applied the brakes a few times whilst driving normally. If this doesn’t stop the brake noise, you will need to get your car checked to see if there is a more serious issue going on.

If you have any concerns about your vehicle after it has been unused for a while, hear any unusual noises or if the way it feels when you drive it has changed, Hatfields are open for servicing and maintenance. Get in touch with your nearest servicing centre to make sure your vehicle is ready to get back on the road again as soon as it is safe for you to do so.

Our showrooms are also now open again. If you want to find out how things have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and what measures we have put in place, you can find out more here.