Post-Lockdown Motoring: Think “Flower”
Whether you’ve been driving less, or not at all during these interesting times, it’s still just as important to look after your car even if it’s been parked at home. The points below are the things you should ideally check before you set off before any journey. These carry an extra importance if it’s been a while.
These are our top tips to check on your vehicle now the rules are easing.
When it comes to general maintenance, there are 6 key areas to keep an eye on:
When it comes to remembering them, think FLOWER.
These maintenance checks are all fairly straightforward. But if you’d rather not do them yourself, find a trusted local garage to do them for you. Here at The Vehicle Network, we are happy to recommend some local businesses to help you if you are unsure.
F – IS FOR FUEL
This advice may be coming a little late if your car has been sat for a while, but aside from the obvious check that there is fuel in it, it is good to start the engine once a week for 15 minutes if it’s not been used. This isn’t just to keep the fuel moving, it can also stop your battery from going flat, and circulates oil around your engine.
This may be the most obvious fluid for a long journey but we are amazed at how many people set off without enough petrol in the tank. It’s good to plan ahead, not just to avoid running out, but also with fuel prices differing from place to place. Remember motorway services are usually more expensive than elsewhere. Hatch a plan and save yourself some money.
L – IS FOR LIGHTS
Check that all of your lights and bulbs work before setting off. This ensures you are safe on the road, and giving clear signals to other road users. It’s good to ask someone to help you, unless you have superpowers you can’t press the brake pedal and check the brake lights are on at the same time. To check your headlights and indicators, switch on your headlights and press the hazard button. A walk around the car will show you they are all working.
O – IS FOR OIL
This is something people often forget to check. Your engine needs a good supply of oil to run properly. It’s best to check your oil when the engine is cold, and your car is parked on a level surface. Your engine needs to be turned off when you check your oil level. Lift the bonnet, locate and pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, replace and check the indicator markings on the dipstick. If you’re running low on oil you should top it up before you set off, as a lack of oil can cause damage to your engine. This can lead to a hefty repair bill, and often it is not covered under a warranty. If you don’t know which oil is best suited for your engine, it’s good to check your vehicles manual. Failing this, a search on google or call to a local garage can help.
W – IS FOR WATER
As you’re already under the bonnet checking your oil, it’s a good idea to check the water/coolant and screen wash. The coolant level should be visible through the side of the reservoir. There is usually a fill range marked on the side. If your engine is cold, the coolant level should be up to the cold fill line. If it needs topping up, make sure you have the right anti-freeze, as these shouldn’t be mixed. Check your screen wash. This is usually just a case of filling it up, it is straightforward to do, and can be bought from most petrol stations or car shops.
E – IS FOR ELECTRICS
If your battery is flat, your car won’t start. This means you may need roadside assistance or a local mechanic. If you are familiar with jump starting and/or bump starting your car, you can try this, but often it’s not recommended with modern vehicles due to more complex electrical systems. If you do decide to try and can’t find your battery under the bonnet, don’t worry. A lot of modern cars have the battery hidden in other places; it should tell you in the manual.
If your engine sounds laboured when you try and start it, this could be your battery, or linked to other issues, so get it checked.
R – IS FOR RUBBER
The last of our essential car checks is your tyres. This is important not just for the health of your car, but also safety.
There are four things to look out for when it comes to checking your tyres before a long journey:
- Uneven Wear
- Side Wall Damage
- Tread Depth
You can usually find your vehicle’s recommended tyre pressure in one of two places, inside the fuel cap, or on a sticker on the driver’s side door frame.
You can check and adjust your tyre pressures at the self-service machines at most petrol stations. It is important to make sure you don’t over or under inflate your tyres as this can lead to uneven wear, which can reduce their lifespan and alter the vehicle’s handling.
Check the condition of your tyres regularly. Bulges, lumps, and tears in the sidewall could lead to a dangerous failure if ignored. Sidewall bulges are unsafe and cannot be repaired. In this case your tyre must be replaced as soon as possible. Check for any cracking in the rubber around the sidewalls, this can be caused by general age or weather, especially if the vehicle has been sat still for a while.
Check the tread depth of each tyre. The legal tread depth is 1.6mm. Most garages will recommend changing your tyres if the tread depth is less than 2mm. There are two easy ways to check the tread yourself:
- Tyres have a tread wear indicator built into them. Look for small notches of rubber in the groove of a tyre, which will indicate the legal tread limit. If these are level with the outer layer of the tyre, then the tyre needs to be replaced.
- The second way is the 20p test. Take a 20p piece and insert it into the deepest part of the tread on your tyre. If you can see the outer band of the coin then your tyre will likely need to be replaced.
Lastly, don’t forget to check your spare wheel if you have one, you don’t know when you might need it.
These are very basic forms of vehicle maintenance, and we always recommend checking your vehicle before any journey. We must note that we are a supplier of business and personal lease contracts, we are not a vehicle repairer, mechanic, or specialist. We are providing advice based on information from sources such as the AA and the RAC. If you are ever in doubt about car maintenance, or need help, we are more than happy to assist and recommend local garages that can help you.
Stay safe and happy motoring!