With a third of the workforce preparing to head back to work under alert lockdown level four, many vehicle engines are due to be brought back to life in the coming days and weeks. But getting behind the wheel, of a vehicle that’s been parked for a long period is not always as simple as turning the key and driving off. Vehicle engines are made to run, and when a vehicle is stationary for long periods, this can cause harm to your vehicle.
In preparation for your next drive, start your vehicle ahead of the time to ensure it starts quickly and runs as it should. “If your vehicle does not start immediately after being dormant for most of the lockdown period, don’t panic. Breath, take a step back, and carry out a few checks before starting your car. Here are six checks and steps to take before starting your car for the first time after weeks of non-use during the hard lockdown:
Make sure your car is free of debris, rubbish, and uninvited ‘visitors’
Your car may have become an inviting and warm shelter for insects and other pests while it was safely parked in your garage during the lockdown. Make sure to check the undercarriage, wheels and under the bonnet for any small animals before heading off. Take a deep breath and remove any nests, webs, or other debris. With no air having circulated through your vehicle for some time, your car may also have developed an unpleasant smell. Remove old sweet wrappers, fast-food packaging, or an old packet of crisps, then use a vehicle air freshener to give your vehicle a fresh and welcoming smell.
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Keep your car ‘breathing’ well
Just like you need clean air to breathe, so does your car, and a vehicle’s air filters make that possible. Make sure you have the engine and cabin filters inspected and changed regularly to keep your car running smoothly. When you replace your cabin filter you will immediately notice a difference in your driving efficiency of your defrosting, heating and cooling system. A new cabin filter will also keep the interior air clean and remove any odour from your vehicle.
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Spot the signs of a flat or failing battery
The last thing you need is to try to start your vehicle and it won’t budge because of a dead battery. It is always handy to have jumper cable on hand just in case. There are some tell-tale signs that a battery is running flat or failing so check these before heading out in a rush. Dim headlights: Are the headlights dim at idle, but then brighten when you rev the engine? Struggling starter motor: Does the engine struggle to start when you switch on the engine? Change in sound at idle: When you first turn the ignition and switch on an electrical component, does the cars idling sound change?
If you suspect a more serious problem with your battery, don’t try to open it, revive it or fill it, rather wait contact a battery centre or qualified mechanic for assistance.
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Check your oil level
The fluids in your car are essential for the running of your engine. One of the most important types of fluid to monitor is your oil level. Checking your oil level after your car has been stationary for a while is something we should all do to make sure it’s safe to drive, prevent unexpected breakdowns as well as to improve your car’s performance. If your oil level is either too high or too low, this can spell trouble.
To check your oil levels, park your car on a level surface and wait for the engine to cool down. Locate your dipstick (usually found on top of your oil tank. It is typically indicated with a bright yellow ring) and pull it out all the way out before wiping it off with a rag or cloth. Insert the dipstick all the way in and pull it out. Wiping the dipstick is important because while the car is in use, oil can splash onto the car, making your reading inaccurate. Your dipstick reading should range from L to F. L being low, and F being full. It’s best to fill your engine close to or to the F mark, but be careful not to overfill it.
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Check your other fluids
Before setting off, make sure you also check your vehicle’s engine coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. Make sure these fluids are filled to the minimum level so it is safe to travel and then top them up at a later stage. Due to moisture, these fluid levels tend to reduce even while your car hasn’t been used. Fluid levels can also decrease due to leaks and they expire so it is important to make sure to replace all fluids or top them up to ensure your vehicles optimum performance.
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Tyre pressure and maintenance
Lastly, don’t forget to check your tyres before driving. Don’t be surprised if one, or all your tyres have lost tyre pressure while your car has been standing still. Even while parked in a garage, the heavyweight of the vehicle and the cold floor on which the vehicle is parked tends to reduce tyre pressure. Check for minor cracks in the tyres.
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Now that you’re ready to go, ensure you keep your car’s interior clean and sanitised at all times. When arriving home from work or the shops, make sure you wipe down everything you touch, including your steering wheel and other buttons and handles before getting out of the car. Be careful of using alcohol sanitisers on your vehicle’s interior as these may damage some vehicle interiors. Instead, use disinfectant wipes to clean your interior. Remember to keep wipes, hand sanitiser, an extra face mask, and gloves handy for your trip.