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05 May 2020
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

Car maintenance during lockdown

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Cars parked outside of housing

Follow our tips so you can get driving again when lockdown is lifted

With lockdown in place, you can only use your car for the following reasons:

  • If you’re travelling to purchase essentials, like food or medicine

  • For work if it can’t be done from home

  • For medical reasons, for example donating blood, looking after an elderly or vulnerable person or to escape the risk of injury or harm.

This means many of us won’t be using our cars much, if at all.

But there are simple checks you can do to keep your car in working order for when lockdown is lifted.

Jump to a question:

Am I allowed to idle my car to keep it running?

How do I keep my battery charged?

What about my diesel particulate filter?

Can I get my car repaired?

Am I allowed to wash my car?

Does fuel "go off"?

There's fuel left in my car’s tank. Will this still work after lockdown?

How long does petrol last in storage?

How long does diesel last in storage?

How do I look after my brakes?

How do I look after my tyres?

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Am I allowed to idle my car to keep it running?

This is a grey area, as there are laws against idling. But 15 minutes a week while you’re in the car should be fine, check with your local council though.

The best option is to try and combine driving with essential travel.

Read more: Leaving your engine running could leave you £20 worse off

 

How do I keep my battery charged?

Your car’s battery life depends on the age of the battery and factors like cold weather – luckily this isn’t much of an issue now.

The best option is to drive your car for essential reasons. But if you can’t, you can use a battery charger to keep it topped up.

If you have a garage, try a trickle or a smart charger. The smart charger will draw charge when required.

The trickle charger will continuously top up the battery. You may need to leave it plugged in overnight or all day.

If you don’t have a garage, start your car and run it for 15 minutes or use it for essential purposes. This will keep the engine in good nick as well as charging the battery.

Read more: How to bump start your vehicle

 

What about my diesel particulate filter?

Any diesel made from 2009 will have a diesel particulate filter fitted to reduce harmful emissions.

This can get clogged up if the car hasn’t been driven for a while. It would usually take a long run at sustained speed to clear it.

In these circumstances you should run the car for 15 minutes, making sure not to stop during this time.

Again, you should try and combine this with essential travel. Either by going to your usual supermarket via a longer route or travelling to a supermarket that’s slightly further afield.

Read more: Dashboard warning lights explained

 

Can I get my car repaired?

MOT dates have now been extended by six months. This means you’ll have six months from the due date to get your car MOT’d. But you still must keep your car in a roadworthy condition.

Garages are still open for essential maintenance. If your car won’t start, ring your local garage to see what their repair procedure is.

Read more: MOT checklist: how to keep your car roadworthy

 

Am I allowed to wash my car?

If you’re not using your car, putting it into your garage or declaring it as SORN you’ll need to give it a good wash first.

Cleaning it inside and out will help get rid of any nasty germs too. Pay close attention to high traffic areas, like door handles, steering wheels and seatbelts.

When cleaning, if you’re parked on the street, be vigilant and stick to social distancing rules.

Read more: How to SORN your vehicle

 

Does fuel "go off"?

In a way, yes. Petrol will generally last for around 6 months and diesel around 12 months.

That’s if they’re stored correctly below 20 degrees in a UN approved air-tight jerry can. Make sure it’s out of reach of children.

Without getting into the science too much, properties that keep fuel in good condition evaporate over time. This can cause it to get thicker and clog up the engine.

Read more: What to do when your car won't start

 

There's fuel left in my car’s tank. Will this still work after lockdown?

If you have a full tank, condensation is less likely to build up which can cause the fuel to degrade.

If you have a small amount of fuel left in your tank that’s been there for a few weeks, top it up with new fuel. This should replenish the old fuel, so it’ll be fine to drive.

We don’t know yet when lockdown will be lifted. But as a general rule, if you haven’t topped up the car in 6 months – or 12 months if it’s diesel - remove the old fuel and fill it up fresh.

 

How long does petrol last in storage?

If you store your petrol in a jerry can below 20 degrees it should last for 6 months.

It’s illegal to store more than 30 litres. So only take as much as you need.

 

How long does diesel last in storage?

If stored in a jerry can, 12 months. After this it gets sticky and gloopy. If you use old fuel It’ll damage the car’s engine.

The same rules apply with diesel, only take as much as you need.

 

How do I look after my brakes?

Releasing the handbrake will stop the brakes from seizing.

If you park on private land, you could release the handbrake, put the car in gear and put blocks behind the wheel. It’s illegal to do this if you park on the road.

If you can’t do this, driving your car once a week for essential purposes should prevent the brakes from seizing.

 

How do I look after my tyres?

The weight of your car on its tyres could cause flat spots and cracks in tyre walls Try and keep them at the correct tyre pressure and move your car every now and again.

Read more: How to check your tyre pressure and tread depth

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