Keeping yourself in good shape? But does your car need some maintenance?
Is your car maintenance getting neglected? Maybe your car is pining for its own workout session?
It’s easy to forget to look after your car during these strange times, especially when you’re not actually using it much. It can easily be a case of out of sight and out of mind. If you’re lucky enough to have a garage and you’ve parked it in there, it just might be that, but whether it’s on your drive, parked on the road or in your garage, you can’t just leave it and hope it will start again in a month or few weeks’ time, read on for essential car maintenance tips you should be carrying out during lockdown.
We took a call last week from a gentleman whose car had been serviced with us just the week before. The day after the service he had a warning light pop up on the dashboard. He is not using the car much at the moment whilst in lockdown, he lives locally and is only using it for short shopping trips every couple of weeks – does that sound like you too? He checked the warning light against his manual – it was the ‘stop/start’ function, or ‘eco-start’, that was not working. He carried on relatively unconcerned and drove it to his local shops, the warning light went off and everything was working as it should. However, being in lockdown, he didn’t need to use his car again until a week later. This time, when he started his car, the same warning light came on again, now he became concerned it was something more serious, so he called us as we’re his local garage. His initial thoughts were that it was linked to the service we had carried out just the week before and that we had done something wrong or caused an issue to arise, it wasn’t. Do you know what it was yet? Luckily we were able to advise him what he needed to do before any long-term issues were caused and it made us realise how many other people might be having this same problem but don’t recognise the symptoms, so we decided to share both the symptoms and solutions in our latest blog. We hope it will help you too.
With more modern cars when a battery starts to loose its charge, the car’s internal computer very cleverly knows which aspects of the vehicle are not essential and it will start to switch those functions off to save power. It’s main concern is to make sure your car starts each time but obviously it can’t do that forever and eventually your battery will die if it’s not looked after. By losing certain non-essential functions, such as ‘eco-start’ and popping warnings lights up on your dashboard, the manufacturers are hoping you will become aware that something needs to be done, before you find yourself stuck with a dead battery and a car that’s going nowhere, probably just when you need it!
In general, a car should be able to sit parked for around a month without the battery dying, unless of course it’s a higher-end car with lots of power-hungry gadgets in it. For example, with BMW’s and some Mercedes, it’s possible for a battery to die in just a couple of weeks. But predicting battery life is tough as it depends on so many things like it’s age, climate and how often you drive it, so it may just be better to be safe than sorry.
Below we’ve listed the key signs to help you recognise when your car battery needs charging as well as how to carry out a few simple actions that will help maintain the battery health and longevity.
Key signs your battery is low on charge:
- The eco-start or stop/start no longer works
- Difficulty starting the car – it takes longer to start than normal
- Loss of power to other electrical components
- Dashboard warning symbol
How to maintain the health and longevity of your car battery
The best thing to do to keep your battery charged is to drive it regularly, every three or four days should be fine. It does need to be driven, not idled, and it’s no good driving it for just 5 minutes to the local corner shop and back, that will actually drain the battery even more – short trips shorten the life of your battery. You therefore need to make it a reasonable journey, approx. 30 minutes will get a noticeable increase in charge back into the battery. It also makes sense not to carry out a journey when natural daylight is low, or in the evening, when you will need to put your lights on; or in the rain when you need to use your windscreen wipers; or if it’s really cold and you need the heater on in the car – they all draw a lot of power, which means less power will be available to recharge your battery. If you can, switch off as much as possible, including the radio, to give your battery the best chance at recharging in the shortest time. It is also worth noting that a regular spin will also help keep the brakes from sticking or rusting and tyres from spotting.
When your car is parked up in a safe place, consider whether you need the alarm set. Car alarms can also drain the battery, so assuming your car is otherwise secure, you could switch that off to help maximise battery life. Most cars have factory alarm settings with a transportation mode for taking them on flatbeds or ferries, so check your manual for how to engage it.
How old is your car battery?
We all know car batteries don’t last forever, on average car batteries are designed to last between 3 and 5 years. Do you know how old yours is? The older it is the more likely you are to start seeing the symptoms I’ve noted above, especially in these colder, winter months when the lower temperature and dampness (we’ve had plenty of rain recently) will both make a difference to its health.
Keeping your car in good shape during lockdown
Wherever your car is set to be standing, on the drive, road or in the garage for the next few weeks, then we recommend you follow these tips to help keep it in the best of shape:
- Top up with fuel if possible
A full tank doesn’t create as much condensation, which can cause issues if left to build up. It also means you’re ready to go if you do have to travel.
- Occasionally release your parking brake
Leaving your parking brake on for too long could cause your brakes to seize up, so we recommend you periodically release the brake and move your car a short distance (ideally while running the engine to charge the battery).
- Keep the battery charged
We’ve already taken you through how to maintain the health of your battery, but very simply, it’s worth keeping it topped up as much as possible by driving it at least every week for a duration of at least 30 minutes.
What to do if your car has already been stood for a while
You can perform a number of vehicle maintenance checks yourself to make sure everything is working properly. Spending five minutes carrying out these simple checks every few weeks and definitely before an MOT or long journey can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. You can also check the Highway Code for more advice.
If your car has already been stood for a while, it may actually be worth booking an interim or full service with a trusted local garage like Just Nice Clean Cars and get everything thoroughly checked, re-greased and topped up, to provide you with complete peace of mind when you can get back out on the road.
Vehicle maintenance checklist:
- Check your fuel level.
- Check your oil level – 1 in 3 vehicles we see are dangerously low.
- Check all rubber elements – tyres and wiper blades – tyres for pressure, uneven wear, bulges or splits and tread depth (minimum tread depth is 1.6mm); wiper blades for splits or cracks.
- Test lights, brakes, steering, seat belts, demisters, wipers, washers and the exhaust system before you set off.
- Check screen-wash level in the tank under the bonnet, screen wash is important year round.
- Clean lights, indicators, reflectors and number plates.
- Clear windscreens and windows of debris and collected dirt for an unobstructed view and check for cracks or chips.
- Ensure lights are properly adjusted to avoid dazzling other road users, you can do this in front of a solid wall or garage door.