The DVSA 6-month MOT extension urges drivers to stay safe and roadworthy at all times

The government made it quite clear that the MOT extension wasn’t purely just a way to help stop the panic and cut us all a little extra slack during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The real message behind the announcement remains the same as always—staying safe and saving lives.

The extension on up-and-coming MOT tests will help contain the spread of the virus and also allow drivers a little extra breathing space while the world as we know it seems far from normal.

However, the announcement on the DVSA website made it quite clear that anyone driving a vehicle in a dangerous state would be fined as usual. Cars that break the roadworthy condition rules could incur fines of up to £2,500.

The checks you should carry out every time you drive

We’re all capable of being complacent at times, yet we should all be paying particular attention to every detail right now. Safety is paramount, and any unnecessary strain on our resources needs to remain at a minimum.

So, every time you drive, you should check:

  • Your windscreen, windows and all mirrors are clean and provide clear vision
  • All of the lights are operational, and no bulbs are broken
  • The brakes (handbrake and foot pedal) work correctly

You should also pay regular attention, ideally every week, to:

  • Engine oil levels
  • Water/coolant levels for your car’s radiator or expansion tank
  • Brake fluid levels
  • Battery charge and condition
  • Windscreen washer fluid levels for both front and rear windscreens
  • Tyres inflated to the correct pressure, and tread levels comply with legal requirements

Vehicles require extra attention when they are left standing for long periods

Most of us are used to driving our cars every day. Either to and from work, dropping the kids off at school or as part of our jobs. Our cars are used to it too, and more often than not, a regularly driven car will show fewer issues than one that is left to stand for long periods.

Many of these measures depend on how long you’re planning to leave your car. During the pandemic, many of our cars could be sat unused for a week or two for drivers in isolation. For the most vulnerable, it will be even longer.

What precautions should we take?

Protecting your battery

If you’re leaving your car for a few weeks to a month, then the main issue is the possible slow discharge of your battery. New batteries and electrical systems can be left for longer periods than older cars and ageing batteries.

If you’re planning on leaving your car standing for a matter of months, then it’s a good idea to remove the battery and spread a little grease over the terminals to prevent any corrosion.

If you can, make sure your battery has a full charge before parking. If possible, check your car will start and the state of the battery each week to make sure it’s going to work when you need it. A short run out will add more charge to the battery, or if possible, plug it in for a top-up if it starts to sound like it’s struggling to turn over the engine.

You can buy ‘smart chargers’ that will stop charging once they achieve the correct charge. This is the only safe way for cars stood for extended periods to remain plugged in and on charge.

Where possible, park undercover

If you can park your car in a garage, you’ll protect it from the weather, gathering moisture and from rust and corrosion. The moisture doesn’t just accumulate around the bodywork; it can affect moving parts to impact driving inside your engine.

Parking the car — brakes

If you have the facility to park off-street, then place chocks under the wheels, put it in first gear and release the handbrake.

Brake pads can soon become stuck to discs or drums and could fail to release when it comes to driving your car again.

Lubrication of moving and susceptible parts

As well as lubricating handles, locks, moving parts, and providing an extra layer of protection under the bonnet, it’s also worth arranging an oil and filter service. The used oil in your engine becomes contaminated with water, dust, metal filings, sludge and more.

It’s almost always advisable to change the oil at the same time as the filters, and if you do, take a short drive to circulate the new oil around your engine. That way, it can provide the very protection it’s designed for.

Tyre care

In the short term, most tyres will sit without too much concern for a week or two. If you’re not likely to use your car for extended periods, you should make sure to keep them inflated to the correct pressure. This will prevent sidewalls cracking and flat spots occurring. If you aren’t available to check tyre pressures regularly over long periods of standing, then jack up your car and take the wheels off.

Fill up the tank

A common problem with cars left in storage, or taking a break from regular driving, is that moisture can gather in an empty petrol tank, causing rust to occur inside. You can prevent internal rusting simply by filling the tank; even utilising fuel additives to protect it further.

Rust in the tank will make its way into your engine as the petrol it contaminates flows through each component, causing unwanted internal damage.

Spark plug care

Again, this measure is primarily for cars that are to be left standing for extended periods. To prevent any moisture gathering and any rusting in the cylinder head, remove the spark plugs and spray a little oil into the sockets. When you put the plugs back, it provides an extra layer of protection against contamination.

When you’re ready to get back on the road…

Depending on how long your car has been sat, and the levels of care you’ve taken to keep it in tip-top condition, you should survive a little downtime with no ill effect whatsoever.

However, if anything doesn’t feel or sound quite right, or you’d like the extra peace of mind it would bring, have a mechanic or your local Fixter garage carry out a safety check or interim service.

We’re always here to help, dedicated to keeping you safe at every turn.

About Fixter

Fixter is revolutionising the car maintenance industry, one repair at a time. Fixter was founded to make car maintenance as easy as booking a taxi. Digital, transparent and stress-free, with world-class customer service. Since launching in Manchester in 2017, Fixter has expanded to more than 100 cities across the UK and provided thousands of car owners with honest, convenient and affordable car repair services.