Storing your car safely during Lockdown

As the majority of South Africans heed the President’s call to stay at home during Lockdown, Pieter Niemand, national director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), an association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) says motorists need to be cautious that if they are not using their cars at all over the period, there are certain essential steps they need to follow at home to prevent experiencing a dead battery or even a damaged engine or ruined tyres when the Lockdown lifts.

Niemand says at this stage three weeks will not create major damage but if cars are left for longer there could be complications so best to be mindful of these.

Here are the seven key things to watch:

  • Battery care and maintenance – An unattended battery will eventually lose its charge, so if possible try and ensure someone in the family starts the car every two weeks and at least allows it to warm-up to normal operating temperature in order to give the battery some time to take up a charge. If you are going out during the Lockdown and have two cars, try and alternate cars so each of them gets driven regularly. Driving the car periodically has several benefits. Not only will it maintain the battery’s charge and keep the engine and other components adequately lubricated, it is an opportunity to run the air conditioner to keep all parts in working order and the air fresh.

If you cannot arrange for someone to start the car, there are two other options. The low-tech solution is to disconnect the negative battery cable. You’ll likely lose the stereo pre-sets, time and other settings. If you want to keep those settings and ensure that your battery starts the moment you can drive it again, we recommend a smart/intelligent battery charger which you can leave connected to the battery without damaging the battery by overcharging it. We acknowledge with the current limitations of Lockdown this may not be possible, unless you have one already. It is worth thinking about for any future use however. The Smart/Intelligent charger is designed to simulate normal operating conditions for the battery where the battery is allowed to discharge and recharge within parameters that won’t damage the battery.  If however the battery is flat and you only have a trickle charger please use it according to the battery charger manufacturer’s instructions, do not leave it connected for excessive periods of time it will damage the battery. The trickle charger is intended to slowly bring the charge level of a battery back up to operating levels without stressing the battery. Too fast a charge will lead to a battery overheating and being damaged permanently.

  • Don’t leave handbrake on – We are all used to putting on our parking brake, but don’t do it when you leave a car in storage. If the brake pads make contact with the rotors for too long, there is a chance that they might fuse. Instead, purchase a tire stopper, also called a chock, to prevent the car from moving. This is not necessary if you can leave the car on a totally flat surface.
  • Move vehicle to avoid flat spots on tyres – You need to make sure your tyres are inflated to the recommended tyre pressure. If a vehicle is left stationary for too long, the tyres could develop flat spots as the weight of the vehicle presses down on the tyres’ footprints. This process occurs at a faster rate if you have high performance tyres or low-profile tyres. Driving your car ad hoc can help correct the form of the tyre.
  • Start the engine at least once every 2 weeks for oil circulation – It’s always a good idea to allow the car to idle for about 2 minutes to allow oil pressure to stabilize and cover all those splash lubrication points thoroughly.
  • Leave windows slightly open to avoid stagnate air whilst parking in a garage – Most closed garages do not have ventilation, so it is recommended you keep your garage door open every third day or so to allow air to circulate and to leave your windows a tiny bit open to avoid that stale smell when you finally drive your car.
  • Be careful of rodents – Rats and mice can be a real problem when cars are left unattended for any length of time and can nibble away at important wiring. A simple solution is to cover your exhaust pipe with steel wool and to place some mothballs along the perimeter of your car. Cotton wool dipped in peppermint oil is also a useful deterrent.
  • Never cancel your car insurance – Just because you are not driving your car as much, do not be tempted to cancel your insurance but do phone your insurer. Many insurers are offering their customers discounts on their premiums which could help financially strapped motorists.