Check out these car care tips while your car is parked!

How To Look After Your Car During Lockdown

Check out these car care tips while your car is parked!
Check out these car care tips while your car is parked!

The Government has extended the Coronavirus lockdown in Ireland until 5th May. The advice is of course to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, except for essential journeys like buying food and medicine. Your car is likely not being as driven as much as it was up to just a few weeks ago. So what can you do to maintain your car and keep it running well? In this article, we will give you some useful car care and car maintenance tips to keep your car safe and legal while parked.

Let's start with some cleaning!

How clean is your car?

It's advisable after every essential journey to clean the surfaces you frequently touch inside and outside the car. Use a solution with 70 per cent alcohol. It's safe to use in the car and will destroy any bacteria or viruses hanging about your trim.

Read our article for more detail, How To Clean Your Car In A Crisis.

If you have more time on your hands, take advantage of the dry spring weather to give the car a good clean inside and out. Aside from reducing contamination risk, the frequent removal of dirt, grime, bird droppings etc. will also protect the paintwork and leave your car looking better for longer! Rinse the car down with water, starting from the top down. Then use a cloth or sponge and a bucket of warm soapy water to remove all the dirt and grime. Use a cleaning solution designed for cars. Rinse!

Check your lights are working

It's probably something you only think about when the NCT is due tomorrow. Though NCT tests have been suspended, you are still required to keep your car roadworthy and legal, for your safety too. Now is a good time to check that all your lights are working - headlamps, dipped beam, high beam, indicators, rear fog lamps (front fog lights if fitted), and of course your brake lights. Ask your housemate or other household member to help you. If you are isolating solo, you can check your lights using the reflection of a window.

Top tyre safety tips

Tyre safety and quality is important any time of the year. Checking your tyres is a habit you should get into anyway, not just in lockdown. Visually inspect tyres, looking out for any bulges or tears. Check that the tyre tread meets legal requirements - minimum 1.6 mm in Ireland. Reduced tyre tread means less grip on the road and experts recommend you replace your tyres when your treads are down to 3 mm. You can check using a €1 coin. Place the coin in the tyre tread in a few different places. If you can see the outer band on the coin face at any point, it means the tread is too shallow.

Check your tyre pressures are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended maximum pressure. If the car is not being driven, the tyres will lose pressure over time. Also if the car is left stationary in the one position for a long period of time, you can get flat spots, especially on older tyres, another reason to move the car at least once a week. The recommended pressures for the tyres are in the driver's manual or sometimes printed on a label on the inside of the fuel cap or driver/passenger door. Many newer cars have a tyre pressure monitor that warns you when your tyres have lost pressure.

Check your tyre pressures and the condition of your tyres
Check your tyre pressures and the condition of your tyres

How to look after your car battery 

Ensure that all car doors and the boot are closed fully. Interior lights should be switched off. Lock the car. This will keep the vehicle secure and reduce drain on the battery.

Your car may be stationary for days or even weeks between essential shopping trips. Some of the car's electrics that run in the background when the car is switched off can drain the battery. Modern cars and batteries are more robust but start your car once a week or use it for an essential journey. Avoid turning your engine on, only to turn it off again shortly after. The starter motor requires battery power each time the ignition is switched on and won’t be replenished unless the battery is given time to charge.

If you leave the car running in your driveway, allow it to run for 15-20 minutes and reach full operating temperature before switching off. If you have more than one car in the house, do alternate between them for your essential journeys. This will give the battery time to increase its charge, and also circulate oil and fuel around the engine, which can prevent engine flooding in petrol cars. In electric cars, the battery pack loses electricity over time, even when not in use, so top it up in case you need to use the car in an emergency.

Check fluid levels

To avoid multiple trips to the petrol station and reduce the risk of contamination, fill up your tank with fuel at the next visit. This also prevents moisture building up in your tank while the car is not being run regularly. Check other fluid levels and top up if necessary - coolant, oil and windscreen washer fluid. Run the car afterwards to allow to circulate.

Car storage 

If you have a garage, use it! Storing your car away from the elements will keep your car better for longer.

Tax and insurance

Your car still needs to be taxed and insured to be road legal. Both these services can still be accessed online. The only exemption is if you have declared your car off the road. This can be done online at www.motortax.ie but the car cannot be used for essential journeys or emergencies in this instance.

Check your fluid levels like oil, coolant and windscreen washer
Check your fluid levels like oil, coolant and windscreen washer

Caroline Kidd


The fast and capable Volkswagen Golf R

Best Winter Car Care Tips

I’ve learnt a few things over the years that keep my car ticking over in the cold weather and I would like to share these winter car care tips with you.

  • Check your engine has enough coolant/anti-freeze, oil and water. The car’s manual will help you locate them if you haven’t already been nosing under your bonnet.
  • Check the condition of your tyres, the tread depth and pressure. Look out for any bulges, bumps or other imperfections that could indicate the tyre has been undermined.
  • Make sure the fan and demister inside the car are working and doing their job sufficiently to keep the windows and windscreens clear of mist. Check the wipers are ok. The wiper blades might need to be replaced if the rubbers are worn.
  • Outside the car, check that all your lights and indicators are working.

 

Keep your car in top condition with our winter car care tips
Keep your car in top condition with our winter car care tips

More winter car care tips

  • If your car is iced over, grab a can of de-icer. Do not use boiled water from the kettle on windows and windscreens. If you must, use lukewarm water. Then a quick swish of the wipers will stop that water from freezing over if it’s still really cold out. You can rip the seals around the car door if they are frozen tight so don’t tug at the doors to force them open.
  • A cold snap can be the death blow to a weak battery. If you are worried and think your battery may be on the way out, bring it to a mechanic and they can test it.
  • To preserve the battery, I always make sure the fan, demister, radio, and lights are off on the car before turning off the ignition and before starting the car. I go gentle on the fans and demister before the car heats up fully and only then do I crank up the fan to warm me up! Driving the car will heat it up quicker than letting it idle in the yard.
  • Go easy on the car when the engine is cold, especially if it’s getting old. Accelerate smoothly and don’t rev the bejaysus out of it (until it’s warmed up of course, then normal service can resume if it’s safe to do so!).

Check out some ideal cars for winter driving.

Caroline Kidd