Lockdown motoring

Motoring tips this week courtesy of MrH, former Test Engineer and brakes specialist (including F1, R&D, and brakes for ordinary cars), who still looks after my car.

Cars hate being left standing, their batteries discharge, their brakes stick on, tyres get UV damage and lubricants drain from where they should be. European manufacturers have the Bavarian Forest Test where ares are parked up in the damp forest for a few weeks and see if they’ll still start and drive afterwards.

Chances are you’re not using your car(s) or not using all of them at least at the moment. Don’t expect your car to start or be drivable if you leave it standing still for 3 months.

If you can, store it indoors, if not (for example: I’ve sensibly converted my former garage into a brewery), then your car still needs some care:


  • Either charge the battery every few weeks or run the engine (assuming you have an internal combustion engine) for 10 minutes to charge the battery and get the oil and water around the engine. Beware of solar chargers without smart control circuits – the continuous topping-up is not good for the battery either. If you let the battery run completely flat it can cause damage and you’ll end up having to find your radio security codes etc. (and nobody wants that).
  • If you are making occasional trips out then spread those across all your cars.
  • When you do start the car to charge the battery, just driving it a few metres forwards and backwards are probably all it needs to keep the brakes from sticking (the friction materials on the brake pads rust to the discs). If they do get stuck you may have to do some hard braking to free them up to stop the tyre dragging and they can release with quite a bang, do not be alarmed (but do test the brakes afterwards!). Even with this care the brakes are going to sound very “wire brush” for a few tens of miles when you start to use the car, this is just surface rust and will wear off fairly quickly. You may also be able to feel and bump-bump-bump though the brake pedal as the spot on the disc where the pads sat for a while runs under the pads, again this will wear away soon enough.
  • Despite standing still the tyres are still ageing in the sun, a summer’s worth of UV exposure just on the tops may be as bad as driving on them, if it’s really going to sit still in a nice sunny spot, almost any covering over the wheels will slow down this process, just remember to remove the covers when you do finally drive it!

Drive safely.