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Coronavirus: How to maintain your car during the lockdown

Dan Powell

Written by

Dan Powell

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  • We explain how to keep your car maintained during lockdown
  • Your most common questions answered
  • Find out how to avoid tyre flat spotting

We’ve spoken to our experts and answered the most common questions about keeping your car in good shape while you’re not using it in lockdown. Follow these essential tips to keep your car maintained and ready to hit the road again when the government confirms that it’s safe and legal to do so.

“Does petrol have a use-by date?”

This isn’t something most car owners really need to worry about. Petrol can generally be stored in a sealed fuel tank for up to six months before its chemicals begin to degrade and become potentially harmful to the car.

If you are worried, you can prevent this by adding a fuel stabiliser to the fuel tank when the car is in storage. Or, once it’s safe to do so, you could visit your local petrol station and add a few litres of premium fuel before taking the car on a long run. Premium fuel contains stabilisers and detergents designed to cope with this sort of issue.

“Will the battery go flat if my car is sat idle for a few weeks?”

The short answer: it’s unlikely. A car battery that is less than four years old should not flat if left idle for a few weeks. But, as with many things in life, it’s always wise to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. One of the most common causes of flat car batteries in the UK is parasitic battery drain, which happens when a faulty switch or circuit keeps drawing power when the car is switched off, for example by a light or switch that’s left on by mistake.

Before you turn off the ignition, check that all of the lights and the radio are switched off. Be sure to check the lights in the boot and glovebox, too. You can do this by using a smartphone and setting it to the video record setting before shutting it in the boot or the glovebox. If the lights don’t go out you may need to remove the bulb or switch it off - the car’s owner’s manual will show you how to do this should you need any help.

“How do I avoid tyre flat-spotting?”

Flat-spotting happens when the weight of the car presses down on the tyre for a long period of time and causes a flat-spot on the surface of the tyre. A minor flat-spot will often correct itself when you drive the car. Over-pressurising the tyres to 40 PSI will prevent most cases flat-spotting, but you should make sure the tyres are correctly inflated before you use the car again. The correct PSI pressures for your tyres can be found in your car’s manual, or on a plate or sticker inside the frame of the driver’s door.

“Will the bodywork rust if my car is left outside?”

It’s very unlikely. Body corrosion is thankfully nowhere near as serious as it once was.. Advances in metal production and paintwork protection mean surface rust should be kept at bay for many years, but (again) it’s always wise to take some basic steps to protect your pride and joy. If you can safely do so, wash the car and dry it thoroughly with a cloth before parking it in a garage. Leave one window open slightly to keep the interior ventilated. A gap that is half the thickness of your thumb will keep the car ventilated and prevent mice from being able to get in.

If you’re storing your car outside, you could consider using a car cover. Most will allow some breathing, but condensation could occur under them. You should make sure it’s tied down with a washing line wrapped under the car so it doesn’t fly away if there are strong winds! If your car’s an Automatic, make sure you can get access to the battery, just in case it’s flat when you return.


See also: 

Best cars for reliability

Most practical cars

Best cars for low mileage drivers