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 all your questions1 and put your mind at ease, making 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 the Australian 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 - after all, you won’t want your car to let you down. 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 would be to drive your vehicle every six 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

Try to make an effort to not duck out every few days to top up items from the shops. Remember, that if you’re doing so, you’ll have had significant exposure to unsanitised surfaces and people.

2. Wash your hands before and after

Before you leave, make sure you’re as clean as possible. This means sanitising and washing 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 has created this great video that demonstrates how to wash your hands effectively. It says regular, safe, effective hand hygiene using soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitiser is a must.

3. Limit the number of passengers you drive around

The risk of exposure also increases the more passengers you have travelling in your vehicle.

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

Keeping your car environment clean is a vital part of the hygiene puzzle. Think about what body parts have come into contact with potentially unclean surfaces and rub them down before entering your car. Areas such as the door handle, steering wheel, gear stick, air conditioning and radio buttons can also contain a significant number of germs. Clean these surfaces with surface disinfecting wipes each time you get into the car, or some kind of washable wipe covered in an EPA-recommended cleaning solution.

6. Keep an array of sanitisation products

Every car owner should have a first aid kit in their vehicle, now is the time to add a hand and car sanitisation kit. This should at least contain tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, cleaning products and soap.

7. Cover your nose and mouth

Always cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If using a tissue dispose of it and any other items you may have used. It is crucial to not touch your face if your hands aren’t clean. The virus can enter through your eyes, nose and mouth.

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. Failing to clean your hands afterwards could transfer contaminants straight to your door handles, wallet, phone and other items. NRMA’s Motoring Advice team recommends that once home, you clean your steering wheel, gear lever, seat belt, handbrake and anything else you may have touched.

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.

Many Australian new and used car dealerships are still open for business. 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.

With all kinds of measures and steps being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many routine tasks have been thrown into doubt. The annual pilgrimage to your local repairer for your vehicles safety check and roadworthy inspection is one of them.

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

Driver Training

Learner bookings are now open

Based on the recommendations from the NSW Government regarding lifting the suspension on learner driver services, NRMA driver training are now able to take bookings for lessons re-commencing on Monday 25 May 2020.

We want to thank you for your patience, and assure you that the safety of our customers and instructors remains our top priority, with our team following tightly controlled protections and hygiene protocols. We ask that you do your bit by completing the COVID-19 questionnaire and cancelling your lesson if it's no longer safe for you to attend. In addition, please wash your hands or use hand sanitiser prior to entering our vehicles.

We look forward to getting you back on the road to becoming a safe and confident driver.

Senior assessments remain suspended

To continue protecting the most vulnerable members in our community, our senior assessments and services will remain suspended until further notice. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. Please keep checking back for updates.

In a bid to protect customers and workers from the risk of being unable to maintain social distancing rules, driving tests have been cancelled across every state and territory except the Northern Territory for a minimum of two months from 30 March 2020.

Driving

Travel restrictions are currently in place for Australia in line with recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. A number of Australian states have closed their borders, including Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. It has been advised by the Australian Government that Australians must avoid all non-essential domestic travel, and non-essential travel should be postponed, and where possible, cancelled.

Ridesharing

While we’re all trying to do everything we can to keep ourselves and the community safe during COVID-19, we’re aware that Members have questions or concerns about what to do when it comes to car hire and ridesharing. If you’re feeling unwell and there’s a chance that you may have the virus, it’s advised that you steer clear of using a rideshare vehicle. For further information, check out our ridesharing and COVID-19 page.

Travel

ACT: The ACT borders have never been closed. Canberra residents will be able to visit NSW for a holiday from 1 June 2020.

NSW: From 1 June, you can take a holiday anywhere in NSW for recreation and holiday purposes. There is no limit on the distance state residents may travel.

NT: Anyone arriving in the Northern Territory, including residents, will be required to quarantine for 14 days in accommodation provided by the government, accommodation expenses will be covered by you.

QLD: Queensland's borders are closed. Only residents and people who are exempt will be allowed to enter. From June 12 state residents can holiday up to 250km from home. Outback residents can travel anywhere in the outback for recreation.

SA: Anyone arriving in South Australia will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. This includes residents who have been interstate. State residents can holiday anywhere in the state.

TAS: Anyone arriving in Tasmania, including Tasmanian residents, will be required to quarantine for 14 days in accommodation provided by the government. From June 15, camping, overnight boating and shacks will be allowed for state resident groups of up to 20 people.

VIC: There are no restrictions on leaving or entering Victoria. From 1 June, overnight stays at tourist accommodation, caravan parks and camping grounds without communal facilities, will be permitted.

WA: Western Australia's borders are closed. No one can enter WA unless an exemption has been granted — including WA residents. From Friday 29 May, some regional travel restrictions have been removed for residents.

For more information around travel restrictions in Australian states and territories, please visit:

Don't forget: Always practice physical distancing and good hygiene. Public health advice is still in place.

Looking for travel inspiration? Check out our Road Trips guides

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.