Preparing Your Car for Life After Lockdown

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There will be life after lockdown. The vaccine is being rolled out and as long as we all continue to follow the rules, we should be feeling somewhat freer by the autumn. 

If your car has spent most of 2020 and part of 2021 on your drive or in your garage as you work from home and home-school, then it could be in for a shock when it’s pressed back into service. After a long period of inactivity, you should check over your car to make sure that all’s well or to fix any problems that have developed as a result of being parked up for months.

Here’s a quick run-down of the checks and fixes you and your mechanic should do before you take to the road again.

Inspect and test your battery

Your car battery could fail for a number of reasons, but chief among the causes of a flat battery are inactivity and cold weather. If you’ve only been driving to a local supermarket and back, or not driving at all, for weeks or months, then your battery probably isn’t too chipper. Add the recent cold weather into the mix and you can see why you should be testing the battery to see if it’s holding a charge and making sure that you put some juice into it.

You might need to jump-start the car if it’s completely flat (make sure the jump-leads are from someone in your bubble). If there’s a small amount of charge in it then a mains charger could do the trick. 

It may be that inactivity has rendered your battery useless, in which case you’ll need to have it replaced by a mechanic. Rather than risking a drive to a local garage with a dodgy battery, you could book a mobile mechanic to come to you. It’s easy to find a reputable mobile mechanic by heading to AutoAdvisor and entering your details into its system so that the garage and mechanic knows which battery to bring.

While it’s great if your battery is full of life after lockdown, it’s always a good idea to give it a once-over to make sure that the connectors are all secure and that there’s no suspicious-looking fluid leaks around it. 

Check your tyres

Your tyres should be in good condition, with no damage or excessive wear. Inspect them closely and look for any small splits, cuts, holes or nicks. Look also for any shards of glass, nails, screws of even big thorns that could be driven into the tyre and create a puncture. Check over your spare, too, as you don’t want to be caught short if you suddenly need it.

Although you haven’t been doing as many miles as usual, you should still check your tread depths just to be on the safe side. Use either a tread gauge or a 20 pence piece. The outer band around the coin is 1.6mm so by placing the coin into the tread channel at several points around the tyre you can tell if your treads meet this legal minimum. If you can see the outer band at any point, your treads are too shallow.

Last up, make sure your tyres are all at the right pressures so that you can handle the car safely and efficiently. The chances are that you’ve lost some pressure over lockdown so this is an important step. You might even have a flat, which will need a mechanic unless you have your own inflation kit.

Make sure your windscreen is in good condition

Your windscreen isn’t just there to stop you inhaling bugs, it’s there to stop you inhaling bugs, being buffeted by strong winds and lashed by rain whilst being able to see the road ahead clearly enough to avoid anything in your way. It’s vital that your front and rear windows are clean, free from scratches, chips and cracks and that the heating elements are in good working order so you don’t suddenly have a shattered or obscured windscreen.

Your wipers are also vital to good vision, so it could be time to replace them – you can do this yourself very easily or your mechanic could do it as part of a routine service.

Check your fluid levels

Your engine oil, coolant, brake and power steering fluids are all essential for the safe and smooth running of your car, so make sure you have enough of each. An oil change won’t hurt, either, so that your engine is cool and lubricated while running.

One fluid that’s easy to forget about is your windscreen washer, but it’s actually illegal to have none in the reservoir! It’s the work of a few minutes to check the level and top it up, so don’t overlook this.

Make sure your bulbs are working

After a long period of inactivity, you’ll want to make sure all your bulbs are working properly so turn them all on and walk around the car to see if they’re all as bright as they should be. Replace any that are dead or a bit lacklustre.

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