Cars, driving and COVID-19: your questions answered

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In light of the unprecedented change upon all of us due to COVID-19, our Members have come to NRMA with questions on everything from maintaining their car to car registration and insurance. We're here to answer your questions to make sure your car is fit to resume normal service when you are.

The most important thing that you can do during this time is to follow the advice of the health authorities and Government. If you are looking for motoring advice, our experienced team of NRMA motoring specialists are available to help Members and non-Members, simply call 13 11 22.

 

Car Maintenance

Think of the checks you’d normally make to your car before setting off on a holiday; most of them are exactly what you’ll want to do before going into isolation or lockdown. Start off by checking your car’s oil, and topping it up if needed, as well as other vital fluids, such as brake and windscreen washer fluid. You can see the levels of both of these by looking under your car’s bonnet and checking the vehicles maintenance handbook to identify the respective reservoirs.

If your car is taking longer than usual to start, or if you know your battery hasn’t been changed in a long time, it’s worth investing in a battery charger. Battery charging can be a way to increase the longevity and performance of your car battery, however if you suspect your battery is extensively damaged or are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of batteries and battery chargers, your NRMA is here to help.

Finally, take the time to check your wiper blades and tyres and make sure that neither is worn. Worn wiper blades will leave smears across your windscreen and are ineffective at helping you see. Checking your tyre pressures every week or two is a good interval but, if you don’t drive a lot, you might need to check your tyres more often than at every fuel stop. It’s handy to keep a tyre pressure gauge in your car, because the readings on service-station air pumps aren’t always accurate. Tyre pressure gauges are inexpensive and available from motor accessory stores such as Repco, where NRMA Members are able to access discounts. It’s important to remember, that when doing any sort of maintenance on your vehicle you wipe down all of the equipment and sanitise your hands.

The best option is to drive your vehicle every few weeks for 30 minutes as this will put your brakes, gearbox, suspension, driveline and other key components through their paces, making them ready once you start driving again. If you do decide to run the engine, be aware of the dangers of exhaust gas in enclosed spaces. A battery saver is a great way to prevent the battery from going flat and are available from motor accessory stores such as Repco, where NRMA Members are able to access discounts.

Make a habit of doing a quick visual check of the coolant level in the overflow bottle each time you fill up with fuel. If the level is low, ensure you don’t remove the radiator filler cap until the engine is cool – it usually takes a few hours after a drive. If you’re topping up or changing the coolant yourself, check the owner’s manual, or call NRMA motoring advice on 13 11 22, for the correct type and quantity of coolant to use, as well as the right method.

For further information, check out the why engine coolant is so important article.

1. Only make essential trips and carry face masks if you must drive

Follow government advice. During lockdown periods, only go out for essential items with one person per car, where possible. Make sure you are carrying face masks and hand sanitiser in the car.

2. Wash your hands before and after

Before you leave, sanitise your hands and doing the same as soon as you return. It’s important to be mindful that there are other people who may be more vulnerable to illness than you. The World Health Organisation says regular, safe, effective hand hygiene using soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitiser is a must.

4. Drive through where possible

Using services such as drive through or stop-and-grab chemists, as well as other shops will help limit your exposure. Businesses offering these services may be more common than you think, especially now.

5. Keep your car well sanitised

Keep areas such as the door handle, steering wheel, gear stick, air conditioning and radio buttons sanitised. Clean these surfaces with surface disinfecting wipes each time you get into the car.

If you haven’t been driving your car or it’s been left sitting idle because of the current lockdown, you may not have enough power in your battery to start the engine. And while it may seem like a good idea, running your vehicles engine five minutes a day is not enough to maintain your car battery.

To maintain the charge in your vehicles battery you need at least 30 minutes of driving - depending on the vehicle and the battery age. However, with the current restrictions in place, we recommend using a battery charger. With a fully automatic charger, it can be fitted to maintain your pride and joy or, used as a normal battery charger. Charge every two weeks and you’ll extend the life of your battery, restore battery performance and minimise the chances of breaking down.

If car travel is essential, and you’re worried about your battery – we provide a free battery health check for Members and can assist you with all your battery needs.

If you’re after a battery charger, or a battery for your car – the NRMA are here to help. Simply call 1300 726 751.

It’s important to keep your hands clean at petrol stations. When you pick up the handle, you’re holding a pump that has passed through countless hands. While petrol stations will no doubt be stepping up cleaning, you can forgo some of the risks by sanitising your hands and putting on gloves before leaving your car. Once you’ve filled up, invert the gloves and throw them away in the bins provided. Before you get back into your car, ensure you wipe and sanitise your hands.  

