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Keeping your car safe during lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have changed the way you use your car. Here’s how to keep it well maintained and safe while stay-at-home measures are in force. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have changed the way you use your car. Here’s how to keep it well maintained and safe while stay-at-home measures are in force. 

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 16 JULY 2020

Please note: The information in this article was correct at the time of publication on 16 July 2020, but, because of the impact of COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. We aim to keep this page updated, but please check with your insurance provider or potential provider directly to confirm any details.

Driving and COVID-19

Stay-at-home measures mean many of us are using our cars a lot less. So how can you make sure your car is safe and in good condition for when you can start driving it regularly again? We take a look at some of the key maintenance issues.

Am I allowed to use my car during lockdown?

Yes, you can. On 13 May the Government announced a slight relaxation of the lockdown rules in England. Scotland lifted its 5-mile travel limit for leisure purposes with effect from 3 July, but some parts of the country are still facing restrictions because of coronavirus clusters. Wales scrapped its stay local rules on 6 July.

Because the coronavirus rules vary between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, you must make sure you understand the rules if you’re intending to travel between areas.

All three governments are continuing to urge people to work from home as much as possible, stay local and to think about how and when you travel.

Government advice says: “It is not possible to social distance during car journeys and transmission of coronavirus can definitely occur in this context. So avoid travelling with someone from outside your household or your support bubble unless you can practise social distancing.”

If you’re sharing a car with other people to help reduce the risk of transmission you should:

  • Make sure there’s good ventilation by keeping the car windows open
  • Be aware of the surfaces you or others touch. Keep areas such as the steering wheel and door handles clean.
  • Avoid physical contact, try to face away from other and keep the time you spend within 2 metres of others as short as possible.

See GOV.UK for more details.

Should I keep my car on the road?

One thing to consider is whether you’ll need to use your car at all during the lockdown period. If the answer is no, then you could save on road tax and insurance by making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). Remember that if you do this, you can’t drive or even park your car on a public road.

Will my car’s battery deteriorate if I don’t use my car?

Immobilisers and in-car computer systems can drain your battery, so you might find it goes flat if you don’t use it for a few weeks. If you’re not making essential journeys in your car, you can try using a battery conditioner or trickle charger to keep it topped up. Or, if you keep your car in a garage, you could use a smart charger.   

What about electric or hybrid car batteries?

Ideally, these should be kept charged to a certain percentage so as not to affect the performance of the car. Consult your owner’s manual for specific details.  

Should I start my car occasionally if I’m not using it?

It might help to prevent your battery going flat if you start your engine and run it for 15 minutes, or so, once a week. But remember to stay in the car when you’re doing this.

How do I keep my car secure during lockdown?

If you don’t have a garage, park your car as close to your home as possible and take all your valuables out of it so that it’s not a target for thieves. You might want to add some extra security equipment, like a steering wheel or handbrake lock. 

What if my car needs an MOT during lockdown?

MOT expiry dates between 30 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 have been extended by six months. To make sure your MOT has been extended, check on the GOV.UK website three days before it’s due to expire.

The MOT extension doesn’t mean you can drive a car that isn’t roadworthy. If you need to go on an essential journey by car, do the basic checks before setting off – including oil, water, brake fluid and tyre pressure – to make sure your car is safe. Also check your lights and brakes are working properly.

If your MOT expires after 1 August, you must book an MOT as usual. MOT centres are now open.

What happens if I break down while driving?

The AA and the RAC have said their patrols are still going out to breakdowns. Both are also offering free services to NHS workers. Find out more about breakdown cover.

For more on driving during COVID-19, see our coronavirus and motoring FAQs.

For more on driving during COVID-19, see our coronavirus and motoring FAQs

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