Car care during lockdown: how to keep your unused car in good condition during the latest lockdown

By Matt Allan
Friday, 8th January 2021, 8:55 am
Updated Friday, 8th January 2021, 9:00 am

With every part of the UK now under strict lockdown rules again most of us will be driving far less than usual, leaving our cars lying idle, potentially for weeks.

Government data showed traffic levels fell by as much as 80 per cent during the first nationwide lockdown as people undertook only essential journeys. It’s only sensible that we shouldn’t be heading out unnecessarily but leaving a car unused for a long time can have a negative effect.

To protect a car that might be used little or not at all for the coming weeks there are certain steps you can take in advance to protect it, especially as the weather worsens.

Park it indoors or under cover

Especially during the winter months, it’s a good idea to store your car under shelter wherever possible. Ideally, you should park your car in a garage where it will be protected from the elements and thieves. Make sure the garage is free from humidity and damp, as this can accelerate corrosion. A car port will provide some shelter from wind, rain and debris but if neither of these is an option, invest in a model-specific car cover to protect it.

If you can't keep your car in a garage a purpose-made cover can protect it from the elements (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Keep it clean

If you’re not going to be using your car for a while it’s still a good idea to clean it. Leaving road grime on it for long periods will just make it harder to remove later and could actually damage your paint. Give it a good clean with proper car shampoo then dry and wax it. Pay attention to the tyres too, which can hold grease and brake residue which can cause damage if ignored.

Tidy the interior

If you’re leaving your car unused for any extended period make sure the interior is free from rubbish. Any organic debris such as food can rot down over time. At the least this will leave a nasty smell and mess to clean up but it can damage upholstery and carpets and even attract vermin that will cause even more damage. Get rid of any rubbish before parking your car up and give everything a good clean. Wipe down hard surfaces with a cloth and surface cleaner and give the upholstery a once-over with a hoover and damp cloth then dry any leftover moisture.

Inflate your tyres

Leaving a car unused for long periods with underinflated tyres can cause permanent damage to the rubber, causing flat spots or cracks that could cause a dangerous failure when you hit the road again. Refer to your owner’s manual and inflate the tyres to the correct pressure before parking it up.

Don’t use the handbrake

If you can, avoid leaving the handbrake on for prolonged periods. Left for too long, it can cause the brakes to bind on. This will make it hard to move the car and can cause damage to the brake components. Instead, use a set of chocks behind the wheels to stop the car moving.

It's a good idea to check you tyre pressures before and after your car is laid up for a prolonged period (Photo: Shutterstock)

Top up fluids

Even if it’s not going anywhere, it’s a good idea to top up oil, coolant and other key fluids such as brake and steering fluid. This can help protect the car’s components and means it will be ready to go when you come to use it again.

Keep it fuelled

Keeping your fuel tank as full as possible. This will stop condensation forming in the tank, which can lead to rusting.

Turn it over

Leaving your car for long periods of time without driving it can cause the battery to run flat and damage the internal mechanics. If the situation permits, a good way to avoid this is by starting your car and driving for about 15 minutes every two weeks or so. This will prevent the battery from going flat and will help to lubricate the engine. If it’s not possible to drive, then simply starting the engine and letting it run for 15 minutes will help to ensure the battery maintains its charge.