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Looking after your car during lockdown

Lockdown is lockdown, right?

OK, you might need your car to go to the supermarket or local shops to purchase food and other essential items, but otherwise your car is not doing much. Apart from hanging around the kerbside or parked up on your drive.

So what should you be doing to keep your car in good condition, particularly a lease car, while you are not using it that much?

We’ve put together some checklists for you to use while we’re in lockdown - and while it might be tantalising to use those car keys for a drive, we know that’s not the right thing to do.

Keep it safe!

Just because you are snug in your house, your car may be a little more vulnerable outside.

So make sure you have your key fob protected. That’s because car thieves can use a relay- style electronic device outside your house that tricks your key fob into thinking it is near the car. This allows the thief to open your car door and start the ignition. Your car disappears yet your keys are still on the hall table. However, you can block the signal by keeping the key fob in a closed tin or faraday bag - and as far away as possible from your front door.

keeep it safe

Don’t damage that DPF

If you drive a modern diesel lease car it’s likely fitted with something called a DPF - that’s a diesel particulate filter. The DPF traps tiny sooty particles that are potentially harmful, before burning them off safely at high temperature. It ensures the diesel’s emissions are super clean.

It performs this function on longer car runs...and that’s something your diesel car probably isn’t doing right at this moment.

If you make repeated short journeys in a DPF fitted diesel car the filter cannot burn off its sooty particles and clogs up. The result? Limp home mode and an expensive DPF clean up or replacement. So what’s the answer?

If you need to go shopping, at least once a month go the long route to the supermarket - at least 45 minutes and preferably on faster A roads. Sounds a bit daft but it will protect your DPF during times when you are only using the car for short runs.

Check your tyres

Well, do you have much else to do?

Check for uneven tread wear as well as any cuts, bulges in the sidewall. In the tread surface, check for nails and screws embedded in the tyre and if there are stones lodged in the tread, carefully remove these too.

Also check if your tyres remain legal. It’s quite simple: use a 20p-piece. Insert the coin across the width of the tyre and around its circumference; if you can see the border to the 20p, your tyre is close to the legal limit and should be checked with an accurate gauge.

Next, pump it up. Tyre providers Falken suggest that you check your tyre pressures and increase them by around 15PSI over the standard recommended pressure while your car is laid up. This will prevent damage and potential flat spots from sitting in the same position continuously.

Of course, having done that, it’s probably a good idea to put a note inside the car to remind yourself to return the pressures to normal when you start using it again.

check your tyres 1 check your tyres legal tread depth

Have a dabble with your dipstick

You’ve probably neglected the bits under the bonnet that should be checked. So - deep breath - open the bonnet and check the dipstick for oil level. It needs to be between the minimum and maximum markers. Top up if necessary but don’t overfill. Of course, some cars come with the luxury of a digital readout - if that’s the case, still check.

Top up the windscreen washer bottle with screen wash if you can find some. Or water for the time being until you can get your hands on some more screen wash.

checking oil

What about the battery?

If you are not using the car, the electrics in the car still keep using up some of the battery’s power. Over time this will deplete it. So what you need is a trickle charger.

A trickle charger keeps the battery topped up nicely with a very slow charge and maintains the battery in good condition. We suggest you keep the battery in the car because modern cars have all sorts of trickery that once you’ve deprived them of power will take forever looking up codes and so on when you reintroduce power. So keep it trickle charged in the car - but check instructions on how to do it before you go ahead.

What about an electric car?

Have you decided to take the plunge and go electric? If so, how do you keep your electric car’s battery in good condition so it doesn’t degrade (lose range)?

The first thing is not to leave your car on charge all the time during a prolonged period of non use, because that’s the fastest way to degrade battery performance.

According to Dr Euan McTurk, an electrochemist, the best way is to keep the battery topped up between 50%-80% full. He has an excellent but short video on YouTube called Keeping your EV healthy during the coronavirus lockdown. It’s on Plug Life television and you want Episode 15 where he explains how and why you should do this to keep your car’s battery in fine fettle.

keep it charged

Keep it clean

Finally keep it clean. You might not be using your car much, but don’t forget to give it a wash now and then to keep the dust from ruining the lustre of your car’s paintwork.

In particular ensure you attend to bird lime immediately as this is highly corrosive to the paintwork and can damage the car’s high gloss appearance if left unattended.

Of course you should keep the interior areas that you touch exceptionally clean with a disinfectant to prevent spread of COVID-19 from your hands if you have been out shopping.

Above all, though, don’t neglect your car. You’ll need it again when restrictions are lifted.

keeping it clean

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7th of April 2020

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