What you need to know
If your vehicle has been off the road for several days or even weeks, ACL has a few tips for looking after it properly and avoiding any nasty surprises when you’re able to get on the road again.
Where possible, it’s a good idea to leave your car in the garage, out of the dirt and wet. Remember to air the inside regularly and “disinfect” it after lockdown.
If you don’t have a garage or indoor parking, a tarpaulin will do the job.
But if your car is outdoors, maybe under a tree in blossom, it’s a good idea to remove any wilted petals that might have got into the engine compartment. We recommend washing the underside to remove any pollen and salt residue after winter and in the spring.
Did you know that for ACL the number one cause of a breakdown is the battery – both summer and winter?
When a car is off the road for a while, the battery can discharge completely or even die, as it keeps powering the dashboard and equipment, regardless of whether it’s a diesel, petrol, hybrid or electric vehicle. You need to look after your vehicle carefully to prevent breakdowns or danger when starting the vehicle.
It isn’t a good idea to disconnect the battery on newer vehicles, as there is a risk of the dashboard warning lights staying on when you start the engine.
You can buy a smart charger that you plug into a wall socket to keep the battery in full working order.
If you have an electric or hybrid car, a professional can disconnect the service connector.
It is advisable to leave the tank at least ¾ full with an older car to prevent the fuel evaporating or the metal rusting. It is advisable to fill a diesel tank right up to stop condensation impairing fuel quality and damaging the engine. Electric cars should be charged to 80% before being taken off the road to prevent them from losing all their charge when you come to start them, as this would damage the battery and make it impossible to restart when the time comes. Finally, it is advisable not to leave an electric car plugged in when off the road, as the loss of energy is negligible compared to the power supplied and would damage the battery life.
Still using your winter tyres? Although there is no law against driving on winter tyres in summer, we advise you to switch to summer tyres for your own safety. If you have to brake suddenly in summer, the braking distance is much shorter with summer tyres.
But you should be aware that when the car is off the road, weight is distributed in the same place all the time, which can harm the tyres. So, it’s a good idea to move it a few cm every fortnight (or use it for an essential journey like going to the shops). And increasing the pressure to at least 3 bars wouldn’t go amiss. When lockdown ends, remember to check tyre condition and pressure. And put some air in if needs be. Any steering wheel vibration will probably be related to a tyre problem (deformed, flat, lost pressure).
You might want to release the hand brake, which can stick if the car is stationary for a long time, and leave it in gear when the engine is off or in Park if it’s an automatic.
Are the brakes sticking after so long off the road? Time to run the car and brake sharply. Watch out for the car behind! If you hear other types of rubbing sounds, you need to get the brakes checked by a mechanic.
Levels and seals
The liquids, oils and fluids in a vehicle are relatively stable. After a long period off the road, just remember to check the levels and top them up if necessary (“summer” screen wash, engine oil, AdBlue). But if a warning light comes on, you need to book it into the garage without delay. And if it’s red, don’t drive the vehicle. If it’s an orange warning light, the vehicle manual will give advice and warning instructions.
Are there signs of marten activity in the engine compartment? Suddenly found signs of a marten on the engine or housing that weren’t there before? Your car has had a visit from a little predator. Check the cables for bite marks. If there are any: go to the garage straight away. It’s advisable to install a marten deterrent to prevent cable bites in future.
|At the ACL Diagnostic Center, ACL’s independent technical centre in Bertrange, our technicians can check your car with a range of special tests and give their opinion on its condition. For information please call the ACL on 45 00 45-6007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.