Brian Joss – The extension of South Africa’s lockdown until the end of May at least means the vast majority of motorists’ vehicles are parked and waiting until the mandatory measures are lifted.
While this period, as it stands, is not really long enough to seriously affect the mechanical health of most cars, there are certain procedures which can be put in place to ensure your car is stored properly and will be ready for action later on.
“We’re not technically in the business of maintaining and caring for cars, but we understand that for many, a vehicle is someone’s second most valuable asset after their home,” says Lebogang Gaoaketse, Head of Marketing and Communication at WesBank. “It’s important for us to inform our customers and help to protect these assets, whether financed or privately owned, wherever we can. We hope this list of tips will come in handy for all motorists.”
For those with newer vehicles which are still covered by warranties and motor plans, it is recommended that owners get in touch with their brands’ respective customer care centres for any concerns about leaving cars parked for the extended periods. Most car brands still have operational customer care lines in place which can be reached by phone, email and sometimes WhatsApp during this period. Visit your respective brand’s South African website for more information and contact details.
Keep connected: Don’t disconnect battery terminals in attempts to prolong battery life unless absolutely necessary. Not only can this affect installed tracking devices, but for many vehicles it could result in computer error codes, especially within some sound systems, which can be a hassle to rectify later on. The battery in a mechanically healthy car should hold enough power to last at least two to three weeks while at standstill with the ignition off. If your car’s battery is draining quicker than this it could indicate that the battery is ageing, or there is an electronic fault in the system drawing power. Either of these should be addressed after lockdown is lifted.
The idea that starting a car and letting it idle to recharge is a common misconception. The amount of energy needed from the battery to start most cars can almost never be replenished by idling, even for up to 30 minutes. As inconvenient as it may seem, the best solution is to let a car’s battery deplete naturally, and arrange a jumpstart if needed after lockdown. In most cases your car’s battery will return to normal with some regular driving once it’s safe to do so.
For households with multiple vehicles, alternate cars when making trips to the store for essential items as exercising recharging systems is the best way to keep them healthy. But under no circumstances should you leave the house solely to run your car.
Show who’s boss: it is very common for mice, birds and insects to seize opportunities with stationary vehicles, but there’s nothing these vermin dislike more than people. Show these unwelcome visitors that your car is not an ideal home by regularly visiting and making the commotion they hate. Open all the doors, bonnet and boot lid from time to time, and even consider getting behind the wheel for an imaginary drive to your favourite destination.
Keep it clean: for some, washing a car may be a hassle at the best of times, but try to see your extended time at home as an opportunity to give your car some much needed love, especially if it’s kept outside. Bird droppings and water stains left by rains can do permanent damage to paintwork, so do your best to prevent this with periodic washes. If possible, try to avoid using dishwashing liquid as soap as this is designed to remove the very waxes that keep a car’s paint protected. Rather use plain water for rinses and dry with a soft cloth. You can even use products such as Mr Min furniture polish for quick spot cleans.
Lay off the brakes: if your car is stored on level ground, try not to use the hand- or parking brakes as the brake pads and discs can fuse together with rust. Automatic vehicles can be left in park and manual vehicles can be left in gear only. If your car is kept on a slight incline find something to chock at least two wheels, such as bricks, to prevent rolling. Please note the proper use of parking brakes may be unavoidable for anything steeper than a slight incline, in order to be completely safe.
Do a quick checkup: in South Africa there are no annual vehicle inspections mandated by government, so it’s up to all of us to ensure our vehicles are in roadworthy condition. Take five minutes to walk around your car and inspect some safety critical items while time is on your side. Look at the tyres and check for uneven wear or bubbles in the sidewall. Make sure headlights, indicators, brake lights and tail lights all work properly. Have a peek at the condition of your wiper blades, and while you’re at it leave the wiper arms in the extended position so they aren’t contacting the glass for the prolonged period. Make a note of anything you discover and get it sorted out as soon as possible after lockdown.
Getting the wheels in motion: the moment we’re all waiting for! Lockdown is lifted and it’s time to get back in action. But is your car ready? Again, the planned lockdown isn’t long enough to have any majorly adverse effects on your car, but a quick pre-flight inspection, so-to-speak, is advisable.
Tyres have a habit of losing air when unused so check your pressures as a priority. If you don’t have a gauge then make a service station your first stop. Pop the bonnet and make sure no fluids, such as oil, water or brake fluid have leaked out. Do a quick inspection to ensure no animals have moved in and made homes in the engine bay. Once you’re ready, fire up the engine and give it some time to reach operating temperature ahead of tearing off down the road. A car likes to get its juices flowing before being put to the test.
CAPTION : Keep it clean: don’t use dishwashing detergent. Picture: Motorpress