28 January 2021

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Lockdown plus winter weather can play havoc with your vehicles. Follow our tips to ensure cars and vans are ready to go when they are back on the road.

Run your vehicle regularly

During lockdown, you might do a few short trips but rarely go far, and that means your car or van has very little chance to reach operating temperature and to replenish the battery. Constantly running cold on short trips can do damage to the engine and also mean systems such as particulate filters can’t work properly, which can lead to issues.

So if you are only doing short or infrequent trips, let the vehicle run for five to 15 minutes until it is fully warmed up when you do use it [1], despite the fact that modern vehicles can be run as soon as they start up and generally will warm up quicker when being driven, and local authorities can issue fines for idling under the The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002 [2].

But this legislation is intended to stop unnecessary idling and warming up your vehicle to ensure it is working correctly and is safe to use after sitting for a long time during lockdown should be fine. Not only will this be good for the engine, but it will also allow the cabin to dry out and to get rid of any moisture that has gathered which could fog up windows.

Just remember: for security and to ensure your insurance is not invalidated, always stay in the vehicle when it is warming up.

Give it a roll

Even if you can’t go very far, at least roll your parked vehicle a few metres regularly so that it is not sitting on the same patch of tyre for weeks on end. Cold, frozen tyres left for long periods of time can become misshapen or damaged [3].

Also, while on the move - and only do this when it’s safe to do so and no other vehicles are around - lightly pump the brakes to remove water and rust, and to check they are working properly. If the vehicle has been sitting for a while, the brakes may be very noisy the first few times as rust and residue are cleared.

Check under the bonnet

It’s not a regular practice for most people, who rarely open the bonnet for anything other than to top up the washer fluid, but if your vehicle has been sitting for a time during the winter, open the bonnet and have a look around.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re looking at, because you’re really just checking that in particular animals – especially rodents – haven’t sneaked in looking for food or winter shelter and chewed through cables, or the cold hasn’t split pipes.

Keep it topped up

In cold weather it’s not a good idea to run vehicles with less than half a tank of fuel in them. Water vapour which collects near the bottom of the tank can be inadvertently drawn into the fuel line; this can later freeze and stop your car from starting.

Keeping your fuel tank above the halfway mark can prevent this process from taking place, as condensation won’t have the chance to collect on the tank walls even when temperatures drop below freezing.

Also, keep a check on the level of other fluids (not least in case there’s an issue with the aforementioned rodents, or frozen pipes cracking and leaking). Oil will sit low down in the engine and be very cold after a prolonged stop, so check levels before you start and take time to warm the engine. And of course, ensure you have washer fluid that contains anti-freeze, and that the reservoir is full, so you can clear the windscreen quickly.

Clean it up

Keep your vehicle clean, even if it seems a slightly pointless activity when the roads are covered in mud and water, or you are not going anywhere. In this case, prevention is better than cure: it will stop the accumulation of dirt and salt especially, which could speed up the deterioration of parts and joints, in particular on the underside of your vehicle.

Ensure that the numberplates and lights are clean (and check they work before you go anywhere), and keep an eye on the state of windscreen wiper blades. Sitting in snow and frost for weeks on end could make them harden or split, and it’s better to find out you need to replace them before it’s too late.

And finally, get help if you need to

As a fleet manager, the above checks should be carried out either by company operatives or the individuals driving the vehicles. Although they may sound obvious, they are the type of maintenance which is often overlooked or delayed and the consequences of doing that in colder weather can be simply disastrous.

If you find that any maintenance or repair is required during these checks, then don’t forget that Allstar ServicePoint is available to help.

Garages are allowed to continue working during national lockdowns, but you may find that your usual garage isn’t available when you require it. With Allstar ServicePoint, you will benefit from pre-negotiated rates at thousands of franchised and independent garages across the UK, including tyre and glass specialists.

Our team will be happy to help you identify an appropriate available garage to meet your maintenance requirements.

ServicePoint also provides the convenience and control of one secure online portal for vehicle maintenance booking, approval and invoicing.

Find out more or request a callback here.

Sources:

[1] https://www.theaa.com/driving-advice/laying-up#guidelines

[2] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/1808/made?view=plain

[3] https://www.continental-tyres.co.uk/car/all-about-tyres/tyre-damages/flat-spotting

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