Here's a step-by-step guide on what to check before and during hibernation.

Before hibernation

  • Make sure there is sufficient fuel in the tank, we suggest a minimum quarter of a tank.

    Note: For diesel vehicles with hibernation periods above six weeks, it is recommended to ensure a full tank of diesel fuel to avoid possible moisture build up.

  • Check the engine oil and fluid levels. Be sure to top up where necessary and refer to your owner’s manual for specifications.
  • Check tyre inflation – refer to your owner’s manual or tyre placard or, on the tyre for recommended pressures.
  • Make sure the engine starts and runs.  
  • While the vehicle is running, check for any warning lights on the dash.
  • Make sure the parking brake is applied.
  • Ensure all doors including the boot door and tailgate are closed correctly.
  • Store the vehicle keys in an easy find but, secure location.
  • Wash and use a car cover if leaving the vehicle out doors. 
  • Clean inside and remove any food scraps or dirt. It’s important that the car is completely dry before storage, so take it for one last drive to dry the brakes and to stop them from rusting and locking on.
  • Review your vehicle service schedule from a time perspective ie. will your vehicle service fall due during the Hibernation period? – if so, plan to get the vehicle serviced prior.
  • Take note of your vehicle registration expiry date, should it be within the hibernation period– plan ahead to ensure the vehicle retains valid registration.
    Note: Vehicles older than five years will require a Safety Inspection (Pink Slip) at an Authorised Inspection Station.

During hibernation

  • Check the engine oil and fluid levels. Be sure to top up where necessary and refer to your owner’s manual for specifications.
  • Make sure the engine starts and runs. Do this every two weeks.
  • While the vehicle is running check for any warning lights on the dash.
  • Check tyre inflation – refer to your owner’s manual or tyre placard or, on the tyre for recommended pressures.
  • Drive the vehicle for a minimum of ten minutes every six weeks.

If you’re cleaning your car at home, ensure that you follow the water wise rules where they are applicable.

1. Empty out the interior

Take out any loose items, rubbish, debris and coins. Put them somewhere safe, where they can’t transfer contaminants to surfaces like your kitchen counters. Take a peek down the abyss between the front seats and the centre console, and you may find a small fortune there.

2. Vacuum

Take a vacuum and extract any dust and loose particles. Work from the top down in a methodical manner and make sure you hit all of the crevices in the seat cushions and stitched seams. Don’t forget to lift out your mats and shake them off before vacuuming, then you will be able to access the footwell carpeting where you can vacuum those areas too.

3. Wipe

Take your cleaning solution of choice and begin wiping the car’s interior surfaces. Continue to clean the cloth, as you don’t want to spread the dirt. If your car manufacturer says it is safe to do so, leave the cleaning solution on the surfaces for twenty seconds to kill any germs, before wiping away.

If you are at a communal site, it’s important that you follow the social distancing requirements. Before getting into the car wipe down the door handle with a wipe and do the same to the interior door handles, steering wheel, gear lever, handbrake and seat belt once inside.

Insurance and Registration

If you don’t need to drive your car, you can renew your vehicle’s registration up to three months after the expiry date. The new registration period will start from the date you make the payment, however the expiry date remains the same and you won’t get a full year of registration. This provision has always been in place and is stated on the RMS website here.

If your vehicle requires it, obtaining a safety inspection (pink slip) is still necessary to register your vehicle. Currently, there is no restriction on leaving your home to take your vehicle an Authorised Inspection Station for a pink slip. If you are unable to leave your home due to self-isolation please wait until after your period of isolation has ended. Once done, you may be able to get a mobile pink slip provider to come to you. You can check if there is a provider in your area here. Once you have your pink slip, you can register your vehicle online – remember, it is illegal to drive an unregistered vehicle.

Although many Australian new and used car dealerships are still open for business, follow Government advice. Most car dealerships have responded well to the COVID-19 precautions suggested by government and many are able to provide electronic opportunities via carsales and other vendors. For more information click here.

Check out How do I register my car during COVID-19 lockdown? for everything from getting a pink slip to registering online.

Driver Training

Please stay up to date with NRMA Driver Training for the latest on learning to drive during the pandemic.

Travel

 Keep up to date with travel restrictions in Australian states and territories:

Don't forget: Always practice physical distancing and good hygiene and follow public health advice.

Free motoring and technical advice

Our experienced team of NRMA motoring specialists are on hand to help

 

1. Please note: The above is optional only. If you have a COVID-19-related question and unsure of the answer, please contact your local authority.