During the three week period of the lockdown it is critical that motorists – and motorcyclists – ensure their vehicles are not forgotten while standing idle.
“Any vehicle that is left unused for a period of time may develop issues that require intervention to get running normally again. But the hassle of wanting to start a vehicle when the battery is drained, or driving on uneven wheels, may be alleviated with some proper home care for the next couple of weeks,” says the AA.
The AA advises vehicle owners to do the following if their vehicles are going to be unused for the next couple of weeks:
- Cover the vehicle: If possible, park the vehicle indoors, under a roof, or use a car cover. Doing this will ensure it stays cleaner (and safer). Do not use a car cover if you are parking the vehicle in a garage, as any moisture inside will evaporate faster.
- Battery maintenance: While it may be better to remove the entire battery, disconnecting the negative terminal will also suffice. Be careful when doing this and ensure you are wearing protective eyewear and gloves, and that you have the right tools for the job. Always disconnect the negative terminal first, then the positive terminal. Never touch the terminals together. Rubbing petroleum jelly on the terminals after they have been removed will prevent rust from setting in.
- Clean the vehicle before storage: Dirt on the vehicle may cause permanent damage if left untreated, especially over the course of a few weeks. This is the ideal time to properly clean your vehicle inside and outside before storage. Use approved cleaning agents on all interior and exterior surfaces, don’t wash your vehicle in direct sunlight, and dry it thoroughly before storage.
- Cover the intakes and outlets: If possible cover the air intakes with a cloth, and stuff a rag in the exhaust outlet. This will prevent insects and small rodents from getting in there. Remember to remove these before starting the car again. Leave a note on the steering wheel.
- Wiper care: Wiper blades are an essential safety feature on vehicles. To prevent the rubber of the blades sticking to the windshield, place plastic wrap under the blades first. Do the same for any back wipers.
- Insurance and Warranty Care: If you have insurance or aftermarket insurance products for your vehicle do not cancel these for the period of the lockdown. Not only will this impact on any no-claims rewards, you may be flouting the terms of your lease or purchase agreements if you cancel now. Another consideration is that you may have to use the vehicle in an emergency situation; if you cancel your insurance now, you will not be covered if something were to happen even on a “short” outing.
“The current lockdown period is scheduled to end on Thursday, 16 April. If you are planning on using your vehicle on Friday, 17 April, it is best to check everything is in working order as early as Monday, 13 April. Doing this will enable you to detect any problems with enough time to get the AA out for a battery check, or possibly even a battery swap,” notes the Association.
The AA says, however, that if the lockdown period is extended – as has happened in other countries – further steps may be necessary to protect your vehicle.
“The tips above should suffice for a short storage period. However, if you are going to be storing your vehicle for longer, additional steps may be needed,” warns the AA. These additional measures include:
- Fill up on fuel: It may seem counter-intuitive to have a tank full of fuel in a vehicle which is sitting idle but the science behind this tip is sound. A full fuel tank will prevent rust forming on the inside by keeping moisture from entering the tank. Ensure the tank is properly sealed.
- Wheel maintenance: This is really for long-term storage. If the vehicle is standing idle for a long period, flat spots may occur on the wheels. To prevent this, jack all the tyres off the ground or position the vehicle on blocks of wood all round. The idea is to keep all the tyres off the ground. Check tyre pressure is normal after storage and adjust to manufacturer levels as soon as possible after storage.
- Oil care: Drain the oil from the vehicle before long-term storage. After storage put in fresh oil, and change oil and air filters as soon as possible.
- Spark plugs: Removing spark plugs may also prevent rust forming. However, if you are unsure of how to do this leave them in and get an expert to check them as soon as possible after resuming normal use.
“Having a reliable vehicle is essential and should not be taken for granted. If you are leaving your vehicle unused for a long period, it will still require some maintenance. Do not assume that an unused vehicle is going to start first time weeks after it was last used if it is not properly cared for during the lockdown,” concludes the AA.