How to check your car or van is safe after lockdown

If you use a car or van for work or commuting and you’re about to go back to work, you may want to give it a quick once-over before starting your first day back. Don’t risk going back to work in a car or van that could be unsafe. We’ve put together a checklist for you to help assess the safety of your vehicle after what is probably several weeks of it sitting idle.

External Checks

Check for external rust
Especially if you live near the sea, this stationary period could have accelerated the spread of rust to your vehicle. In particular, check wheel arches and door shuts to ensure there is no corrosion that could deteriorate your vehicle and make it unsafe. If you spot rust on your brake discs, don’t worry; this is just a coating and will come off once you drive it again.

Check your vehicle is secure
This applies to both cars and vans, but please note that vans are targeted for break-ins under the expectation that expensive equipment and tools are inside. If your vehicle has been parked out of sight during this time, check that there are no drill-holes near the locks and that the windows are all intact. If it does look like your vehicle has been broken into, do not touch anything, and call 101 to report the break-in.

Clean your vehicle
Ensure that the exterior windows, mirrors and your registration plate are visible. If not, it might be a good time to give the whole thing a good clean. This will help your visibility, and if you have a sign-written van for your business, it will help you to maintain a positive, professional image. Note that tree sap and bird droppings can cause permanent damage to your paintwork so it is always a good idea to keep your vehicle clean.

Check your tyres
Being a tyre brand, we were bound to mention this one, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Vehicles that have remained stationary for a long period of time can develop flat spots where the weight of the vehicle has pushed the tyre against the ground. Check your tyre pressure meets the recommendations from your vehicle manufacturer, and check that your tread depth is consistently more than 2mm across the centre. If not, take your vehicle to a tyre fitter for their professional advice.

Internal Checks

Check your vehicle can start
After being sat for some time, we anticipate that many vehicles will struggle to start. You need to account for this and you may need to jump-start your vehicle or replace the battery. If your vehicle is a diesel, don’t forget to switch the ignition on for at least 30 seconds to allow the sufficient warming of your glow plugs before starting the engine.

Check your lights
Switch on your ignition and check that your lights, fog lights, main beam, indicators and brake lights all work as they should.

Check for dampness
Some vehicles may have damaged seals making the interior damp. This is dangerous, as the dampness can cause internal fog when driving which affects visibility. If the inside of your vehicle is damp, you should leave it (supervised) with all doors and windows open (including the boot/rear doors) on a sunny day for a few hours, and replace or repair the faulty seals. If you have a ply-lined van, remember that dampness could affect the strength of the board and cause any heavy equipment to fall through onto the metal floor of the van.

Check for rust
Internal rust is less common than external rust, but it can still happen, particularly in vehicles where the protective paintwork or upholstery has been damaged and water/salt has accessed the damaged area. Rust weakens the structure of the metal, so if the interior of your vehicle is showing rust, it could compromise safety.

Take it for a drive
Even if your vehicle started perfectly, it will do it some good to be driven for around an hour. Driving a vehicle which has been stationary for more than a few weeks will help re-charge the battery, bring tyres back to their original shape if they have flat spots, and remove rust from brake discs reducing the stickiness of the brakes and any unpleasant noises the brakes might make as a result. By going out for a dedicated drive in your own time, you can travel at a steady pace and ensure the vehicle is safe before taking it on faster roads or motorways.

If you are unsure about the safety of your vehicle, we recommend taking it to a garage for a professional opinion. Our checklist is not exhaustive, but it is a strong start to ensuring your vehicle is safe to drive as the nation begins to venture out into the world once again.

Want to learn more about car tyre safety? Read our guide here.