Driving during the lockdown: Your questions answered

Update 18.05.20: Our workshops are now open for appointment only. We are able to offer Servicing, repairs and MOTs in a safe manor. Find out more.

Update 25.06.20: While it is recommended to keep Hand Sanitiser with you, you should not keep these in unoccupied vehicles as this poses a fire risk in warm temperatures. Find out more.

The past fortnight has seen unprecedented changes to our way of life, including our driving habits. As of 23rd March, we have been instructed to stay at home and only travel if essential, in order to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

At Johnsons Cars, all of our dealerships have closed in response to the government’s lockdown rules, but we are here to answer any of your questions about driving during the lockdown. So, without further ado, here are the answers to common queries about what the lockdown means for refuelling, breakdowns, punctures, MOT tests, and more.

Please note that if you are self-isolating, please follow the NHS advice of staying at home for the recommended time – do not leave the house.

Q. What is ‘essential travel’?

A. Under government guidelines, people should stay at home and avoid unessential travel. The only reasons people should leave their homes include:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day (a run, walk, or cycle) – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical needs, including to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, assuming you cannot work from home.

Full guidance on staying at home can be found here.

Q. Can I still fill up?

A. Under the new lockdown rules, petrol stations are among the ‘essential’ businesses permitted to stay open. However, please note that you should only be travelling when essential – as outlined above! If you do need to fill up, we would recommend trying to go when it’s quiet, and using technology rather than human contact where possible – i.e. self-service pumps. Wear disposable gloves when handling the pump/electric plug and payment terminals and keep some hand sanitiser in your car for afterwards.

You might have seen rumours on social media that coronavirus is being passed between people via petrol pumps. Public Health England has dispelled this rumour, saying that touching petrol pumps presents no more of a risk of spreading coronavirus than any other surface. They have, however, emphasised the need for gloves and washing hands after touching the pumps.

Q. What if my car breaks down?

A. With less people commuting and schools closing, the roads should, in theory, be quieter than usual, but unfortunately breakdown services will still be required.

Two of the UK’s biggest breakdown companies, the AA and RAC, have set out to reassure motorists by affirming their positions. The AA website says: “We've taken steps to make sure we're ready if you need us”. Due to the pressures on the phone lines, they suggest informing them of a problem online or via their app, where you can report a breakdown and track the recovery vehicle. The RAC has also made it clear that: ”We're here for you 24/7” – more information can be found on their website.

We recommend looking at your breakdown company’s website to see their policy and whether they have any preferred methods of contact at the moment – and also download their apps if recommended.

All of our car manufacturers offer roadside assistance and depending on when you bought your car you may already be covered.

Fiat and Abarth​0330 100 3127
​Alfa Romeo​0330 100 3127
Ford​0203 564 4444
Honda​0800 521 728
​Hyundai​0800 980 2733
​Jeep​0330 100 3127
​Lexus​0800 246 866
Mazda 0800 015 0367
SEAT 0800 262 622
SKODA 0800 526 625
Toyota 0800 246 824 or 01737 500 021
Volkswagen 0800 777 192
Volvo 0800 777 116 or if using a mobile 0208 603 9416

Q. What do I do if my MOT expires during lockdown?

A. The government has announced that vehicle owners in Britain will be granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing from 30th March. These emergency measures apply to cars, motorcycles and vans and are to help drivers to continue essential travel. Commercial and public service vehicles, such as buses, will be granted a three-month exemption. The full information is in our latest news article.

The government is keen to stress that this exemption is providing that your vehicle is in a roadworthy condition – see the next question for more information!

Q. What if my car needs urgent work/a repair?

A. Garages and service centres have been deemed by the government as ‘essential’, and are therefore open to offer vital repair services. If you need urgent repair work, for example, to repair a puncture, to help you carry out essential travel, contact your nearest garage. Please note, you can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get three penalty points for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition!

Q. Is there ‘light’ vehicle maintenance I can do myself?

A. Yes, there is! In fact, keep your eye on our social media channels over the next few weeks, as we will be walking you though how to carry out the following tasks at home:

  • Topping up your washer fluid
  • Checking your engine oil
  • Checking your tyre tread
  • Checking your tyre pressure
  • Checking your car’s lights

You can find our social media channels here:

Q. My driving test has been cancelled – what do I do?

A. Theory tests have now been suspended for a month, while practical tests have been stopped for three months. More information and further updates are available on the website. However, if your work is critical to the COVID-19 response or you work in a critical sector, you can still get an emergency test during this suspension period – information can be found here.

No bookings are currently being taken for driving tests and, when they do recommence, priority will be given to those who had theirs cancelled. Remember that if your theory test expires before that, you'll need to do another one.

Please note: The information above is correct at the time of writing (25 March). The situation is ever-changing – if in doubt, please refer to the website.