It’s always a good idea to give your car or van a regular once-over to make sure it’s still roadworthy and everything is working as it should. A quick check won’t take you much more than 15 minutes, and you should ideally do it every month or so, and before any big journey.
Our tips give you a great guide to follow, and they’ll help you to keep your vehicle in good condition generally, particularly if it’s not in regular use.
Remember, even if you’ve been granted an extension to your vehicle’s MOT, it’s still your legal responsibility to ensure your car or van is roadworthy and safe.
Look after your tyres and they’ll look after you
It’s a well-known motoring truth that the tyres are the only points of contact between your vehicle and the road. All the more reason to make sure they’re in good condition for when you need to start driving again!
Check for bumps, gouges or cracks first – these are the first signs of bad tyre health, and any significant damage can mean that a tyre simply isn’t safe to use.
Next, check the amount of tread left on each tyre. Run your finger along one of the wide tread grooves, feeling for a notch – this is the tread-wear indicator. When the tyre surface reaches the level of the top of that notch, it’s time to replace it.
Alternatively, grab a 20p coin and follow our quick and easy tyre wear check!
Finally, checking the air pressure of your tyres is a great job to do while those rubber circles aren’t doing much. You’ll find the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle in the manual, or sometimes inside one of the door-frames. If you have a pump and a pressure gauge at home, it’s a super easy job, but if not, just pop down to your local petrol station – there’s usually an air machine that’ll do the job in no time.
How do your wheels look?
We’ve covered tyres, but it’s also good to take the time to look at your wheels. You’ll mostly be looking for cosmetic damage, which won’t significantly affect your vehicle’s on-road performance, but keep an eye out for anything more serious too.
If there are big dents or evidence of buckling, we’d strongly advise not to drive your vehicle until you’ve had it checked out by a professional.
While you’re there, check inside the wheel-arches too. You should remove any significant mud or dirt, as if it falls off your vehicle while you’re driving, you could be liable for any damage it causes to other road-users.
Don’t skip the brakes
If your car or van’s been sitting still for a week or so, your brakes might begin to show some surface corrosion. Don’t worry, it’s absolutely normal – it’s basically just surface-level rust.
The easiest way to remove it is to go for a short, slow drive, gently squeezing the brake pedal to remove the surface corrosion. Once it’s gone, your brakes will perform just like they did before.
Boost the battery
If you drive a conventional fuel-powered vehicle, the battery is usually located in the engine bay. If you haven’t driven your car or van for a while, the battery may have drained partially. To boost its charge back to full, just go for a gentle drive! Thirty minutes should do it.
For electric vehicles, the battery is the source of energy, so it’s also good to go for a short drive just to keep everything working smoothly. Also, try and keep your EV’s charge level relatively high, even if it means giving it a quick charge every few days. That’ll help keep the battery healthy and in good condition.
Do the lights require action?
While a lot of new vehicles have an in-built warning system for light malfunctions, being able to check your lights manually is a good skill to have as a driver.
It’s best if you have another household member available to help, but if you have to go it alone, it’s easiest to check your lights when it’s starting to get dark.
Find a large, solid surface – such as a wall or garage door – and use it to shine your lights on to check if they’re working.
Test every exterior light on your vehicle – sidelights, main headlights, full beam, as well reverse, brakes, and indicators. It’s worth trying your rear fog light, too, and – if your vehicle has them – the front fog lights. They might not get much use in day-to-day life, but they’re so important to your safety and the safety of others when visibility is poor.
Any windscreen issues?
The humble windscreen – your window to the world as you happily drive along.
If your car’s been at a standstill for a while, the windscreen might be dirty with dust or even substances like tree sap. Lift up the windscreen wipers and give it a good wipe with some sort of glass cleaner.
Also keep an eye out for cracks or chips. If you spot either, it might be a good idea to get them filled by a professional. Hitting a pot-hole might just make that small crack a whole lot worse!
While those wipers are in the air, you might as well take a minute to check them too. They’re made of rubber, so will naturally deteriorate over time. Look for cracking or rough edges, both of which are signs you might need to replace them.
Give them a wipe down too, and replace them gently once you’re done.
Start your engine
If you don’t have the opportunity to go for a short drive, you should at least start the engine up every week or so. Run it for a short amount of time – around ten minutes – to get keep the inner workings moving freely, and to keep the parts well lubricated with oil.
While it’s running, take the opportunity to walk round your car, listening out for any strange noises that might indicate other issues.
Check out the bodywork
Just like with wheels, you’ll mostly be looking for cosmetic damage. It’s totally normal to have signs of wear and tear, particularly if your vehicle isn’t brand new out the showroom. You’re mostly looking for dents, signs of rust, or anything else that looks unusual.
Remember, your vehicle’s manufacturer spent millions of pounds developing bodywork that helps keep you safe in the event of a crash – any significant damage can reduce how effective it could be.
What’s on the inside?
First the outside, now the inside! If you usually commute to your place of work, or just drive on a regular basis, you’ll no doubt be familiar with what your vehicle’s interior looks like.
While you’ve got a bit time on your hands, it’s a good idea to have a good look at the cabin, checking any electronics are in good working order, and making sure things aren’t just rolling around in footwells. That’s right, it’s finally time to throw that empty water bottle in the bin!
A few of the points on our checklist include the odd bit of cleaning, but you might as well go the whole way and give the entire vehicle a good clean. Use a clean sponge or wash-mitt, some warm water mixed with car shampoo, and go for it!
There are loads of different techniques, but we find working top to bottom in stages works well. Start with the roof, then the windows, before moving down to the rest of the bodywork, sills and wheels. Then rinse!
If you have any concerns about the safety or roadworthiness of your vehicle, we’re here to help! Get in touch with your local JCT600 dealership, and we’ll be able to arrange an appointment at a time that suits you.
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