- By admin
- In Maintenance
During the pandemic lock-down periods, our cars may not have been used as much as before, or indeed, not used at all. Cars do not like being left idle. Components can dry out or seize up for example, so the sensible motorist will check the vehicle over, or get the local car servicing garage to do it, before attempting that much delayed business trip or longed-for family outing. Here are a few tips to make sure that first big run out goes smoothly:
Make sure the car doors and hatches are opening and closing as they should; smoothly and without the need to slam shut. Door hinges, as an example, may creak stiffly and be in need of some light oil. Does the bonnet catch work properly for access to check inside?
Lights, lamps and horn
Get in and start up (starting issues are covered below). Do all the warning lights stay on at ignition and go off as they should? Any that remain glowing means there’s a fault somewhere. Get it checked. If you don’t know what all the symbols and pictograms mean, look in the handbook.
Check the horn operation and ask a family member to watch as the driver operates the lights and indicators in sequence. Any blown bulbs render the car illegal so if in doubt ask the local car technician to sort it.
Yes, it’s true that this vital piece of kit always comes up but without it that car is going nowhere. Test that the vehicle starts briskly and with minimal turnover. If the starter labours or, worse case scenario, just emits the ‘click of doom’, then it is probably best to replace it after a long lay-off. Batteries do not like being idle; vehicle usage is what provides the charge and, as these days they are sealed units, there is little that an owner can do.
One good idea, if the car is not in use for a period, is to put the battery on a trickle charger to keep it topped up. Otherwise, a fresh battery after five years won’t hurt. Remember though that some cars with the latest stop/start functions require a different type than those in common usage.
Always check all fluid levels when the engine is cold.
The oil dipstick is always handily placed for checking the level. Remove the stick fully and wipe it off. Replace fully and remove again. If the oil looks clean and is between the maximum and minimum levels then the car is good to go. Top-up if necessary with the correct grade of oil if the level is too low.
Brake / Clutch Fluid
The brake fluid reservoir is sited somewhere high in the engine bay.
There’s a level mark on the small tank and the brake fluid level should be on it. Unless an owner is particularly skilled any attention to the brakes or fluid flow should be attended to by a professional car servicing garage.
Another vital component. Modern engines run hot and need proper cooling via the sealed system that contains a mix of water and anti-freeze. There’s a reservoir called an expansion tank sited in the engine bay; when cold the coolant level should be on the level mark. Note: When the engine is hot, the expansion tank level might rise, hence the name. This is not a fault.
While under the bonnet don’t forget to check the windscreen washer bottle is topped up.
That’s where the wheels are, more or less. Inspect the tyres for legal tread depth and wear and for any cracks or bulges. A tyre that has been standing in one spot for too long will go soft (all tyres will lose a little air over time – that’s why we check the pressures) and ‘flat spots’ can develop. If the period of use hasn’t been too long then the tyre should reform its shape in short order. If in doubt, get them looked at.
Anything useful should be used. Even the human body needs exercise and so do cars. If not used for a while bits and pieces start to creak and groan so always make sure that a vehicle is properly checked before embarking on a road trip or indeed just around the corner. Also, after all it may be a long time since you last visited a fuel station, get a fill-up with fresh fuel!