Simple car maintenance tasks you can do at home

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.

Due to the government’s coronavirus ‘lockdown’ rules, we wanted to provide you with all the information you need – including driving during the lockdown and information about the MOT extension.

While many people’s driving has and will severely reduce for the next few weeks it’s still important to keep your car safe and well maintained. Luckily, there are still some simple checks and maintenance that you can perform at home, particularly useful for drivers.

Keeping you battery charged (and your air-conditioning operational)

While your car is remaining stationary more than usual, you run the risk of your battery running flat, the last thing you want if you need to make an essential journey or for when lockdown eases. Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid. We recommend you do the following every seven days to keep your battery charged.

Step 1: Ensure your vehicle is on a level and safe area,  check the handbrake is applied, manual gear is in neutral or set to park on an automatic. Start your engine​.

Step 2: Leave it running for 5 minutes with all lights and technology switched off. If your car has air conditioning, leave it on as this will aid circulation and reduce refrigeration gas escaping from a dry seal.

Step 3: After 5 minutes, put your foot on the clutch or in an automatic put the car in to park (P on the gear lever). Then put your foot on the accelerating to raise the engine speed to 2500 rpm for diesel cars and 3000 rpm for petrol cars. Hold it at this level for 30 seconds. This will flush carbon build up through the system.

Step 4: Release your foot of the accelerator and leave your car running for a further 5-10 minutes to continue charging the battery.For Hybrid cars, due to the larger battery, it is recommeded to run the engine for longer so it's running for at least an hour in total.

Keeping the touch points of your vehicle clean

While driving at the moment should be kept to a minimum, there are still some scenarios where driving is essential such as for key workers and to visit the supermarket. If using your vehicle, it’s important to stay safe so you should thoroughly wash your hands before and after every journey as well as cleaning commonly touched areas of your car.

Step 1: Identify the most commonly touched areas of your car. This will include boot and door handles, steering wheel indicators and the gear stick.

Step 2: Be sure to use the right product for each material you’re cleaning (e.g disinfectant wipes, mild soap and water and leather conditioner)

Step 3: Remember to wash your hands afterwards.

While this won’t necessary kill all the germs, it will limit the spread.

Topping up your washer fluid

Washer fluid is essential for getting rid of whatever might drizzle or drop onto your windscreen, so that you can keep your eyes firmly on the road ahead. Luckily, it’s also easy to top up!

Step 1: Make sure your engine is off and cool.

Step 2: Pull the lever to open your bonnet (often found under the dash), release the catch and prop up.

Step 3: Find the washer reservoir (it has the washer fluid symbol on it).

Step 4: Lift the lid, pour in the washer fluid until it reaches the top and replace (if you’ve got concentrated fluid, you’ll need to mix it with water)

Step 5: Drop the bonnet back down carefully.

Step 6: Test both your front and rear washers to make sure they’re working OK.

Checking your engine oil

Engine oil is the blood supply that keeps your car running smoothly. Regularly checking and filling up your engine oil is therefore vital to ensure your car stays happy, healthy and on the road. If you need to top it up, the recommended oil can be found in your vehicle handbook.

Step 1: Park on level ground and make sure your engine is off and cool.

Step 2: Pull the lever to open your bonnet (often found under the dash), release the catch and prop up.

Step 3: Find the dipstick (it has a brightly coloured handle) and pull it out.

On the left, the dipstick. On the right the oil filler cap

Step 4: Wipe with a clean cloth, put all the way back in and remove again.

Step 5: If the oil falls between the notches, it’s fine. If it falls below the first notch, this means you need to top up.

Step 6: Make sure you use the correct oil for your car – this can be identified in your handbook.

Step 7: Unscrew the filler cap (it has the engine oil symbol on it) and pour in the oil using a funnel.

Step 8: Keep checking the level with the dipstick to avoid spillages and replace the filler cap once full.

Step 9: Drop the bonnet back down carefully.

Check your lights are working correctly

Your lights enable you to see clearly, make you visible on the road and warn others of planned manoeuvres. As a result, you need to make sure they keep shining for both your own safety and that of others.

Step 1: Ask someone to stand outside your car while you get behind the wheel. Ensure your vehicle is on a level and safe area, check the handbrake is applied, manual gear is in neutral or set to park on an automatic. Turn on the ignition

Step 2: Turn each light on, one at a time, and ask the other person whether they light up as they should.

Step 3: It’s best to work your way around systematically when doing this, so that you don’t miss anything. Make sure to check your:

  • Side lights
  • Headlights
  • Main beam
  • Fog lights
  • Brake lights
  • Reversing lights
  • Indicators
  • Hazard lights

Checking your tyre tread

Your tyres are the only contact point between you and the road, and driving with worn tyres is not just a penalty fine but also an accident waiting to happen. This makes checking your tyre tread one of the most important things you can do – for your wallet and your safety.

Your tyres must have a tread depth above 1.6mm to be legal. The 20p test makes checking this a doddle:

Step 1: Have your handbrake on and ignition off.

Step 2: Turn your steering wheel to full lock to get the best view of your tyres.

Step 3: Place the edge of a 20 pence piece between the tyre tread grooves.

Step 4: If you can’t see the border of the 20 pence piece, your tyre is legal. If this is visible, you will need to replace it.

Step 5: Repeat for all four tyres and check every two weeks to ensure your tyres remain roadworthy and safe.

Checking your tyre pressure

Checking your tyre pressure is really important, and super easy! Air pressure can decrease over time even when your vehicle is not in use.

Fully inflated tyres provide:

  • Longer life
  • Quicker steering response
  • Better fuel efficiency
  • A smoother ride

Step 1: Start with cold tyres; your vehicle should have been parked for three hours or more.

Step 2: Find the correct pressure rating for your vehicle. This can be found either, in your car or van’s manual, on the inside ledge of the driver’s door, or inside the fuel cap

Step 3: Unscrew the valve caps from your tyres.

Step 4: Press your tyre pressure gauge onto a valve, until you hear a hiss of air.

Step 5: Your gauge will then provide a reading.

Step 6: Repeat for all four tyres.

MOT for your car

If your car is due an MOT during the lockdown period it will be given an automatic extension of six months just before the deadline. You can find out more here.

Filling up your car with fuel

While not really a maintenance task, it is something some of you will need to continue doing if you need to keep driving. Filling your car with fuel is still possible, just remember to take precautions. Fuel pumps are handled by multiple people every day and is thought to be a major spread of Coronavirus.

To prevent the spread, properly use gloves when filling up your car with fuel. This means using a fresh pair of gloves when you fill up, to make sure that you are not spreading it, and disposing of them once you are done to.

Cleaning your car

The cleanliness of your car might not be the foremost thing on your mind at the moment but proper care of your car ensures the paintwork lasts. We’d recommend washing your car every fortnight with warm soapy water. Should any tree sap or bird lime land on your vehicle, we’d recommend washing that off immediately.

Other things to check for

It may sound unlikely, but you should check that no animal has nested under your car before you drive it, particularly if your car has remained stationary for a long period of time. With quieter roads, animals are making their way into more urban areas.

Additionally if you can, avoid parking your car under trees to avoid bird lime and tree sap. If you can’t remember to wash it off regularly.

Check out this article for more driving tips during the lockdown