How to take care of your car during the COVID-19 lockdown

While New Zealanders are in coronavirus lockdown we’re not using our vehicles nearly as much. However, this raises a few questions and some potential issues that we need to navigate over this period.

What if your vehicle’s WOF or COF expires?

The first point is that you clearly can’t renew your WOF or COF during Alert Level 4, because we’re in isolation. Here is the guidance from NZTA while they work with the Ministry of Transport to formalise regulations:

  • Obtaining a new WoF is not regarded as an essential trip during Alert Level 4.
  • Due to the inability to obtain a new WOF at this time all expired WOFs will be deemed current.
  • Any person driving a private vehicle during Alert Level 4 with an expired WOF has a responsibility to ensure their vehicle is safe to operate.
  • Maintenance and repairs can be provided to ensure that a private vehicle remains safe and operational when used for essential purposes.

What about insurance cover if your WOF is expired?

According to the NZ Herald, the Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton has reassured drivers that insurance companies will still cover you for a crash if your warrant of fitness runs out during the lockdown period, as long as your vehicle doesn’t have an existing safety issue.

“If your WOF is due while we are in alert level four don’t worry – your car insurance will still be in place as long as there isn’t an existing safety issue that would mean you might not get a WOF – such as tyres needing to be replaced,” he said.

There is no clarity yet whether people would still be ticketed for having expired WOFs during the level 4 quarantine. A police spokeswoman simply said police would continue their work as usual but had ‘discretion’ over whether to ticket someone.

Car care during hibernation

Here are some handy tips to keep your vehicle in the best condition during the lockdown:

  1. Park your car under cover. If you don’t have covered parking, keep your car under wraps if you can. If you don’t have a car cover, consider using a tarpaulin. This will protect it from bird droppings or leaves that might damage your paint.
  2. Leave the interior clean. Don’t leave food or other kinds of rubbish in your car that might spoil, leave a bad smell, or attract rodents.
  3. Disconnect your car battery. Most modern cars should be fine standing idle for 3-4 weeks, but consider disconnecting your battery if you think you won’t be using your car for longer than this.
  4. Start your car and let it run periodically. If you leave your battery connected during the lockdown period, make sure you start your car every few days and give it a short run to keep your battery charged and your engine lubricated.

Vehicle security

If you don’t have covered, or onsite parking, here are some handy tips to help you secure your vehicle while you’re not using it and there is less foot traffic in your neighbourhood.

  1. Lock your car. This may sound obvious, but if you have remote locking, for example, it can be quite easy to miss. Make sure your windows and sunroof are locked too.
  2. Set your alarm. New Zealand is relatively crime-free, so it’s easy to get in the habit of not using your car alarm. With our cars being parked for longer during the lockdown, as well as less passing vehicle and foot traffic, this is a prime time for thieves to operate. An alarm is a good deterrent.
  3. Keep your car clear. Keep all valuables out of sight, including your radio, if it’s detachable. You can use your car boot (pull the cover over if you have a hatch), or take them inside.
  4. Park securely. If you have a garage, park your car in it. If it’s full of junk, this is a good time to sort through it to make space for your vehicle. If you park on the street, choose an area that’s well lit and as visible as possible to you and your neighbours.
  5. Use your steering wheel lock or wheel clamps. These tried and trusted ‘old school’ deterrents used to be at the frontline of vehicle security before sophisticated alarms came along. If you have one stored away, this is a good time to dust it off and put it back into action.