How to look after your car during lockdown and the checks needed before you drive for the first time

With the country slowly returning to 'normal' life after the COVID-19 lockdown, you may be wondering what to do with your vehicle if you're not driving it as much and what checks will be needed before you do hit the road to ensure your vehicle is in a roadworthy condition.

Remember: even if you're not using it, your car or van must remain insured unless you make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) but you can only do this if the car is kept off the road.

Browse our FAQs below or contact us if you have a concern that hasn't been mentioned.

Is it bad to leave a vehicle unused?


Although cars are made to be driven, with good maintenance you should be okay. If your car or van is being left unused bear in mind the following:

Fuel. Top up with fuel before leaving your car parked up for a long period of time.
Tyres. Check all tyre pressures and inflate if necessary before driving your car.
Batteries. Connect your car's battery to a mains-powered battery maintainer, if you can. If this isn't feasible, start the engine once a week and allow to run for 15 minutes.
Electric vehicles. Turn on your car for 10 minutes at least once a week to keep the 12-volt battery topped-up. Check your vehicle handbook for alternative options.

How long can you leave a car without starting it?


This depends on the condition of your car's battery. Most modern cars should last two weeks without needing to be turned on to recharge it. If you're in doubt of the condition, there is no harm in starting it once a week.

What happens if you don't drive a car for a long period of time?


As long as your vehicle has been regularly started, the battery should work. The brakes may have some corrosion on them, especially if the car was wet when parked up. When driving for the first time make sure to test the brakes frequently to clean them.

How long can a car sit before the battery dies?


There are many factors that can affect this e.g. age of battery, condition of the vehicle and temperature. As long as you follow our previously stated battery maintenance advice, you shouldn't experience any issues.

How can I best care for my hybrid battery?


To prevent excessive auxiliary battery drainage, charge the battery at least once every two weeks by turning on the hybrid system for 20 minutes with all non-essential electrical accessories (such as air conditioning and audio equipment) turned off.

Click here to view Toyota's hybrid care blog

What if my MOT expired during lockdown?


The government has recently announced a six-month MOT extension. If your MOT due date expires on or after 30th March 2020 it will automatically be extended by six months. Click here to read our Coronavirus FAQs.

How should I prepare my car for storage?


We recommend you follow these points:

Clean and polish your vehicle
Make sure it is completely dry if you plan to store it in a garage
Consider a refund on your car tax by making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN)
Look into reducing your insurance cover to 'Fire and Theft' only, if you would prefer
Ensure there is adequate ventilation if storing in a garage
Check your oil level and change if needed
Arrange for an Oil and Filter Service
Sufficiently lubricate the locks

What should I check before driving for the first time?


There are several vital checks that you should carry out if your vehicle has been sat stationary for a long period of time. These are:

Tyres. Check your tyre pressure monitoring system or hold a pressure gauge against the tyre valve to determine whether they have deflated over time. If they have, you will need to top them up using your own air compressor, or one found at petrol stations. Your car or van's recommended pressure can be found in the vehicle handbook or likely on the body, either inside the driver's door or on the fuel cap. If you stopped checking the tyre tread throughout lockdown, we recommend you check again before hitting the road, and continue doing this on a monthly basis otherwise you could be handed a £2,500 fine and three penalty points for each tyre that doesn't meet the legal limit.

Oil. Although most modern cars display an oil warning light if the oil level is low, it is still best practice to check manually. To do this, pop the bonnet and identify the dipstick (which is usually yellow). Remove it and wipe the stick clean with a tissue or piece of kitchen towel before re-insert the dipstick for a few seconds. Wait a few seconds and then remove it to see the oil level. If the indicator is close to the minimum mark then it is advised that you replenish it using the recommended oil for your car or van (this will be specified in the manual).

Lights. Even in the lighter summer months, it's crucial to ensure all your exterior lights are in full working order. If you don't, you risk being fined or receiving penalty points on your licence. To do this without assistance from another person, simply start the ignition and ensure the handbrake is on before walking around the car to check. If your car or van is parked against a wall or window, you can easily check the brake lights on your own by looking out for the glare –​ providing it's dark outside.

If you're not confident carrying these checks out yourself, please feel free to contact your nearest Snows dealership as we would be happy to carry out a vehicle health check – complete with video commentary of the inspection carried out.

What can I do if the battery's flat?


If your car or van won't start as a result of a flat battery you have a couple of options depending on how soon you require use of the vehicle.

1. You could try to re-charge the battery using a charger that plugs into a mains socket. These are available at all reputable retailers e.g. Halfords.

2. Jump-starting the vehicle is an option if there is another car with a charged battery nearby. This video explains how to do it safely. Once the car has successfully been jump-started, be sure to give it a good run about for a minimum of half an hour to give the battery a chance to re-charge.

3. Consider replacing the battery. This may be an option for older vehicles, especially since a discharge drastically reduces the battery life. Please speak with your preferred Snows workshop about replacement batteries and payment options as we currently run an interest-free spread-the-cost programme.

Things to look out for when driving.


Before hitting the road, it's a good idea to turn on the ignition and let the engine run for a while, especially if you haven't started it for a while. This just helps ensure that the oil has had a chance to lubricate the necessary moving parts and prevent premature wear and tear.

Your car or van shouldn't feel any different when you drive it than before. It's worth noting that the brakes may be noisy at first but this is to be expected as the disks rust easily when not in use, as mentioned earlier. Apply them gently every now and then to remove any build-up, ensuring it's safe to do so.

Be sure to arrange a full service once your vehicle is up and running again to prevent any damage.

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Page last updated: August 2020