How to keep your car in good working order during lockdown

Written by AMT Team

26 May, 2020

As a result of the UK heading into lockdown on 23 March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of motorists are limiting travel to only essential journeys while working from home. This means that cars are stagnating in driveways for weeks on end, with many drivers unsure as to when they will be able to get on the road again.

Those who have started commuting again as lockdown restrictions ease have found that their cars require maintenance in order to be deemed roadworthy, new research reveals, with analysis of search trends data showing that solutions for seized brakes, flat batteries and deflated tyres have increased in search volume significantly since the lockdown began. So what does the lockdown mean for drivers who are concerned about keeping their car roadworthy?

What maintenance problems are drivers facing in lockdown?

Many drivers appear concerned about how remote working and reduced travel would impact the condition of their vehicle, with queries for ‘not using car’ rising by a staggering 87% in volume since February. Searches around storage also increased as drivers looked to protect their car from theft, as ‘storing car’ and ‘long term car storage’ queries rose by 81.8% and 40% respectively.

The majority of drivers are looking to combat seized brakes with searches up by 90.9%, while queries for a 12V car starter have risen by 75%. It seems that car batteries are a prevalent problem for drivers, with searches for ‘flat battery’ (62.9%), ‘car battery’ (46.9%) and ‘jump leads’ (25.6%) also up.

The findings also imply that Brits are having to shell out on new components to restore their car to a good condition, as queries for ‘new car battery’ and ‘car battery online’ have increased by 21.9% and 21.7% respectively.

Increase in car maintenance queries

Search Query

Three Month % Change

Seized brakes

90.9%

Not using car

85.7%

Storing car

81.8%

12V car starter

75%

Flat battery

62.9%

Tyre pump

55.6%

Jump leads

25.6%

Tyre condition

22.2%

New car battery

21.9%

Air compressor

15%

The findings also show that some drivers are struggling to start their car when they do embark on essential journeys and are unsure as to why, with ‘car won’t turn over’ seeing a 29.4% increase over three months, and ‘car won’t start’ also rising by 9%.

This can be frustrating for drivers who are reluctant to contact a mechanic in order to limit social contact or who are unable to take their car to the garage. With social distancing measures still in place and Brits dissuaded from using public transport, it’s crucial that drivers take steps to keep their car roadworthy in preparation for when the lockdown is lifted.

Tips for maintaining your car in lockdown

To make sure your car’s condition doesn’t deteriorate further while we wait for us all to be allowed back behind the wheel, you should follow the following top maintenance tips:

Avoid brakes that stick or squeak

Brakes are essential to any car and if you hear concerning sounds or feel resistance while driving, you should get them checked without delay. Over an extended period of time – especially if your car is parked outside and exposed to a variety of weather conditions – rust can build up on the brake disc and between the disc and pad, which will lead to the brake pad sticking. This means you’ll be stuck with the brakes applied to some extent all of the time, which in turn will put stress on the gearbox. To prevent this, you should:

 

  • Leave the handbrake off if you’re parked on a flat and secure driveway, and place chocks under the wheels so you can rest assured that the car won’t roll. Don’t release the handbrake until the blocks are in place. This works best for manual cars and may not be suitable for automatic models.
  • When you’re able, get your brakes checked by a qualified mechanic to ensure no build up of rust and to maintain your service history. If you can, drive your car once a week for essential purposes over a longer distance rather than multiple short trips to prevent brakes from seizing.

Avoid a flat battery

When the electrochemical reaction of a battery depletes the materials around it, a battery goes flat. This generally happens over an extended period of use but can also happen as a result of peak strain stemming from a high number of short journeys. This is due to the engine and alternator not being given enough chance to recharge before being started. To avoid a flat battery, you can:

  • Disconnect the battery to avoid it going flat while not in use. Many classic car enthusiasts do this over winter when their cars aren’t in use, as most modern cars utilise energy-draining technology which if left on can deplete the battery quickly. Ensure that all lights and heaters are off before disconnecting your battery.
  • Take your car for a reasonable drive of between 10-15 minutes at least once every couple of weeks so that the alternator can charge the battery appropriately.

Avoid tyre flat spots

The weight of your tyres could cause flat spots and cracks in tyre walls as your car stays stationary, particularly if they had a low pressure level before lockdown began or you’re driving on older tyres. A flat spot on tyres can lead to vibrations on the steering and inconsistent handling due to the unbalanced pressure and will eventually cause punctures. To avoid your tyres getting flat spots, you should look to:

 

  • Increase the tyre pressure by 3-4 psi if you know your car will be stationary for a long period of time, as this will reduce the risk of them losing shape or traction. You should also ensure that you’re using the correct tyres for your vehicle.
  • Ensure you return your tyres to the recommended psi as outlined in your vehicle handbook before driving and be careful if travelling with extra pressure in the tyres, particularly in wet conditions.

Avoid paint or interior damage

If your car is parked on the street or in an outdoor car park throughout lockdown, it may be subject to harsh weather conditions and air pollution. This can cause notable damage to the exterior and interior materials, including oxidised cabin materials, faded bodywork and worn paint. Fixing sun damage on a car can be costly, but you can avoid exposing your car to the elements by:

 

  • Investing in a car cover or long-term storage solution, such as a rented indoor car park or secure storage unit. This will avoid issues like bird poo or raindrops discolouring your car’s paint if not removed for an extended period of time.
  • Leave a window open slightly to allow air to circulate and avoid condensation that will eventually discolour your car’s interior, or consider using a car storage dehumidifier. It’s important that your car is parked in a secure location to do this safely.

 

You should also check your insurance policy if you need to leave your car unattended for a long period of time to ensure that you’re still covered in the event of theft or accident.

In summary...

Whether during unprecedented times like the Covid-19 pandemic or as a result of long periods away from the road – such as extended family holidays, work sabbaticals or repair-induced travel restrictions – it’s essential to keep your car in a roadworthy condition so you can transition to regular commuting seamlessly. At AMT, we’re advocates for responsible driving and specialise in helping drivers find their ideal lease car. If you’re searching for a model to help you avoid public transport or are looking to upgrade your lease car, contact our dedicated team today to discuss your requirements.

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