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Tips to avoid the post-lockdown vehicle blues

May 30th, 2020  |  Auto

If you haven’t driven your vehicle at all during the COVID-19 lockdown, it may not immediately spring back to life.

As restrictions are lifted, it’s best to make sure your vehicle starts properly and you don't have flat tires. Auto experts recommend the following tips to ensure your vehicle remains in good health and is safe for travel when you do resume using it. Alternatively, if you’re still working from home and don’t plan to drive in the near future, these tips will also ensure when you need to get back on the road, your wheels will be ready.

Dead Batteries - When parked in your driveway, most vehicles will have their alarm and immobiliser switched on. This will slowly drain the vehicle battery. The length of time the battery lasts will depend on the make and model of the vehicle along with the age and type of battery. In addition, the alternator in your vehicle charges the battery while driving so if you’ve only done infrequent short trips during the lockdown, the battery may not have gotten the charge it needs.

  • Consider purchasing a battery charger: A battery tender or trickle charger can be connected to your car when not in use and will keep the battery in peak condition.
  • Alternatively, use a standard battery charger: It can be connected every couple of weeks for a few hours to return your battery to full charge. A key point to consider is modern engines have different battery types so make sure you’ve purchased the right battery charger to ensure you do not damage your battery or shorten its life span. For example, modern hybrid engine batteries typically need a more sophisticated charger.
  • Give an electric vehicle a full charge: Keep it plugged in if you can. Its electronics will ensure it stays topped up, and it won’t be drawing charge all the time.
  • Regularly run your engine: Running it 15-20 minutes once a week will allow the alternator to charge the battery. Make sure to do this outside, or leave the garage door wide open for ventilation.
  • Jump start not always best: Modern cars have increasingly complex electrical systems which could potentially get damaged if you use jump start leads. If you are unsure, always check your car owner’s manual or, if in doubt, contact your local dealership for advice.

Check your tire pressure If a vehicle doesn’t move for a period of time, the tires could develop a ‘flat spot’ on the area where the tire meets the ground. The tire deforms slightly due to the weight of the vehicle.

  • Most flat spots will disappear the next time you drive as the tires warm up and return to their original shape.
  • If you not driving, increase your tire pressure to the maximum cold pressure (you can find this inside the door on many vehicles or in the owner's manual.) The extra pressure will help the tires retain their shape. However, remember to return your tires to their correct pressure before driving.

Look after your brakes If your vehicle has stood for a long period of time, there is a small risk that the brake pads may stick to the brake discs which might prevent the car from moving in the future.

  • Move the car once a week: Moving the car a small distance (up to a metre) if you have the space will help ensure your brakes do not stick.

Clean inside, but not with hand sanitizer Good hand hygiene is still important while we live with COVID-19, but hand sanitizers contain alcohol, which can damage your vehicle’s interior. It can dry out leather and, if used repeatedly, cause plastics to crack.

  • Give upholstery and carpets a good clean: Avoid bleach-based cleaners. Use specifically designed car cleaners to do the job.
  • Clean any children’s toys left in vehicle

Call your insurer If you have ceased using your vehicle entirely and only have comprehensive coverage, it means you cannot drive it. Before you get behind the wheel, call your insurance broker to add the appropriate coverage.

RELATED READING: COVID-19 and your insurance

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