Safety and Roadworthiness of Vehicles in Long-Term Parking or Lockdown
On the Arrive Alive Road Safety Website, we emphasize the importance of regular vehicle repair and maintenance. It is always important to start to travel with a roadworthy vehicle. But what if you are not going to use the vehicle for an exceptionally long time?
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has left many vehicle owners having to park their vehicles for a month without the benefit of using it. It is however not only a global pandemic that might lead to a vehicle being kept in lockdown. It could be something as simple as a lengthy international work assignment, global travel, or a long illness. If the vehicle is not properly cared for during long periods where the car is not in use, it can result in additional maintenance and servicing costs.
In this section, we would like to consider some advice on what to do when vehicles must be kept stationary or parked in lockdown for a long time. A little love and attention can go a long way to ensure that when you are finally ready to hit the road, your vehicle is just as prepared as you are!
Parking the Vehicle Safely
- Storing your vehicle in a carport or garage will protect it from the elements and keep it at a relatively stable temperature.
- Cover your vehicle. This is especially so if you only park under a carport or in the open but even vehicles parked inside a garage will collect dust.
- If you do not have a cover for your car use an alternative such as a large sheet, something is better than nothing.
- A weatherproof car cover to help keep your vehicle clean, dry, and shaded.
Leaving the Vehicle Clean and Maintained
Spend some time on your vehicle so that they are ready to go once a lockdown is lifted or when you can use it again. “You can quickly and easily prepare your vehicle. If you have not already done so, it might worth your while to spend some time on your car,” says Herbert from MasterDrive
- Give your vehicle a good clean before packing it away.
- Wash off dust and animal droppings from the exterior to prevent damage to the paintwork and empty the interior to prevent nasty surprises when you get in again.
- Water, dirt, grease and even bird droppings left on your vehicle can damage the paint.
- Washing your car will prevent this from happening, and besides, it is a great way to mix things up and pass the time during the lockdown.
- Make sure to wash your vehicle thoroughly and then consider waxing it.
- Wax acts as a sealant and protects your vehicle’s paint from the fading properties caused by sun, dirt, and grease.
- Give your interior a thorough vacuum.
- Having a clean car will prevent insects and animals from entering your vehicle and potentially causing damage.
- Buying a car dehumidifier can help combat unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the interior’s softer materials, especially in more humid climates.
- Vehicle dehumidifiers require no power supply, thereby putting no additional drain on the car battery.
- Apply silicone spray as a lubricant to the rubber door and window seals of your vehicle. This will prevent the rubber from cracking, or sticking to the body of your vehicle, especially during hot weather.
- If possible cover the air intakes with a cloth, and stuff a rag in the exhaust outlet.
- Close your doors and windows properly to prevent bugs or small animals from getting into the car.
Fuel in the Tank
- If you expect the vehicle to be in storage for more than 30 days, fill the fuel tank all the way to the top.
- This avoids moisture accumulation in your fuel tank which leads to oxidization and corrosion and possibly rust.
- It will also keep the seals from drying out.
Safety of Vehicle Components
If your family or the cars in your fleet will not be used for the duration of the lockdown, it is advisable to take steps to prevent facing dead batteries once the lockdown is lifted. Here are some useful tips to ensure the health of your car’s battery and to keep your vehicle running smoothly:
- Make sure all electronics in your car are switched off: lights, radio etc.
- Make sure doors, boot etc. are shut to ensure that the door lights and warning systems are off.
- Start the vehicle every day and run the engine for 5 minutes, if it is in a garage make sure the garage doors are open.
- If possible and available, it is recommended to use a smart charger to keep the battery conditioned and charged.
- In a recreational vehicle, if possible, disconnect the battery, but only if you are technically capable and can reinstall it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Where possible park the car in a cool spot to prevent exposure to high ambient temperature and consequent high self-discharge.
- If you suspect a problem with your battery, do not try to open it, or revive it or fill it. Rather wait until after lockdown and contact a battery call-centre.
- If you can measure the voltage of the battery (with a voltmeter) and if you can easily access the battery, measure the voltage every few days. If the voltage drops below 12.6V, it will need to be recharged by running the vehicle for 10 minutes.
