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Car protection during COVID-19

As measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 remain in place, it is likely that many of us are experiencing drastic changes in our day-to-day routines, whilst confined to our homes. With the health and safety of friends and loved ones at the forefronts of everyone’s minds, it can be difficult to stay on top of other, less significant matters. One thing you may not be aware of, is the problems that can arise when a vehicle is not driven frequently and left idle for long periods of time.

Tyres

On vehicles left unused for long periods, flat spots can occur in tyres. This is where the weight of the vehicle can leave tyres temporarily or permanently out of shape. This can lead to the vehicle being far less pleasant to drive – presented via a shuddering feeling felt as the tyre turns, and if severe enough it could be dangerous. Luckily, in most cases this is temporary and as the tyre heats up after some use it should return to normal shape. If the tyres do not return to shape after a few journeys, you should replace them.

To avoid this, ensure that your tyres are not low on pressure (see user manual if required), and drive the vehicle on short journeys every 1-2 weeks, where possible and provided it is permitted. 

Brakes

If left unused, brake discs can develop rust on the surface. When you do drive your vehicle after being idle for an extended period, please be mindful that your brakes may briefly feel less responsive than usual. After a small amount of use, the pads will wear away any surface rust. Over longer periods, more serious issues can develop, including components seizing like Brake Callipers.

Short journeys every 1-2 weeks should help avoid any lasting problems, but if it appears that there are any issues you should consult your mechanic or main dealer garage. 

Battery

A vehicle needs to be running regularly in order to maintain charge in its battery. To avoid your battery going flat and needing to be jump started, you should ensure that it runs for at least 20 consecutive minutes every two weeks. The lower your battery charge is, the harder your alternator has to work to charge it, which could lead to further complications if this happened regularly. We would not recommend you running your car without driving it ( left to idle), do not leave it unattended - either at your home or otherwise and always make sure that all windows and doors are locked. 

Fluids

Your car has many different fluids that are each critical to ensuring it functions as it should. After long periods without being started and driven, water vapour can build up in your fuel tank fuel can separate, and any hoses or gaskets can weaken as a result of drying out. Dry hoses and gaskets are more susceptible to cracks and therefore leaks, and could be costly if not addressed. However, these are unlikely to occur over a short period of a month or less. Therefore, before driving after periods where the car has been laid up it is advisable to check Oil Levels, Coolant Levels, Brake Fluid and washer Bottle Fluid before driving. 

Diesel particulate filter

Modern diesel cars are fitted with ‘Diesel Particulate Filters’ (DPF) in order to reduce their emissions. Without regular use, your DPF could become blocked, especially when short driving cycles are carried out resulting in warning lights on the dash or the vehicles power becoming restricted. Should this happen, you should consult the owner manual or your mechanic or main dealer to ascertain whether it is safe to continue driving, so as to prevent further damage.

If your household has more than one vehicle, you should rotate the use of the vehicles in order to avoid issues, where possible. This may be particularly applicable to diesel vehicles – as detailed above- specifically if it is a longer journey. Overall, it is critical that you adhere to public guidelines set with regard to travel and give these priorities above all else. 

Safety check

It would be advisable that after any sustained period of time where a vehicle has been not in use to have a vehicle safety check carried out by a reputable garage to rule out any issues that may have occurred over that time.

Finally, if you have opted to suspend cover on your vehicle during this time, remember that this means that you are not covered to drive your vehicle until you re-activate full cover. If you have no yet suspended your cover, but would like to consider doing so, please consult your policy booklet for further details, or contact your Broker.

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