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'Lockdown' vehicle checks

Parked cars

Has COVID-19 affected your car?

Working from home, a ban on non-essential journeys and a rise in supermarket delivery has meant that many businesses and families aren't using their vehicles as much as they would typically. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept some cars and vans off the road for several weeks or months at a time.

 

If you're reading this and it sounds familiar, then before you jump back into the driver's seat and take off down the road, it's worth carrying out some checks on your vehicle to make sure it is not only safe to drive but also won't go breaking down on you halfway along the road. It takes just a few minutes to do these checks and will give you peace of mind that your vehicle is in a roadworthy shape after its little holiday.

Central lockingIf your central locking doesn't work, your battery could be flat

Will it start?

The AA state that most healthy car batteries will last at least two weeks without needing you to start and drive the vehicle. However, if your car or van isn't being used and you aren't sure what condition your battery is in, you should ideally start it up at least once a week to ensure it doesn't go flat and then take it for a drive to give it a good recharge.

 

If you go to your vehicle and the central locking isn't working, chances are the battery won't have enough in reserve to start the engine. If this happens, you have several options. The most obvious is to jump-start your vehicle using a set of jump leads and another car or van. If you can do this, remember to keep your vehicle running for at least 30 minutes to allow the alternator to charge your battery sufficiently. Another easy boost comes from a battery pack. These can be picked up from around £100 and will safely restart most petrol or diesel vehicles. If you have a home start policy with a breakdown company, you can also call them for assistance.

 

Once the battery is charged and the vehicle up and running, you may find that certain functions inside the vehicle have stopped working. Clocks may need adjusting, and security codes for radios and internal computer systems may need re-entering to function correctly.

Can I get in it?

If your battery is flat, you may find that the central locking isn't working. Most keys have a blade neatly tucked into them that can be popped out in case of such emergencies. Most newer cars only have keyhole entry in the driver's door and boot area, so you will have limited access. Once you have addressed your battery issue, central locking problems should rectify themselves. 

Check your oil

Check your tyre pressure

Do I have to check the oil?
If your vehicle has stood idle for some time, chances are the oil will have collected at the bottom of the reservoir. Oil moves around the engine to lubricate the components, so it is essential there is enough to do the job, or you may damage the engine. Checking the oil is best done when the vehicle is cold so try to do it before a journey. Whilst under the bonnet, it's also an excellent opportunity to check coolant and windscreen washer fluid, so you know you have water there if your windscreen needs a blast whilst you are out and about.

Will the tyres be ok?

Tyres are something that many drivers forget to check regularly. Tyre pressure is crucial for safety, performance and fuel consumption, so it is something you should check, especially if the vehicle has been parked up for a considerable amount of time. If you don't have a pump, take the car (or van) directly to a garage and use a digital gauge to adjust the tyre pressure correctly. We advise you don't embark on a long journey without doing this.

Should I check the windscreen wipers?
Most of us wouldn't think to do this, but it could impact safety if you ignore this vital check. It takes just a few seconds to remove any loose debris from the windscreen that may either stop the wipers from functioning correctly or cause them to smear some nastiness across your line of sight. A smart trick to bear in mind if you are leaving your vehicle standing for a while, especially in the winter months, is to wrap the wipers in a plastic bag. This protects them from the cold and ensures nothing gets stuck to the rubber blades.

 

Windscreen wiper careKeeping wiper blades clean helps reduce smears on your windscreen

Are my lights working?
Although bulbs aren't likely to suffer too much from not being used, it is undoubtedly a check you should be doing every time you get into a vehicle. If your battery was flat, a recharge or surge could cause a bulb to blow, so due diligence is worthwhile. The easiest way to test your lights is to ask a family member or friend to help so you can check brake lights as well as your headlights and indicators. If you have a bulb out, most are easily changed yourself or take your vehicle to somewhere like Halfords where they supply and fit them for you. Always keep an eye on your vehicle bulbs as it is an MoT failure if any are not functioning as they should be.

 

Can I drive straight off?
We recommend you let the vehicle run for a short while before driving away. This warms up the engine and gives you a chance to walk around to check no leaks are coming from anywhere. Cold weather and lack of use can cause some hoses to perish, and these may not be noticeable until the vehicle is running.

 

Should I test my brakes?
Most definitely! Firstly, release your handbrake. This may be easier said than done if sitting in wet and cold conditions and may need a little encouragement to release. Ease it off and on a couple of times to see if it eases up. Testing your actual brakes will need to be done when you first drive away. If they haven't been used for a few weeks, then a layer of rust may have formed, so drive off slowly and apply light pressure to your brakes. Note the response and pay attention in case they make any sound that could indicate a problem. The vehicle may pull slightly in one direction, but this should improve the more you drive.

 

As a hire company, our vehicles undergo these sorts of checks regularly. Vehicle maintenance is an essential part of upkeep and safety and should not be disregarded. If you are in any doubt about your vehicle's safety and roadworthiness, please speak to your garage and get a professional to look over your car or van before you continue to use it.

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