Since the introduction of lockdown measures at the end of March, car owners across the UK have had significantly less opportunity to get behind the wheel. Aware of the difficulties in vehicle maintenance that the situation has created, the government has afforded Britons generous leeway with regards to MOT expiration dates. Any vehicle which was due for its MOT on or after March 30th, 2020 has now been granted an additional six-month extension.
However, the extension does come with one key caveat – all vehicles must still be kept in a roadworthy condition. That means that basic car maintenance during lockdown is not only just good practice for ensuring everything stays in top working condition, but actually becomes a legal requirement. With that in mind, here are the key issues which require your attention during these unprecedented and challenging times.
1. Charging the batteries
Even while not in use, there are certain components of a vehicle (such as its alarm system and onboard computer interfaces) which continue to drain the battery very slowly. Over a prolonged period of time, they can eventually run it completely dry, so it’s a good idea to turn on any engine which is powered by petrol or diesel for around 20 minutes once a week or so. Alternatively, you may wish to invest in a trickle charger, which connects to the household mains or can be powered by solar panels.
Owners of hybrid vehicles should take similar precautions to ensure their batteries do not become depleted. In this instance, the same result can be achieved by putting the car into “Ready” mode for about an hour once every fortnight. On the other hand, electric vehicles (EVs) should be left unplugged, but with a significant amount of charge (approximately 75% or more) remaining in the battery at all times. If possible, park the car near to your charging point to allow for easy topping up.
2. Keeping your tyres in check
Tyre pressure has a direct bearing on the handling of the car and if neglected, can cause severe damage to the vehicle. Fortunately, most modern cars come equipped with a built-in tyre pressure gauge, so you can check they meet the appropriate specifications while performing your weekly or bi-weekly maintenance on the battery. Alternatively, you could purchase a portable tyre pressure monitor, or incorporate a trip to your local garage the next time you need to leave the house for essential reasons.
As well as keeping an eye on the pressure of your car’s tyres, it’s also a good idea to make sure that the tread depth is sufficient to meet legal standards. By law, all cars are required to have a minimum tread depth of at least 1.6mm, but it’s advisable that you should have at least 3mm tread depth to ensure the longevity of your car. To check, simply insert a 20p piece into the tread. If the outer ring of the coin is obscured by the tyre, the depth is sufficient. If not, it might be an idea to get it checked out by a professional mechanic.
3. Testing the brakes
Brakes are, quite understandably, one of the most essential aspects of a car’s working parts, so keeping them in good shape is of paramount importance. If the car is left stationary for an extended period of time, there is a small chance that the brakes may seize up, rendering them ineffective when it comes to using the car once more. To avoid this happening, simply roll the car backwards and forwards a few metres every so often. This method also prevents the development of flat spots on the brake pads themselves.
Meanwhile, leaving the handbrake in position for a long time can also occasionally cause corrosion to the brake discs, which might impair the handbrake’s operation and result in stickiness when using it. This can be best avoided by parking the car on a level piece of ground in a private area and leaving it in gear and the handbrake off altogether. However, this should be only attempted if you are certain that the ground is level and if you can park off public roads, where other cars or pedestrians may come into contact with your vehicle.
4. Lights and liquids
Another key aspect of your car’s roadworthiness are its lights. If any single bulb is functioning at less than 50% capacity, it will fail its MOT – so you must make sure that all are in good working condition at all times. You can check the lights’ performance by enlisting the help of a friend or family member to inspect them all while using the brakes, indicators and other signals. Alternatively, park the car next to a reflective surface and use your mirrors to ascertain how well they are working.
Finally, keeping your car hydrated in all the right areas is another crucial part of its performance. Use the dipsticks and gauges underneath its hood to test oil, brake fluid, engine coolant and screen wash levels and ensure that they are all above the minimum threshold at all times. This will eliminate any problems when the quarantine measures are relaxed and you can take to the roads once more.
Considering an upgrade?
While lockdown has certainly caused considerable inconvenience to our daily lives, it has also provided us with an insight into how a low-carbon economy might impact the environment. EVs and hybrid vehicles are a great way to support sustainability while still maintaining your independence. However, they can often present a price point that’s too high for many drivers to consider paying outright.
That’s where My Car Credit comes in. We’re experts in securing the most preferable market rates for car financing across the whole of the UK. What’s more, we consider applications from all comers, including self-employed individuals and those with an unfavourable credit history.
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