- Should the vehicle not start, follow the vehicle and battery manufacturer’s jump-starting or push-starting instructions and run the vehicle for at least 15-30 minutes to recharge. If the battery is damaged and not just discharged, this may not help.
- The following are signs that your battery is on its way out and will have to be replaced after the lockdown:
- You hear grinding or a clicking sound when you turn on the ignition.
- The engine does not swing at all when you turn on the ignition.
- Your vehicle cranks slowly when attempting to start.
- Your headlights dim when idling but brighten when you rev the engine.
- If your battery is still under warranty and it fails during the lockdown, make sure you have your proof of purchase for replacement after the lockdown. Do not attempt to repair, top-up, overcharge or tamper with the battery in any way as this will void the warranty.
- If you need to replace the battery yourself follow the vehicle and battery manufacturer’s instructions on fitment. As a minimum, ensure the following:
- The battery is the correct size and for you make of vehicle.
- Battery terminals are clean.
- The terminal connectors are correctly torqued - if you cannot do this, tighten so that they do not slip but do not overtighten. Do not dispose of the old battery - it must be returned to a dealer for recycling.
- Perform regular visual inspections of the battery (where possible) - ensuring that the battery is clean and dry and shows no signs of swelling. Wipe down the battery to remove dirt and grease - this creates insulation that can keep the battery hot.
- After lockdown, please have the battery tested at approved battery specialists.
- After lockdown, minimise short drives. Too many short drives will not allow the battery to fully recharge.
- If you can access the battery, make sure that the terminals are not loose - a loose terminal will restrict the recharging of the battery.
- Limit or delay any DIY work on the vehicle until the lock-down. Any damage to the battery or electrical system could leave you stranded.
- Do not use the vehicle battery for any other application (like removing the battery and using it to power a TV) as this could damage the battery and leave you stranded. This will also void the warranty on the battery.
Oil, Filter and Spark Plugs
- Leaving old oil sitting in the engine can cause damage.
- If you are planning on storing the vehicle for more than a month, contact your dealership, once COVID 19 lockdown has ended or you are ready to use the vehicle, to schedule an oil change.
- It goes without saying, when you change your oil, also change your oil filter.
- Consider filling up all other fluids like coolant and brake fluid.
- Doing this before parking your car will save you time in the future and get you back on the road faster.
- Removing spark plugs may also prevent rust forming. If you are unsure of how to do this leave them in and get an expert to check them as soon as possible after resuming normal use.
- Keep your tyres inflated.
- It is not just driving, but the passage of time that makes air escape from tyres.
- If you’re able to inflate them at home, do that first before making essential trips or when lockdown ends, and you return to work.
- Maintaining the correct tyre pressure avoids flat spots and protects the tyre’s sidewall from damage.
Be Cautious of Flat-spotting
- Flat-spotting is when the spot in contact with the ground (the tyre’s footprint) flattens as it is pressed against the ground’s flat surface.
- When storing a vehicle for more than a few weeks, set the tyre pressure to OEM specification, drive the vehicle until it is thoroughly warmed up, and then immediately put it up on “blocks”, taking the load off the tyres completely.
- Not doing this on a vehicle that will be parked for a few months runs the risk of permanently flat spotting the tyres.
- For an easier alternative, move the vehicle backwards and forwards every few days to redistribute the weight on the tyres.
This quite simple bit of advice can save you money and time when the strict travel restrictions ease.
- Lift the wipers and place a ball of cloth underneath it so the blades are not touching the windshield.
- Heat can damage the wiper blades over time and reduce wiping reliability.
General Advice on Vehicle Safety in Lockdown
- Remember to check your license disc expiry date. Do not incur unnecessary expenses having to pay traffic fines!
- Where possible, take at least 10 minutes every week to start your vehicle but remember to open the garage door or move the car into an open space to prevent inhalation of carbon monoxide.
- Let the engine idle so the oil and other fluids can circulate through the engine. If you do not have a trickle charger for your battery, give the engine more time to charge the battery. This will keep the battery healthy and ensure an efficient start every time.
Be safe in all the ways that count. Keep your vehicle in tip-top safe shape; drive safely and continue to have your vehicle well maintained and roadworthy!
[A word of appreciation to MasterDrive, Ford and Willard Batteries for the assistance received]