10 tips to keep your vehicle from going to seed while locked down

31 March 2020 - 14:21 By Motoring Reporter and AASA
Protect your car from dirt and industrial fallout by keeping it covered with a weather-proof cover.
Protect your car from dirt and industrial fallout by keeping it covered with a weather-proof cover.
Image: Pongsak Polbubpha /123rf

During the three week Covid-19 lockdown it is critical that motorists – and motorcyclists – ensure their vehicles are not forgotten while standing idle.

The Automobile Association (AA) said: “Any vehicle that is left unused for a period of time may develop issues that require intervention to get running normally again. The hassle of wanting to start a vehicle when the battery is drained, or driving on uneven wheels, may be alleviated with proper home care for the next few weeks.” 

The AA advised vehicle owners to do the following if their vehicles are going to be unused for weeks:

1: Keep it covered up

If possible, park the vehicle indoors, under a roof, or use a car cover. Doing this will ensure it stays cleaner (and safer). Do not use a car cover if you are parking the vehicle in a garage.

When storing a vehicle for long periods of time it's best to either disconnect the battery or connect it to a trickle charger.
When storing a vehicle for long periods of time it's best to either disconnect the battery or connect it to a trickle charger.
Image: Koonsiri Boonnak / 123rf

2: Watch the battery

While it may be better to remove the entire battery, disconnecting the negative terminal will also suffice. Be careful when doing this and ensure you are wearing protective eye-wear and gloves, and that you have the right tools for the job.

Always disconnect the negative terminal first, then the positive terminal. Never touch the terminals together. Rubbing petroleum jelly on the terminals after they have been removed will prevent rust from setting in.

Treat your car to a comprehensive wash and wax before storing it. This will help keep its paintwork in optimal condition.
Treat your car to a comprehensive wash and wax before storing it. This will help keep its paintwork in optimal condition.
Image: welcomia / 123rf

3: Clean before you store

Dirt on the vehicle may cause permanent damage if left untreated, especially over the course of a few weeks. This is the ideal time to properly clean your vehicle inside and outside before storage. Use approved cleaning agents on all interior and exterior surfaces. Don’t wash your vehicle in direct sunlight, and dry it thoroughly before storage.

4: Cover intakes and outlets

If possible cover the air intakes with a cloth, and stuff a rag in the exhaust outlet. This will prevent insects and small rodents from getting in there (remember to remove these before you start the vehicle after storage. Leave a note on the steering wheel to remind you.

Windscreen wipers are essential for safe motoring. Preserve them during storage by placing plastic wrap between the blades and the windscreen.
Windscreen wipers are essential for safe motoring. Preserve them during storage by placing plastic wrap between the blades and the windscreen.
Image: Konstantin Malkov / 123rf

5: Don't forget the windscreen wipers

Wiper blades are an essential safety feature on vehicles. To prevent the rubber of the blades sticking to the windshield, place plastic wrap under the blades first. Do the same for back wipers.

6: Double check your insurance and warranty

If you have insurance or aftermarket insurance products for your vehicle, do not cancel these for the period of the lockdown. Not only will this impact on any no-claims rewards, you may be flouting the terms of your lease or purchase agreements if you cancel now.

Another consideration is that you may have to use the vehicle in an emergency situation. If you cancel your insurance now, you will not be covered if something were to happen,  even on a “short” outing.

“The current lockdown period is scheduled to end on April 16. If you are planning to use your vehicle on ]April 17, it is best to check everything is in working order as early as April 13. Doing this will enable you to detect any problems with enough time to get the AA out for a battery check, or possibly even a battery swap,” said the association.

However, if the lockdown period is extended – as has happened in other countries – further steps may be necessary to protect your vehicle.

“The tips above should suffice for a short storage period. However, if you are going to be storing your vehicle for longer, additional steps may be needed,” warned the AA.

These additional measures include:

Fill your fuel tank when storing your vehicle to help prevent moisture from accumulating inside it.
Fill your fuel tank when storing your vehicle to help prevent moisture from accumulating inside it.
Image: Lori Lovelady / 123rf

7: Fill up your fuel tank

It may seem counter-intuitive to have a tank full of fuel in a vehicle which is sitting idle but the science behind this tip is sound. A full fuel tank will prevent rust forming on the inside by keeping moisture from entering the tank. Ensure the tank is properly sealed.

8: Beware of flat spots

This is really for long-term storage. If the vehicle is standing idle for a long period, flat spots may occur on the wheels. To prevent this, jack all the tyres off the ground or position the vehicle on blocks of wood all round. The idea is to keep all the tyres off the ground. Check tyre pressure is normal after storage and adjust to manufacturer levels as soon as possible after storage.

Treat your vehicle to an oil change after a long period of storage or inactivity.
Treat your vehicle to an oil change after a long period of storage or inactivity.
Image: belchonock / 123rf

9: Refresh your oil

Drain the oil from the vehicle before long-term storage. After storage put in fresh oil, and change oil and air filters as soon as possible.

10: Spark plugs need love

Removing spark plugs may also prevent rust forming. However, if you are unsure how to do this, leave them in and get an expert to check them as soon as possible after resuming normal use.

“Having a reliable vehicle is essential and should not be taken for granted. If you are leaving your vehicle unused for a long period, it will still require maintenance. Do not assume that an unused vehicle is going to start first time weeks after it was last used if it is not properly cared for during the lockdown,


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