With the current coronavirus crisis, the last thing many people will be concerned about is the condition of their cars. The government is currently recommending the elimination of all non-essential travel. With this in mind, driving for leisure or pleasure should be avoided.
However, for many of us across the country, a car is still vital – whether it be going to stores to buy food or going to work if you are a key worker. This seems to have been recognized by Wednesday’s update from the Ministry of Transport (DfT) concerning the technical controls of the MoT (see below).
Here are some quick tips to help you maintain your car, and some answers to some of the questions you might want to consider while you’re stuck at home.
One caveat, however: this article was written with government advice in mind when this document was written. Since the situation is constantly evolving, we strongly advise you to keep abreast of the latest advice from the government and to follow it beyond the suggestions below.
We always urge you to use your best judgment, to stay safe, to avoid putting vulnerable people at risk and to determine if you really need to make this trip.
Do I still need to have my MoT car tested or repaired?
To date, the government has exempted vehicles from MoT testing for up to six months – although it insists that vehicles should always be kept in driving order.
All cars, vans and motorcycles that would typically require a MoT test will be exempt from needing a test as of March 30. apply.
The required legislation will be introduced on March 30 and will take effect immediately for 12 months. Drivers will still need to have their vehicle tested until the new regulations come into force, if they need to use them.
The practical driving tests and the annual tests for trucks, buses and coaches have been suspended for up to three months.
If your car is undergoing maintenance or repair, ask what action the garage itself takes, for example if its technicians disinfect cars with disinfectants or wipes after they have finished the work. For your peace of mind, you may want to clean the steering wheel, gear lever knob, indicator, door handles, radio and heating controls, as well as all other parts of the car that you might touch when you retrieve it.
Many garages now offer a mobile service through which they will contact you to do this work at your home. It is worth calling your local garages to find out if this is something they offer. Again, you may want to clean the surfaces you touch inside and outside the car after the job is done.
How can I check that my car is in perfect condition myself?
There are very simple checks that you can perform without endangering yourself or anyone else. First, the tires. You can check this using a gauge designed for this purpose – the legal minimum is 1.8 mm – or using a 20p coin. Insert the part into the grooves of the tread, at the end of the line, and if the band around the outside of the part is visible, your tires are approaching the legal limit.
You can also check the pressures at home if you have a pressure gauge or foot pump; alternatively, if you are a key worker or need to use your car to get around and want to pump your tires, your local gas station will likely have a coin-operated air pump, which you could visit without interacting with other people and while maintaining a safe social distance of two meters. However, be sure to disinfect or wash your hands immediately afterwards.
When checking your tires, be sure to check the spare part, if any – or if not, make sure your car’s tire inflation kit is complete and in good condition. It is normally located where you normally find the spare tire, or in a locker on one side of the trunk.
You can also verify that your lights are working by turning them all on and inspecting them all one by one. Remember to check both your low beam and high beam, as well as your rear fog lights.
It is also possible to check the operation of the brake lights and reversing lights without asking for help from someone else. One way is to use a reflective window to check for these lights in your rearview mirror. Alternatively, wait overnight and place the car against a wall, garage door or other flat surface, and make sure you can see the glare from the lights on both sides of the car.
Checking the oil level is also an important part of maintaining your car. Find the dipstick in the engine compartment, remove it, use a clean cloth or cloth to clean it, replace it, and then check it again.
The oil level should be between the minimum and maximum marks on the dipstick. If you need to refill it, you can order fresh oil online.
While you’re under the hood, it’s a good idea to check the levels of other fluids – refer to your car’s owner’s manual for how to check coolant, brake fluid and fluid. power steering. And don’t forget to recharge your screen wash – if you can’t buy one, you can do it with tap water as a short-term measure, but be sure to add some liquid screen wash at the earliest opportunity.
What if I plan to buy a new car? Should I rather keep my current one?
Given the difficult times ahead, this may not be a bad idea. If you’re not worried about your current car, why not take a “do and fix” approach? Keeping it longer than you expect and getting more out of it probably won’t cost as much as you think, because if you bought a newer car, it would likely lose value more quickly than your old one. And even if the older car were to incur a few repair bills along the way, they would likely cost you less than the drop in value you will experience with the newer car.
There are other good reasons to keep your old car longer. On the one hand, any maintenance or repair work you may need will help keep local businesses going during these difficult times by adding small garages in distress to the coffers. And if you have to replace parts, you’ll also help companies move up the supply chain.
And as if that was not enough incentive, keeping an old car and maintaining it well is considered a more environmentally friendly action plan than buying a brand new one, effectively recycling an already existing car rather than engaging the carbon emissions involved in building the new car.
What if my car becomes so old and so unreliable that I’m afraid it will drop me?
Now that the country is locked, dealers are unlikely to be able to offer the online sales and delivery services that they have been so far.
So you may have to wait until the virus is contained before making your purchase – although by then we will likely be navigating through economically difficult times. This could restrict the free flow of financial transactions from which we have recently benefited, and of course, with the toll it will have on household income, it could mean that you no longer feel confident enough about the future to buy a new car.
If money is limited but you still think you need to change cars, you can always consider reducing your financial risk by buying a used or almost new car instead. With modern levels of build quality and technology, an almost new car with 10 or 20,000 miles on the clock should feel little different from a brand new example.
In addition, many cars these days have long warranties of up to seven years. Purchasing one of these cars at two or three years of age could leave you with a warranty as long – if not longer – than a new car with a three-year warranty, giving you similar peace of mind. but with reduced costs.
Failing that many franchised dealers offer used cars sold under used car programs with a warranty of one, or even two years, according to the manufacturer.
The Telegraph’s car office will soon be releasing a series of articles on buying and servicing used cars to help you figure out how to stay on the road in these difficult times.
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