During the global pandemic, life in UK lockdown meant that thousands of cars have seen their use reduced from daily commutes to just short trips, or nothing at all. Not using your vehicle regularly can be damaging to its battery, brakes and engine – to name a few.
Thankfully, with lockdown restrictions set to ease in the coming weeks, it’s time to get our cars back on the roads! But before you do, it’s worth carrying out the following checks to make sure it’s in perfect working order. Check out our car maintenance checklist you can do at home:
Maintaining the correct tyre pressure is very important for a car’s roadworthiness and overall safety. Think of the tyres as your car’s first line of defence – absorbing any shocks and bumps from the road underneath.
Tyres naturally lose pressure over time, even when a car is stationary. So, it’s important to keep your tyre pressure topped up and ensure your tyres are well-maintained.
Recommended tyre pressure can be found within your vehicle’s handbook and can be topped up at most local petrol stations or at home if you purchase a pump. Before adjusting your tyres pressure, check the levels using a separate tyre pressure gauge by attaching it to the tyres air valve.
If it’s been a while since you last used your car, it’s also worth checking your tyres still have enough tread on them. In the UK, the minimum tyre tread depth needs to be at least 1.6mm deep. If not, you face a fine of up to £2,500 and 3 points on your licence.
If you are unsure, you can quickly check this using a 20p coin! Place a 20p coin into the grooves of your tyre’s tread. If the outer rim of the 20p coin becomes obscured, your tyres are above the legal minimum tread depth, as the outer rim of a 20p coin is just under 3mm wide.
Battery care – diesel and petrol cars
Cold weather can drain your car’s battery, especially if you haven’t driven anywhere for a while, so it’s important to keep your battery well maintained.
Trickle-chargers or smart chargers are ideal for charging batteries that have run low, especially on vehicles that haven’t been driven for a while. They attach directly to the battery of the car and automatically top up the battery when needed.
Battery care – electric cars
Batteries in electric vehicles will also lose charge over time when not in use. However, they drain a lot more slowly. If you’re not using the car at all, switch it on from time to time to check the remaining power levels and charge up as and when needed.
Diesel cars and the emissions filter
Most diesel engines have a special filter fitted to help reduce harmful emissions. But over time the filters get clogged up and need what is referred to as ‘regeneration’. Regeneration automatically happens over longer runs. As a result, using a diesel car just for short trips can block the filter up, potentially causing costly damage to the engine.
Fortunately, most modern diesel cars can also perform a ‘regeneration’ when the car is stationary. Here’s how:
Start the engine, with the hand brake engaged. After a short time, a dashboard indicator should show if the filter is starting to regenerate. This could take up to an hour, depending on how clogged the DPF is – don’t switch the engine off while regeneration’s happening.
If a vehicle’s handbrake is on for a long period of time, the brakes can rust a little and seize up, especially during cold, wet weather.
You should occasionally release the handbrake and, if you can, move the car backwards and forwards a little, engaging the foot brake as you do.
From water to oil, the level of fluids that a car’s engine needs to run smoothly all reduce over time, whether it’s in regular use or not.
Your car’s manual will show you how to check the oil, water, brake fluid and screenwash levels and how to top them up to the correct level. There are also lots of useful guides available online.
Most modern cars will indicate on the dashboard when fluid levels are running low, so you’ll always know when a top-up is required.