What checks should I make before driving and why?
Vehicles that sit for periods of time can affect the tyre pressures and if left with low pressure can damage the structure of the tyre making it unsafe for road use. To avoid this you should ensure your tyre pressures are inflated to the maximum recommendation. You should be able to find this information inside your driver’s door shut on most BMW models.
Your vehicle handbrake can stick if not used regularly. To avoid this you should release it occasionally to avoid damage to essential braking components.
when used infrequently and only for short essential journeys, your battery may suffer as it has not been allowed to charge. To avoid issues, start and run your vehicle occasionally in an open-air environment. You should tie this in with your weekly trip to the supermarket ideally to avoid unnecessary travel. If you are keeping your BMW in storage you should remove the battery and charge if not used regularly.
You should inspect your windscreen regularly to ensure that any chips are not obscuring the drivers view and have not progressed to cracks
If your BMW is rarely used or not driven long enough to maintain optimum running temperatures, you may find the quality of the engine oil is affected as a result. If the vehicle is sat for long periods of time the internals of the engine collect moisture that can contaminate your engine oil causing its lubrication properties to be affected. To avoid problems down the line, try to ensure your vehicle is running for a minimum of 15 minutes once a week.
You should not need to top up your coolant if you have been following your BMW service schedule but you should keep an eye on the level as if it is reducing visibly you may have a leak in the system
You should always check before driving that all bulbs are working and functioning as they should. You are at risk of prosecution if you drive with failed bulbs
You should try to replenish your screen wash with the same as what it has already been filled with or if you are unable to do this, let it run empty and refill will a screen wash with anti-freeze mix.
You should not need to ensure your BMW always has a full tank of fuel during the lock down, however you should ensure you have enough fuel so that you do not have to make regular trips to the fuel pump. When you need to tank up you should use gloves when touching the pump and dispose of these immediately afterwards, ideally use antibacterial gel and wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and warm water as soon as possible.
Where should I park?
Well this ultimately depends on whether you need your BMW or not. If you are able to put your car into storage, then the ideal place would be a garage or workshop to protect your paintwork from the great British weather. If like many, you still need to use your BMW although less frequently, then you should seek to park close to your home, ideally visible from your home and in a well-lit area to deter thieves. Also on the note of thieves, remember to take all valuables out of your vehicle to reduce the risk of opportunist criminals. It is also important to ensure your alarm and/or immobiliser are working correctly and your battery charge state is good.
Advice for those essential journeys
It is important to note that whilst only performing short essential journeys your BMW engine may not be warmed up properly. Essential journeys only may also mean it is less likely you will be driving on dual tracks and motorways. Driving less frequently than usual means it is less likely that faults will be noticed. If you have more than one vehicle you should try to alternate use between them. Some garages are still open for essential repairs if you feel your vehicle is unsafe or un-roadworthy. Of course you should minimise time out to reduce the spread of coronavirus and do your bit to help flatten the curve.
Driving smoothly should ensure that you save fuel and hopefully make it less likely that mechanical issues will arise in the near future. You should ensure that you occasionally allow the engine to rev fully which will reduce the build up of carbon deposits which can clog your vehicle DPF and damage swirl flaps if you still have them fitted to your BMW diesel engine. As always you should ensure you allow your engine to warm up and cool down fully as your oil is thicker when it is cold.
It is important to note that despite the Government MOT extension for vehicles from 30th March, you are still at risk of prosecution if your BMW is deemed unfit for road use.
Since 2009 all diesel vehicles have a DPF, or diesel particulate filter, fitted. The diesel particulates are collected in the Diesel Particulate Filter and will be burned off during a regeneration. If your DPF warning light illuminates on your BMW dashboard you should have this checked by a trusted garage. This is a common sign that a regeneration is needed usually because the vehicle hasn’t been driven long enough to perform its own regeneration and carbon build up is too excessive. If not performed your engine may go into limp mode. This will affect the vehicles performance. The issues with this during the Coronavirus lockdown is that most individuals will not be driving for long enough at a continuous speed to enable this to happen automatically. Signs your BMW DPF is regenerating include a hot smell from the exhaust, engine note change and potentially an increase in idling speed and engine tone.
Should I clean my car?
Of course! Now it is more important than ever to keep your interior clean and free from germs. You should ensure you have cleaned all contact points of the vehicle such as door handles and your steering wheel, and that you can safely see through your vehicles windows.
A dirty exterior can contribute to corrosion, lacquer peel and paint fade to name a few. If cleaning your car, you should ensure you are able to practise social distancing so only clean your car if you are on your own driveway or land and can safely remain at least 2 metres distance from persons other than members of your household at all times. Unfortunately if your car is parked on the road then this is not considered an essential activity.
Do I need insurance and tax?
Yes! Keeping your vehicle taxed and insured is still as important as ever, even if you are not using your vehicle at all. If your vehicle is completely out of use and stored on private land, you can submit a SORN so you will not need to pay your vehicle tax. You still need and off road insurance if in storage
The Government have announced that volunteers helping keyworkers during the coronavirus pandemic do not need business insurance.
You may now feel that breakdown cover would be of use to you with many garages closed or on skeleton staff to give you extra peace of mind.
Preparing for after the lockdown
If your BMW has been in storage your first job should be to ensure your vehicle is taxed and insured correctly for going back on the road.
Your first drive, if it was extended during the lockdown, should be to an arranged MOT at a test centre or garage.
Your next step should be to book in for a service if it has become past due during the lock down.
A garage should be able to check over your vehicle for signs of damage or corrosion if it has recently come out of storage. Your tyres should also be checked for damage if the vehicle has been off the road and stood for some time. Fluid levels should also be checked and arranged to be changed if necessary. Your brakes should be checked for corrosion or sticky / seized components.