With millions of cars across the UK being driven more regularly after months of inactivity, we’re ready with the right parts and advice to deal with the issues that arise

Lockdowns are slowly easing across the UK and vehicles are on the move once again. Requirements for vehicle testing and certification, which were temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, are being reimposed. 

This means garages and suppliers in the UK are preparing for demand to rise for parts.

Specific vehicle parts are more likely to fail or experience issues when a car is left idle and not driven for a long time. We’re preparing by stocking up on key parts in order to ready ourselves for post-lockdown repair work whilst continuing to meet the demand for a backlog of vehicle servicing.

The issues highlighted below are just some areas we’d like to highlight at a time when you need your cars to be working again.

Leaking air-conditioning

Particularly during a viral pandemic when the quality of ventilation is considered so important to health, having a vehicle’s air conditioning system failure could be a major concern for motorists. While air conditioning systems remain inactive, they receive no lubrication, which can cause the seals to dry out.

In many cases, simply turning on the air conditioning when the car is running will be enough to avoid serious issues. However, we’re stocking up on hoses, sensors, compressors and condensers for air conditioning units that have developed leaks and are in need of repair.

Faulty wiper blades

Since the recommended lifespan of wiper blades is around 12 months, many will be due for replacement as the UK-wide lockdowns come to an end.

If ageing blades are no longer making proper contact with the windscreen, they won’t remove visual obstructions effectively. The most obvious sign of this is squeaking wipers. Customers may view this simply as an irritation but it could also be a major safety issue if visibility is affected. Offering a replacement at the first sign of poor wiper performance is considered best practice. 

Insufficient battery charge

Flat batteries are the most well-known problem associated with leaving a car unused. Despite this, issues could still take owners by surprise as there are misconceptions about how alternators work and the best way to recharge a car battery.

The alternator needs time to charge the battery sufficiently when the engine is on; if the car is used exclusively for short journeys, this is likely to be ineffective in replenishing the battery. This means that after lockdown, when a car has probably only been used for essential trips, problems may arise more quickly. Drivers should be advised to run their engines for longer, especially if they have older or weaker batteries.

Starting the car and letting the engine run in idle for over 20 minutes is a better solution. Replacing the part is best of all.

Spark plug failure

With the engine running idle, it is also one of the best times to detect spark plug problems. If the engine idles ‘roughly’, this may indicate that the combustion process is suffering because of spark plug failure.

Of course, there are a host of other symptoms that result from faulty spark plugs, such as engine misfiring, poor fuel economy and weak acceleration. All these signs may indicate that a customer requires spark plug replacement.

Fuel and oil degradation

Fuel left in a tank for a long time will oxidise, reduce in quality and, in extreme cases, lead to engine damage from the accumulation of impurities.

If there is only a small amount of stale fuel in the tank, the issue may be minor. But drivers who have left more than half a tank unused for three months should be advised to have the fuel drained before refilling.

Petrol is more prone to oxidation than diesel. However, diesel car drivers should also be urged to have their diesel particulate filter (DPF) checked since it could easily have become clogged.

Meanwhile, engine oil levels should also be checked, as the oil could have drained into the sump during the lockdown. Vehicles that do not have the right level of oil can experience ignition problems, potentially resulting in damage to rods, piston rings and cylinders. In addition, vehicles low on oil may also experience a general drop in performance. A quick oil check as part of any routine servicing work can alert drivers to any potential problems.

Last but not least

There are a host of minor issues that car owners could experience as they drive for the first time since lockdown restrictions were imposed. Though some may be addressed by the driver individually, they can all be offered as part of an all-encompassing service; it’s best to get a full professional check to catch potential problems early.

  • Drivers should periodically check their tyre pressure, but this is imperative before the first time a car is used after lockdown since slow punctures can take effect over a period of weeks. Tyre walls should also be checked for cracks.
  • It is important to check that brakes are working properly before cars are used for the first time in months. Brake discs may have rusted during the lockdown. Squeaking brakes could be the first signal of a potential problem.
  • Finally, cleanliness. Many cars will be dirty, on both the exterior and interior, after a period of disuse, you may consider adding a valet service to your next visit. 

We’re aware that customers will also be concerned about hygiene and shared surfaces. Segensworth Automobiles have taken to using anti-bacterial wipes to clean vehicles following servicing and maintenance work.