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On the road during lockdown

Here's what motorists should know.

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Your car is parked in the lockdown, here's how to take care of it

2020-03-31 12:00
changing a car battery

Image: iStock

While grocery stores might be open for essential goods during lockdown, most people will be staying indoors and not venturing anywhere.

For most people, this could mean that your vehicle could be standing still for a good few weeks too. However, you still need to maintain your vehicle, especially if it's an older model.

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: "After receiving a couple of queries on the Wheels24 desk this morning about vehicle maintenance fears during the lockdown, the Automobile Association (AA) has shared some helpful advice. 

"If you're staying put, it would be best to either start your vehicle once in a while, or if it's an older model then disconnect your battery to prevent it from draining so that you won't have any problems when you do need to head out.

"It also provides a great time to wash your car, and give yourself something to keep busy with - a proper wax and polish, and interior clean can take up loads of time if you're running bored during this period. And your car will be happy too, and it's another great way to involve the kids and give them something else to do. Just remember there are still water restrictions so be mindful of your usage."

Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post

The AA's Layton Beard says: "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."

Van der Post says: "Most people have no knowledge of how your vehicle may operate, nor would you know how to follow some of the mentioned advice. If you live in a complex, or gated community perhaps drive your vehicle around the block. Or, start your vehicle perhaps once or twice a week if you fear your battery might run down.

Here's what you should do if you won't be using your vehicle at all:

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 eye-wear 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 you start your vehicle after storage. Leave yourself a note on the steering wheel as a reminder.

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.

Image: iStock

Don't cancel your vehicle insurance

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.

Beard says: "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."

Beard 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."

Image: iStock

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," says Beard.

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