Now that we have been in lockdown due to the Coronavirus for a while in South Africa, ensuring your car is in perfect condition for when you need to rely on it, to make the essential trip to source food and essential household supplies is key. Whether using your car once a week or parking for an extended quarantine period, the below tips should help ensure your car is there for you when you really need it.
TIPS TO HELP MAINTAIN YOUR CAR
Prevent a flat battery
When sat on your driveway, most cars will have their alarm and immobiliser switched on protecting the car - however, this will also be slowly draining the vehicle battery. The length of time the battery lasts will depend on the make and model of your car along with the age and type of battery and could range from a couple of weeks up to 2-3 months. In addition, the alternator in your vehicle charges the battery whilst driving so if you only do infrequent short trips (say once a week to local supermarket), your battery may not get the charge it needs.
- Consider purchasing a battery charger: A battery tender or trickle charger can be connected to your car when not in use and will keep the battery in peak condition. Alternatively, a standard battery charger can be connected every couple of weeks for a few hours to return your battery to full charge. A key point to consider is that modern engines have different battery types so check you purchase the right charger to ensure you do not damage your battery or shorten its life span (for example modern hybrid engine batteries typically need a more sophisticated charger).
- If you have an electric car it’s best to give it a full charge and keep it plugged in if you can. Its electronics will ensure it stays topped up, and it won’t be drawing charge all the time.
- Regularly run your engine: Letting your engine run for 15-20 mins once a week will allow the alternator on your car to charge the battery. Make sure to do this outside, or leave the garage door wide open for ventilation.
- Jumpstart might not always be the best option: Modern cars have increasingly complex electrical systems which could potentially get damaged if you use jumpstart leads (i.e. attaching leads to the battery in another car to start your engine). If you are unsure, always check your car owner’s manual or if in doubt contact your car manufacturer or their local dealership for advice.
- Ultimately, if you have a flat battery and are unsure what to do, contact a breakdown service who will be able to help you.
Check your tyre pressure
If a car is stood for a period of time the tyres could develop a ‘flat spot’ on the area where the tyre meets the ground (tyre deforms slightly due to the weight of the car).
- Most flat spots will disappear the next time you drive as the tyres warm up and return to their original shape
- If you are not planning on driving for a longer period of time you might want to consider increasing your tyre pressure to the maximum cold pressure (you can find this inside the door on many vehicles, or in the owner’s manual). The extra pressure will help the tyres retain their shape more - just remember to return tyres to their correct pressure before your next use your car.
Have a full tank of fuel
If your fuel tank is full it helps prevent any condensation (water) within the fuel tank which could cause problems later (e.g. rust within fuel tank or water mixing into fuel).
Look after your brakes
If your car is stood for a long period of time there is a small risk that the brake pads may stick to the brake discs which might prevent the car from moving in the future.
- Move your car once a week: Moving your car a small distance (up to a metre), if you have space, will help ensure your brakes do not stick (do this at the same time as running the engine to charge the battery.
Empty your car of rubbish
If your car is not going to be driven for a period of time ensure there is no rubbish inside that might smell. With no air moving around inside your car, an old packet of crisps, sweet wrapper or fast food packaging will quickly make the inside of your car smell unpleasant.
STAY SAFE WHEN MAKING JOURNEYS
Keep all touchpoints clean
When you do have to leave home for essential journeys, try to minimise the potential to contaminate your car by considering all touchpoints.
- Door handles, steering wheel, gear lever, boot release and dashboard buttons are all areas to consider
- Clean all touchpoints using anti-bacterial or alcohol cleaners before every journey
- Consider leaving hand sanitiser, wipes or gloves in the car so you have available for every journey
Reduce risk when getting fuel
At times you will need to refuel your car at your local service station. Whilst the service station will be making every effort to clean all touchpoints, in reality, they are unlikely to be able to clean the fuel pump handle between every customer. Ideally use the plastic protective gloves provided next to the fuel pumps to protect your hands or if these are not available use a hand sanitiser to both clean the fuel pump and also your hands before returning to your vehicle.