As we are all staying at home in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), you may not be able to get out and about in the car as much as you’re used to. Many will be wondering what to do with your car if you aren’t driving it on a regular basis.
What to do with your car, and how to maintain it, depends on how long you’re leaving your car idle. For example, you may be using it to top up on food and supplies or driving it if you work in an essential job or industry. But for many, you may not need or want to use your car for a lot longer, maybe even months.
Here are some commonly asked questions and answers:
How long you leave a car without starting can depend on the condition of your car's 12-volt battery. Most modern cars with a fairly healthy battery should last at least 2 weeks, without needing to be started up to re-charge the battery. If there’s any doubt about the condition of the battery, start it once a week just to be safe.
Even if you haven't driven for a while your car should be fine. If it's been regularly started and run for 15-minute periods, the battery should work. The tyre pressures should be checked and adjusted before driving. The brakes may have some corrosion on them, especially if the car was wet when it was parked up. Drive carefully and test the brakes as soon as possible. Make sure you use your brakes for the first few miles to clean off any corrosion.
Cars are made to be driven but with good care it should be fine. If it's left unused follow our guidelines.
Yes, but it's best to follow these guidelines to keep the car ready to drive.
As we've said above, there are many factors that can affect this. The age of the battery, how the car's been used and the temperature all affect the performance of a battery. If you follow our guidelines your battery shouldn’t let you down.
Fuel – Before parking your car up for a long period, it’s a good idea to top up with fuel. Not only will this help with other measures, but a full tank doesn't attract condensation, which could cause issues if allowed to build up over time.
Battery maintenance – If you can, connect your car's battery to a mains-powered battery maintainer. If you can't, start the engine once a week and allow it to run for about 15 minutes. This will re-charge the battery and help keep the engine in good condition. It’s important to allow the engine to run for this long so the battery can charge properly. In the case of petrol engine cars, it also helps to prevent engines from flooding with fuel. Never leave your car unattended with the engine running.
Brakes – Sometimes when a car's parked up for a long period with the parking brake on, the brakes can seize. To prevent this, it's good practice to release the parking brake and move the vehicle a short distance back and forth, at the same time as running the engine. You shouldn’t leave the parking brake off unless the vehicle is on private land with the wheels securely chocked.
Electric vehicles – EVs and hybrid vehicles have 12-volt batteries, the same as conventional cars. However, they charge differently. Pressing the start button, so the ready light comes on, will operate the charging system. Doing this for 10 minutes once a week should keep the 12-volt battery topped up. Some electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles can maintain their 12-volt batteries if they’re plugged in to the mains charger. Check your vehicle handbook for details on this.
Garages – Don’t run a car engine inside a household garage as the exhaust fumes can be toxic. If you keep your car in a garage, pull it out onto the drive to run the engine to charge the battery.
Tyres – Before driving the car after a long period parked up, check all of the tyre pressures and inflate if needed.
As well as the 'one month' points above:
• Clean and polish the car.
• Make sure the car’s dry if you’re storing in a garage.
• If the car's in a garage, make sure there's plenty of ventilation.
As well as the one month and three month points:
• Check your oil level and change if needed
• Arrange for an 'oil and filter' service
• Lubricate locks
Before you start a car, you haven’t used for a long time:
• Check tyre pressures.
• Check nothing’s nesting under the bonnet or has chewed through the pipes/hoses.
• Check all fluid levels, before starting the engine.
• Check the brakes, including the handbrake – they may have seized up if the car was left with the handbrake on. Try putting into gear and driving gently.
Arrange a full service once it’s running again if your car’s been standing for a long time.