COVID-19: Keeping Your Car Road Ready
27.04.2020 by Dimi V
While many people are concerned with things like flour, eggs and toilet paper, there is something else that is worth more than a fleeting thought. The car that is currently sitting gathering dust (unless you are a frontline worker).
These are uncertain times, and it is difficult not to feel anxious and let some things slide.
Unfortunately, your car can’t be one of them.
When your car is making substantially fewer journeys, this can impact many things. So here is a handy list of tips that you can use to ensure when the lockdown is over, your car is road-ready.
Battery death is high up on the list for cars that aren’t currently being used at all. Most cars can be parked for up to a month without anything drastic happening to the battery, but the battery can die in a matter of weeks. In simple terms, your car battery needs to be used in order to hold a charge. The less it is used, the less charge it will have. Until eventually it is dead.
Your alternator is designed to maintain the charge, not to charge the battery back up once it gets low. To avoid this, you should ideally drive at least a few miles every 3-4 days - you can combine this with any essential travel - like your weekly shop.
If driving is impossible, then considering using a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up. The device plugs into a wall socket and will attach to your car battery to charge it up.
The government has placed a 6-month extension on all MOTs due on bikes, vans and cars on or after the 30th March 2020. However, it becomes your duty to make sure that your vehicle is still safe to drive. Your MOT date will automatically be extended by 6 months if it is eligible and this will happen 7 days before the expiration date.
This means that:
- Your insurance is still valid
- You vehicles record is updated, and police will see you have a valid MOT
- You can still tax your vehicle
- Your vehicle will have a valid MOT for an extra 6 months.
You can check the new MOT date here - check your MOT expiry date.
A few things are happening with car insurance and COVID-19. If you have a ‘black box’ fitted, then your premium will be adjusted accordingly. As you may be driving less, this will be recorded.
Some insurance companies are offering refunds on the cost of overseas driving since people cannot travel as they had planned before COVID-19. You will need to contact your insurance company to request a refund.
Adjusting your policy mid-term might give you a partial refund. As you will be driving significantly fewer miles than your estimate, you might be able to trigger a partial refund. Just remember that some insurance companies charge a fee for MTAs (mid-term adjustments).
You have to ensure that your car is fully insured at all times; this protects you and your car during COVID-19, and once the lockdown period is over. Post lockdown it is predicted that many drivers will head out once again and that potentially we will see more road traffic accidents. Check your policy dates, and make sure you are aware of any changes.
Due to the wide-reaching impact of COVID-19 on many jobs, there have been some measures put in place to help people who have a personal loan. The FCA, (Financial Conduct Authority) has confirmed that a three-month payment freeze will be put in place for car finance payments. Many car financing and leasing companies are working with the clients to find suitable solutions too. However, when the end of the intelligent lockdown happens, these payment plans will start up again as usual.
Customers still in financial trouble will need to contact their lender and discuss their options. And in the meantime, it is wise to pay when and if you can - or save to be able to pay something towards the loan when the lockdown is lifted.
If you don’t currently have car finance and have been worried that COVID-19 is going to make it impossible, you will be happy to know that you can -in most cases- still apply for car finance online.
Many people who have been leasing cars have found that COVID-19 has hit during the end of their contract. Many car leasing companies are offering a range of support for their customers, including deferred payments, lease extensions and penalty forgiveness.
Many dealerships are offering up to a 6-month lease extension, or a month-to-month option. In most cases the penalties that might be associated with customers not checking it at the end of the lease are being waived - that said you should contact your leasing company to check their policy.
Some dealerships are offering to pick up the car at the end of the lease, even when their main branches are closed. You will still need to ensure that you are returning the vehicle in the best possible condition - clean, with minimal wear and tear.
If you have to park your car away from your home, somewhere that you can’t see it from your windows, then you may need to employ extra security measures. Trying to keep it in a well-lit area, under a street lamp is ideal. Alternatively, look for somewhere that has CCTV fitted. Make sure that you have removed all of the valuable items from the car each time you park it again.
However, if your car is on your driveway, or within a distance you can see from your home, now is the perfect time to install a CCTV system.
Fuel and Coolant
When your car is sitting for long periods, moisture can accumulate in the fuel tank. So while you might be happy not to have to fill the tank up, because you aren’t going anywhere - take heed. Keeping the fuel tank topped up during this period will prevent this moisture from damaging your vehicle. Doing this will also preserve all of the vital seals from drying out and will help avoid rust.
Take the time to top up your coolant too. It is advised that you wear disposable gloves and use hand sanitiser when you top up the fuel in your car during CODIV-19.
If you are using your car for essential travel and happen to break down during COVID-19 lockdown, the AA and most other recovery companies will still come to your aid. They will be following all of the guidelines to keep both you and them safe. This will include gloves, cleaning surfaces and remaining two metres apart. If you have any symptoms, you will need to report this when you make the call. Most companies will respond when you use the smartphone app too.
After the lockdown has ended, many cars will be booked in for their MOT - even with the extension, you’ll still need to get your car ready. Tyres are the reason that up to 7.4% of vehicles fail their MOT. Lumps, bulges, bumps and other abnormalities can happen. You will need to check the tread of your tyres, and you shouldn’t be able to see the rim of a 20p piece when placed in the tread.
Over time air will seep out of your tyres, even while it’s just sitting there. It would be best if you made sure that you have the right tyre pressure. Ideally, you will check once a month, and before taking any long journeys.
A weekly drive for essentials will stop your car tyres from developing flat spots. Any tyres that have flat spots pose a risk to you when you start driving more often. So if you aren’t using the car at all, be prepared to get the tyres replaced once the lockdown is over.
Make sure your spare tyre is in excellent condition too.
It might not strictly be to keep your car roadworthy, but you will thank yourself. Think about the last time you were in the car. Did you grab a to-go coffee? Drive-thru? Perhaps the kids ate snacks in the back. Head out and clean the interior of your vehicle. Hoover the crumbs, get down into the hard to reach crevices and wipe down all of the hard surfaces with a cloth. If you have a leather interior, it is the perfect time to spend some time detailing it.
In order to make the most of the lift on lockdown, complete school runs, trips to the beach and even simply going to work - you have to take care of your car. While many people think that their car will be fine for a few weeks, there is a lot that can happen. Use the tips above to ensure your car is road-ready and safe for the moment that the intelligent lockdown comes to an end, and you are ready to hit the road again.