How to keep your car healthy – tips from IAM RoadSmart

During the current situation with all but essential travel banned, it is easy to forget about your car. It is not often that it will sit for such a long period without being used, aside perhaps for a yearly rest in an airport parking facility while you head off on your holidays. Most of the time, it’s likely used on a regular if not daily basis, travelling to and from work, the shops and visiting friends and family. So how will your car survive during weeks of inactivity, while we all stay home?

The important thing here is not to worry – your health and that of the people around you is paramount. If you can keep well, the car will still be there when we get out of the other side of this situation.

However, if you do feel you need to check your car, Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards at IAM RoadSmart, has these useful tips on how to help ensure your vehicle remains in good condition while it is not being used:

  1. Tyres

Check your tyre pressures and make sure they are at the recommended settings. A tyre that is partially deflated will put extra stress on the sidewall and may cause lasting damage if left that way for an extended period. If you have space, roll the car forward or backwards slightly to change the area where the stress on the sidewall is greatest. Keeping the pressure correct will mean you are ready to go as soon as restrictions are lifted.

2. Handbrake

If left for a long period of time a handbrake can stick on. If your car is on level ground or can easily and safely be ‘chocked’ to prevent it rolling away, sit in the car, apply the footbrake to ensure no movement and release the handbrake. If possible, move the car slightly before re-applying the brake, just to vary the part of the drum or disc where the pads are gripping.

3. Battery

A modern car battery which is in good condition should stand up well to periods of inactivity and a modern car will shut down most systems if it detects inactivity for a long period of time. There may however be a small drain due to an alarm system. It is also possible to lose some charge if the terminals are dirty or corroded, so make sure they are clean if you’re able.

To compensate for any power drainage over time, try connecting a maintenance charger which will charge and discharge the battery as necessary. These are available for home delivery from a range of online retailers. Any cheap modern charger will also do the trick. Switch it on every couple of weeks until the battery is fully charged.

If you do not have access to a power socket, there are some solar devices available that will do the same job without the need for mains power. As a last resort, if you are worried, you can start the car up and allow it to run stationary for 15 minutes or so every couple of weeks. This is not ideal and certainly not good for the environment, but if you do need to do it, make sure all electrical systems are switched off before you start. If they are on you will likely drain more power than you put in. Be careful if your car is a diesel when doing this, as slow running can harm your diesel particulate filter. So you may need to increase the revs slightly to prevent this – but be mindful of your neighbours, after all, they are trapped in too!  

Richard Gladman said: “It is vital that we follow government advice and travel only when it’s essential. If you can safely do these few precautionary checks while still keeping social distance, they will help make the transition to normality easier when the restrictions are relaxed. If you are not able to do them, a family member or friend can do them on your behalf.”