Your car in lockdown: 5 claims that may impact you
Lockdown has meant that many of us are barely using our cars every day, which can cause unforeseen problems if we’re not careful.
In a time when money is tight, costly breakdowns are still common and, unfortunately, there’s more chance of problems arising after a car has been standing still for a long time.
South African insurer Bidvest Insurance, who provides extended warranty products to SA motorists, says their top 5 claims during the lockdown have been for Engine, Cooling System, Electrical failure, Fuel systems, and Suspension, which, according to Phil Donnelly, MD of Bidvest Insurance, are common issues when vehicles are parked for long periods of time.
However, we can do a few simple things to prevent the effects of lockdown damaging our prized automobiles and help protect our pockets at the same time. Donnelly and his team of trained technicians shared a few ways of how to prevent some of the top 5 claims from occurring:
1. The Engine – As the most expensive component, this obviously needs regular servicing by suitably qualified mechanics. But the regular starting of your car also helps lubricate the various moving parts contained in the engine, helping to prevent seizing or corrosion. When starting your engine, listen to see if you can hear any belts squealing (it’s a sign of worn belts or dry pulleys) or does your water pump or starter motor squeal when first starting (could be signs of wear or poor lubrication) so whilst it sounds crazy, remember, cars can’t talk to us, so just like pets or children, they often make a noise when they’re not well. That rattling, squealing, whistling, or uneven running can often be a sign that it needs help. If your car's engine makes a noise that isn’t normal, don’t ignore it and call your dealer.
2. The Cooling System – Looking after your cooling system isn’t just about putting water inside the radiator. Whilst we may live in a mostly hot country, our cars still need antifreeze as part of its cooling system, yes even in Durban. Antifreeze also acts as a lubricant and many contain anti-corrosion properties, so make sure you have the right antifreeze to water ratio in your radiator. If you see your temperature gauge rise too high or see it go into the red you should switch off the vehicle. However, if it is safe to do so, you can help cool your car engine down by opening all of the windows and putting your heater and fan onto the full heat setting, so that heat from the engine is transferred through your vents and out of the car. It’s not a permanent solution but it’s an emergency procedure that can help as you make your way to a garage.
3. Electrical Components – Cars contain lots of electrical components that are often expensive, so keeping batteries maintained is important. Keep your car battery terminals clean. If you see white furry corrosion build up on your terminals, carefully pour boiling water from a kettle over each terminal to dissolve the corrosion. Cover the terminal with a little grease or petroleum jelly to prevent a recurrence. If a car is going to be parked for a long time, disconnect the black negative cable, being careful to not touch the positive terminal, as the disconnected battery lasts much longer. If it’s a late model car with sophisticated electronics check with your dealer first or simply take your car for a quick drive every day.
4. The Fuel System – Running your car until the tank is nearly empty is not a good idea, because the dirty fuel at the bottom of the tank is sucked through the fuel system. It can quickly block filters and this can result in fuel starvation and other damage. Also, did you know that fuel has a shelf life. Don’t park your car for months without considering the fuel. Petrol at 30°C is good for +/- 3 months, while Diesel is good for +/-6 months before thickening, which can lead to expensive repairs.
5. The Suspension - Just like your couch, the springs are not going to last forever. So a quick check is simply to push down on each corner of your car to see how much movement there is. All corners should be equal and shouldn't have too much give. If the suspension is worn, the car will bounce up and down like an old jalopy. Similarly, the listening test for suspension systems is also an indicator of early wear. The danger of poor suspension is that it seriously affects a car's braking ability. Dealers can easily do a suspension check for you if you suspect its worn.
Donnelly explains that cars and engines are designed to run regularly, otherwise components can seize up or corrode, so the simple way to lubricate them is to drive your car for 10 minutes. This will also prevent flat-spots on your tyres as well as prevent your brakes from locking, which often happens when cars sit for too long.
"With most of us trying to save money wherever we can, this is not the time to ignore the costs associated with a vehicle breakdown. We are still paying millions each month in warranty claims," says Donnelly, "The best way to protect your wallet is to prevent or provide. Hopefully, these tips can help prevent, but as for providing, well not everyone has piles of cash stashed in a box, which is why a monthly paid warranty is a great solution," he concludes.