How to look after your car when not driving it regularly

As we prepared to take on another lockdown period in England, many of us will be driving far less frequently over the next few weeks. Perhaps stopping completely if our vehicle isn’t required for food and medicine supplies or for work within a key industry.

If you do still need to drive throughout this period, follow these steps to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus when using your vehicle.

What to do to protect your vehicle will depend on how long you’re leaving your car idle. Knowing that COVID-19 isolation measures will be in place for the next few weeks at least, here are our tips for leaving your car parked up for up to 4 weeks.

Top up with fuel

Filling your car with fuel before leaving it stationary for extended periods will prevent condensation that can gather in any empty space within the tank. Having sufficient fuel levels will also help with some of the following areas of best practice.

Battery maintenance

Car batteries require regular use in order to maintain their charge and start without fault.

If you are not intending to use your car for a few weeks you can connect your car battery to a mains-powered charger to top it up and prevent loss of power. If this isn’t possible you should start the car regularly, allowing it to run for about 15 minutes each time. This will re-charge the battery and will help keep the engine in good condition. It is important to honour the 15 minute time recommendation for charging effectiveness, but particularly with petrol engines as these are at risk of flooding without significant running time. Never leave your car unattended with the engine running.

How long you can leave your car without starting it will depend on the condition of its 12-volt battery. Generally speaking, most modern cars with a healthy battery can be left for at least 2 weeks without needing a bit of help recharging. We recommend taking these steps once a week if you are in any doubt about the health of your battery.

Electric vehicles

Although EVs and hybrid vehicles have 12-volt batteries like conventional cars, they are charged differently: simply starting the car will operate the charging system in an electric-powered car. Running the car for ten minutes once a week should therefore keep the 12-volt battery topped up.

Some electric and hybrid vehicles can maintain their batteries by just being plugged into a mains charger – please check your vehicle handbook to make sure.


Brake maintenance

It is possible that your vehicle brakes could seize if they are left dormant for extended periods. To prevent this, regularly move your car back and forth over short distances (if and when it is safe to do so) while running the engine. Also ensure you use both the handbrake and foot brake.

Leaving your car stationary for longer periods

If you are leaving your car for more than a month there are extra things to consider. As well as the points above these include:

  • Thoroughly clean and polish the car
  • Make sure the car is dry and well ventilated if you are keeping it in a garage
  • Consider declaring your vehicle as Statutory Off the Road Notification (SORN) to receive a refund on your car tax (please note, this is not applicable for leases vehicles)
  • Consider reducing your insurance to fire and theft only

Before using your vehicle after any extended period of time stationary:

Returning to your vehicle after it has been stationary also comes with a number of precautions:

  • Ensure that the vehicle’s MOT and car tax are still valid
  • Check fluid levels before starting your engine
  • Check your tyre pressures and the general condition of the vehicle
  • Check nothing is nesting under the bonnet or that any components have been chewed
  • Check your brakes by putting the vehicle into gear and driving carefully, checking the handbrake too.