Preparing your car for the end of lockdown
After close to two months of lockdown we’re all keen to get back on the road, and with the news that from 13th May we’ll be able to drive further afield for exercise, many of us will be gearing up to do just that. But as we have tried since March to cut down on all unnecessary travel, a great many vehicles have spent that time largely – or in some cases completely – unused.
Even when it isn’t being regularly driven, a car still requires maintenance, and it’s ultimately the driver’s responsibility to ensure that it’s roadworthy. So as we ready ourselves to get back behind the wheel, here are a few simple checks that you can carry out to ensure that your car is ready for the road.
Check your tyres
It’s vital that you make sure your tyres are still in good condition. If you haven’t been using your vehicle, it’s likely that the tyre pressures won’t have been checked since before lockdown, so addressing this should be a top priority. Even when a car isn’t being driven, its tyres can still lose pressure, meaning they may be underinflated when you get back onto the road. Check your optimum pressure in the owner’s handbook, filler cap or on the door sill, and use a pressure gauge to ensure your tyres are properly inflated.
Likewise, having a vehicle’s full weight sitting for weeks on end upon a single section of tyre may cause flat spots to develop. These patches of worn-down tread will unbalance the wheel, causing it to vibrate and affecting the vehicle’s handling when it returns to the road. If you do notice these tell-tale signs, you should have the tyre inspected as soon as possible by a professional.
You may even find that your tyres harden after going unused for extensive periods of time, which can, in turn, lead to the sidewalls cracking. Inspect your tyres for cracks before setting off and, just as you would with a flat spot, have any that you find inspected by a professional.
Check for debris
When a vehicle isn’t used for an extended period, it can easily begin to gather twigs and leaves, which have the potential to catch fire in a hot engine. So to stop your car from overheating, make sure to inspect the grille and underneath the bonnet for any debris before setting off.
Check your paperwork
Back in March, an exemption of six months was announced for those whose MOTs were due to fall during the lockdown period. When we do begin to return to normality, make sure to check your service history and last MOT certificate. If your next inspection would have taken place during lockdown, you’ll want to get it booked in as soon as possible.
Check the fluid levels
Even under ordinary circumstances, fluid levels should be checked regularly. But if your car has gone completely unused for several weeks, it’s essential that you get under the bonnet and check if the oil, brake fluid and engine coolant need topping up. Engine oil in particular can drip to the bottom of the drain pan when a car hasn’t been driven in a while, meaning the cylinders might be dry. In cases such as these, it may even be wise to have a garage carry out a complete oil and filter change.
Check your lights
You might be so caught up with checking your paperwork and oil levels that it can be easy to overlook your lights. Before setting off, take a moment to check that all of your lights are still in working order. So not just your headlights, but also your braking, reverse and indicator signals too. The last thing you want is to wait until you’re driving on a dark road to discover you’re missing a light.
Don’t set straight off
Finally, if your car hasn’t been used at all since March, don’t go tearing off your drive the moment you’ve fired it up. Once you’ve turned the ignition, don’t even rev it. The engine will need a little time to warm up, so just let it idle for a few moments before you set off.