Whether you drive a van or car, here are a few sensible precautions you can take to keep your vehicle roadworthy during lockdown.
Check that your tyres meet the UK legal minimum tread of 1.6mm. You can do this by inserting a 20p coin and if the outer band of the coin isn’t obscured, then the tread is too low and illegal to use. Ensure tyres are properly inflated. You can find the recommended tyre pressure for your model in the owner’s handbook. As well as affecting safety, under inflated tyres increase fuel consumption.
Check that all lights work. You could ask someone to help check, or park in front of a reflective window so that you can see the lights come on in your mirror. Don’t forget to check the number plate light bulb – this is an MOT checkpoint.
If unused for a while, a vehicle’s brake discs can corrode, which can lead to the brakes seizing completely. This would require a professional’s attention to repair. To prevent this, roll your vehicle back and forwards for a few metres (in a safe place). Rolling will also help prevent flat spots from developing on tyres.
When you do start driving again, gently test the brakes as you set off. ‘Crunchy’ brakes or a grinding noise for the first mile or so, would suggest that corrosion has built up. Vibration through the pedal may mean you have warped discs.
On vans, warped discs are indicated through judders on the steering column. Also check that the ABS light goes off when the van is running and look out for excessive travel on the brakes, as this could be a sign of a hydraulic fault.
Unfortunately, corrosion of disc brakes can also cause the handbrake to stick. If your car is parked in a private area on level ground, you could leave it in gear and not use the handbrake. This isn’t an option if you are parked on a public road where your vehicle could be rolled into by another, or if parked on a slope, where you should not only use the handbrake, but leave the car in gear if you have a manual gearbox.
Inspect the battery for any leaking, corrosion, or loose cables. A struggling starter motor or weak headlights could indicate that the battery needs replacing. Maintain the battery by running the vehicle for around 15 minutes every week. Simply start it up and let it run, but don’t leave the vehicle unattended. Take the opportunity to run the air conditioning too. This will help maintain the seals and reduce the chance of mould developing within the circulation system.
Avoid turning the vehicle on and off in quick succession – the starter motor requires battery power which isn’t replenished until the battery is given time to charge.
If you can run a lead to your privately parked car, you might want to invest in a mains-powered battery charger.
5. Fluids and oils
Check the brake fluid, engine oil, engine coolant, and if applicable, the power steering fluid. Check for any puddles under the vehicle. Did you know that an empty bottle of screen-wash is an MOT fail?
Ensure that the wipers are not smearing the screen. Any chips should be investigated and may be possible to repair without replacing the screen.
Check that the vehicle isn’t pulling to the left or right. On vans, serious squeals or judders on the steering column are a sign of potential failure.
8. Load bay and trailer (vans)
Check the door locks are in working order. Check the trailer, tow bar and any electrical fittings.
Urgent Repairs During Lockdown
There is no reason to drive an unsafe vehicle during lockdown. Garages are allowed to remain open for essential repairs, so if you have any concerns about your vehicle’s condition, get it checked out as soon as possible.
How can I prepare for my MOT?
A full list of parts inspected during a car MOT can be found here. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/car-parts-checked-at-an-mot/car-parts-checked-at-an-mot