AA Advice: Looking after your car when you’re not driving regularly
AA patrols will continue to help key workers and those who need to travel during lockdown, but many vehicle owners will be preparing for another month off the road, this time in colder conditions.
Ben Sheridan, AA Patrol of the Year, gives his top tips on maintaining your vehicles through lockdown:
If being used occasionally:
If vehicles are likely to be used for occasional essential journeys, you’ll want to know that they are ready when needed.
One of the key things to look out for is the battery. There is more demand on car batteries during winter with increased use of lights, wipers and heating. The age of the battery, how the vehicle has been used and the cold temperatures all affect performance.
You can help keep batteries in good working order by using a mains-powered battery maintainer or, if this isn’t possible, starting the engine once a week and allowing it to run for at least 15 minutes to give the battery time to charge.
Most modern vehicles with a fairly healthy battery should last at least two weeks without needing to be started up, but if there’s any doubt about the condition of the battery, start it once a week just to be safe.
If your vehicles are garaged, remember to pull them out into the open first; don’t run the engine inside a garage, and never leave a vehicle unattended with the engine running.
If not being used at all
If you’re locking your vehicles up for the month or even further into winter, there are steps you can take now to see them through the period of disuse; known as laying-up.
If a vehicle is kept off the road and isn’t being used at all, you may be able to make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).
Before parking up, it’s a good idea to top up with fuel. A full tank doesn't attract condensation, which could cause issues if allowed to build up over time.
More information on laying up vehicles for winter can be found at: https://www.theaa.com/driving-advice/laying-up
Advice for Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Electric 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. Putting the vehicle into ‘ready’ mode 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, so vehicle owners should check their EV handbook for details.
Getting back on the road
Once you’re ready to use your vehicles again, check that the MoT and tax are still current. If your MoT is due to expire during the second lockdown period, it would be a good idea to get it booked in as soon as possible as many garages are still dealing with high demand from the MoT extension. Vehicle owners can find a local AA-approved garage, select a date and book an individual MoT online via AA Smart Care or contact your AA account manager if you have multiple vehicles to maintain.
Before starting the vehicle, make sure there’s nothing nesting under the bonnet which might have caused damage to pipes or hoses, and check all the fluid levels before starting the engine.
Before driving, check the tyre pressures and inflate them if needed. It’s also worth checking the condition of the tyres, looking out for any defects.
If your vehicles have been standing unused for a long time, it’s a good idea to arrange a full service once you’re ready to use them again.