mechanic refilling engine oil

Follow these steps for a healthier car.  

This week HM government extended the deadline on vehicle MOTs due after 30th March by six months. This is  in order to minimise all but essential trips from home while self-isolation rules are in place around the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This measure also allows garages to work with skeleton staff, protecting their workforce from catching or spreading the virus, while ensuring that security, emergency and delivery vehicles, as well as key workers reliant on their cars to get to work, are kept mobile.

There are a number of steps we can take to maintain the health of our vehicles and keep them running for longer. These are even more prevalent now to reduce unnecessary strain on the garages who must now focus on keeping our key workforce moving.

Here are 6 steps to keeping your vehicle running better, for longer:

1) Drive smoothly

Driving smoothly means maintaining a reasonable and steady speed without harsh acceleration or braking. While it is recognised that driving smoothly is not always realistic, being conscious to do so as much as possible will contribute to better overall vehicle health.

Not only is this manner of driving more sympathetic to our engines, therefore reducing wear and tear, it will also vastly improve our miles per gallon. Ignoring this advice is particularly detrimental as our engines warm up at the beginning of each journey, increasing the potential damage done as our vehicles adjust.

2) Keep your car clean

A clean car isn’t only about pride of ownership; a deep, regular clean will not only improve your enjoyment of the car but it can significantly improve its lifespan, too.

Grit, mud, leaves and deposits like bird droppings can affect the working mechanisms of the vehicle, and can also accelerate wear and corrosion. This is the case for both inside and outside of the car.

Maintaining a regular cleaning regime becomes particularly important in winter due to the use of salt and grit on our roads and in autumn when the quantity of natural debris on our roads increases. 

Read our advice on keeping your car clean during the coronavirus outbreak.


3) Check tyre pressure and fuel levels

We should check the condition of our tyres regularly, weekly if possible: ensuring tyre pressure is correct, that tread is legal and ensuring there are no bulges, gauges or deep scrapes. Besides putting you and your passengers at risk and increasing the likelihood of an extensive repair bill, underinflated or damaged tyres will cost you more in fuel.

Remember: tyre pressure levels may be different for the front and rear sets of tyres on your vehicle. The correct levels will be documented in your vehicle handbook or displayed on the inside of your door.

It is recommended that you check wiper fluid weekly with engine oil and coolant levels fortnightly. If you find these require attention and you don’t already have what you need, you should be able to find them at your nearest petrol station or via many online retailers.

4) Remove all unnecessary weight

Not only is carrying excess weight a way to unnecessarily increase your fuel bill, it will also put extra strain on your car. The more weight you carry, the faster wear and tear items like tyres, brakes and suspension bushes will deplete. 

Therefore, it is important to remove all unnecessary items from your car. Start with roof or rear racks, then look at door pockets, your glove box and under seats. Then take a look around your boot and empty it of any unessential items.

5) Use your air conditioning

We all know the phrase ‘Use it or lose it’. And this is a phrase applicable to our vehicle's air conditioning systems.

It is natural for air-con systems to leak refrigerant gas over time but this is exacerbated when they aren’t used regularly. It may save on fuel, but not using your air-con could lead to a re-gassing bill instead!


6) If relevant, abide by manufacturer service and maintenance schedules

Depending on the age of your vehicle, you may need to consider scheduled maintenance. Maintaining your car in line with the manufacturer's recommended servicing and maintenance schedules is imperative to prolonging the health of your vehicle.

Not only are service and MOTs vital for the health and safety (not to mention legality) of your vehicle, they also help put unnecessary depreciation at bay. Skipping a service is therefore subject to financial fines on lease cars and many alternatively financed vehicles. Recommended servicing intervals do differ, but are generally required after 12 months or 12,000 miles (whichever comes soonest). MOTs are required annually on all cars over three years old.

Garages are being advised to stay open throughout the coronavirus outbreak to facilitate essential maintenance and repairs, although many will be working with reduced staff. HM government have provided a 6 month extension for drivers needing an MOT during the coronavirus outbreak to reduce the strain on garages. However, the advice for those needing a service is less definitive. 

Firstly, it is up to the driver to check if your vehicle requires a service during this time as many manufacturers are extending the 'grace period' that protects vehicles after the due date of their service. This grace period will be specific to your car so refer to the manufacturer's website or contact your nearest dealership.

If having your service is absolutely unavoidable, we recommend booking with plenty of notice on the understanding that garages will have reduced resources. Check their safety protocols before you head out for your appointment to ensure you can drop off and collect your car in a manner that doesn’t put you or the garage staff at risk of catching or spreading the virus. Also enquire about online bank transfers which will minimise contact when paying for any work. It is also a good idea to take proof of your appointment to provide to officials if you are stopped and questioned about your journey.

Of course, if you feel unwell or are abiding by isolation measures due to someone in your household developing symptoms, it is important to reschedule your appointment until after the necessary two-weeks quarantine is complete.