Eleven top tips for your car as lockdown eases
Here is a quick run down of somethings you might of overlooked ensuring your car is fit for the road
With lockdown restrictions gradually easing from today, many cars have been sat idle for months. Now with restrictions beginning to ease from today (29th March), it is predicted that people will start to use their vehicles more often as a safer option of transport. Before you set off, I have compiled a quick top eleven things you should check before you get behind the wheel.
1. Check your oil level
As we know, oil is a critical element in keeping your engine tip top, checking and topping up your oil is a fairly simplistic task. I won't go into how to check the oil as i'm fairly confident the majority of readers will be experienced in this but for for those that don't, general rule of thumb is to top up the oil should it be below the half way point on the dipstick. The type of oil required for your vehicle is dependant on many things so please consult your manufacturer before you stick any old oil in.
2. Top up your washer fluid
One of the most simple tasks that is somewhat overlooked until it's too late - the windscreen washers. I'm sure we've all experienced the washer fluid running out just as we need it. A simple case of topping it up with washer fluid and water with the manufacturers dilution recommendation should see you right.
3. Check your vehicles coolant level
Similar to your cars oil, your coolant plays a very important part in keeping your car running healthy so this is certainly one not to overlook. It stops your car overheating in the summer and from freezing in colder weathers. It's usually stored in a clear plastic reservoir with a measure on the side, usually a plastic marker with a hot or cold mark. Using the correct coolant for your vehicle is important as mixing fluid colours can cause damage to rubber hoses and pipes.
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash
4. Check your tyres
With your vehicle potentially being parked up for a few weeks/months, there is a chance they may of slightly deflated or even developed cracks. Do a visual inspection on the tyre to see if there is any damage to it, or even if there is any foreign objects stuck within the tread. Once you have completed your visual inspection you'll need to check your tread depth.
In the UK and Europe, the legal minimum tread depth for cars is 1.6mm across it's entire circumference. Easiest way to check is to use a tyre gauge, if you don't have one of these then a 20p coin is perfect. Place the coin in the grooves of your tyre, if you can see the outer ridge of the coin then there is a chance the tyre is below legal limit. Go get the tyre checked by a professional.
Image courtesy of https://www.tyresafe.org/20p-test/
5. Check your tyre pressures
Tyre pressures have a range of effects on the characteristics of your car, such as handling and MPG so ensuring your tyres are inflated to recommended levels is important. Tyre pressures are usually marked on the vehicle someplace, look within the fuel filler flap or on the driver/passenger doors. If you can't find them there, check your car's handbook.
6. Check your battery
If the car has been sat idle for a long time or during lockdown you have only done short trips, your battery may of drained/gone flat as it wouldn't of had chance to recharge on your short trips. Take the car for a long drive, 30-45 minutes should do, to make sure the battery has chance to recharge. If you are having difficulty starting the car, then there is a good chance it's flat and will need a jump start so you can give it that chance to recharge. If you can, try and charge the battery over night with a trickle charger. You can always invest in a solar charger if the vehicle is parked up for long periods of time to counteract the battery drain.
Also, give the battery a good visual inspection, make sure the battery is secure and check the terminals. You are wanting to make sure they are corrosion free as if they have suffered from being in a damp environment there is a chance of oxidisation which could effect the supply to and from the battery.
7. Give the car a good walk around
If the car has been parked under a tree, there is a chance that leaves and other debris has landed and claimed home. Sometimes, these objects can cause blockages to heaters and air intakes which lead on to other issues you may face such as reduced engine performance and even water leaks. Ensure leaves and other objects are free from around the car.
8. Check your brakes
It is arguably the most important safety feature on your car so we need to make sure the brakes are in top condition. When a car has been parked up for long periods of time, it is not uncommon for brakes to have some issues.
Sticking brakes are a common problem, especially handbrakes, if a car hasn't been used for a while. With it being parked up, there is a chance that various parts of your brakes become rusty and the surfaces will be covered in a light coating of corrosion. You'll probably notice a bit of a sticky sensation in your brakes followed by a squealing or grinding noise as the rust is removed.
The more you drive the vehicle, it will soon clear but do be cautious as your brakes may not be fully effective until the surface rust has cleared. In time they will return to normal. If they don't, it's strongly advised to see a professional.
Photo by Jorge Segura on Unsplash
9. Check your fuel gauge
It's not uncommon for cars that have been parked up with an empty tank of fuel to have moisture inside for example, this can cause issues within the tank such as rust. To avoid such issues, fill the tank to max so there is less room for moisture to build up. You can also add fuel stabiliser fluid to your tank if you plan to keep it parked for a while, these can aid in keeping the fuel fresh.
10. Give the handles a wiggle
Give the car a once over, open and close all the doors, boot and bonnet, ensuring that the handles are free from debris and any resistance. It's no harm in giving the handles, hinges and locks, along with any other moving parts a good spray of lubrication as there is a chance with the vehicle being parked up it had dried.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
11. Give it a well deserved clean
Okay, not so much something to check but more of a treat for your car that probably hasn't seen a wash in a while, especially with the bad weather we've had. However you wash your car, from a two bucket system to a petrol station automated car wash, there is no harm in giving it that blast of shampoo. Not only will it look good, you'll feel more confident with the car after you've checked all above.
These tips you may already know but sometimes it's easy to forget the basics every now and then and take for granted a well maintained car. We put a lot of trust in our vehicles to ensure they get us from A to B so a bit of preventive maintenance every now and then doesn't go a miss.