Our lives have been turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a nation, we’ve been spending more time than ever in our homes due to lockdown restrictions. With the roadmap out of lockdown recently revealed and the easing of restrictions week on week, embracing our new normal is edging ever closer.
For drivers currently working from home due to Covid-19, the easing of restrictions means the chance to get back onto the road once again. But with the average car spending months on the drive or locked away in the garage, how do you ensure your return to normal life isn’t plagued by vehicle issues? Here we take a closer look at how to safely restart your car after lockdown…
How to restart a car battery
If you haven’t been using your vehicle at all during the lockdown period, chances are your car battery may have run flat. A flat battery can occur due to a long list of reasons, with chilly weather, the battery’s age and lack of vehicle use over a long period just some of the common factors.
Even those taking only short journeys (to nip to a nearby shop for instance) may find that their battery is dead once they come to use their vehicle. Solving a flat battery and getting your vehicle working again however is easier than most people think, especially if your battery hasn’t completely discharged.
We’d always recommend having access to a car battery charger. They’re handy tools that make rectifying all-too-common flat battery problems a breeze. Simply plug your battery charger into the mains and leave your vehicle to charge.
If your vehicle has completely discharged, you will have to jump-start it. Most drivers have a set of jump leads in their vehicles; put them to good use by reading our guide to jump-starting your car. If you don’t have jump leads to hand or another car to jump start from, why not try push starting?
Put your vehicle into second gear and turn on the ignition whilst pressing the clutch down. Get a friend to push the vehicle until it clocks 5 to 10 miles an hour. At this point, release the clutch and the engine should start. Press the clutch in again to stop the car from stalling. When push-starting, it’s important to keep the car moving for at least 20 minutes to charge the battery.
How to restart a car computer
If your vehicle is equipped with an onboard computer, it may require a reset if your car hasn’t been driven for some time. Failure to do so could influence your vehicle’s operation more than you think. Without restarting your car computer, your vehicle may not start. It could also cause your check engine warning light to illuminate or result in engine issues, including poor fuel economy, efficiency or acceleration.
Resetting your car computer will restore the vehicle’s engine control modules (or ECM) to its default settings, but be warned, this is not as simple as switching the computer off and on again. There are two methods you can use to reset your car computer. The first requires your battery to be switched off, and you’ll need a battery wrench or pliers, cable ties or some insulating tape, and baking soda.
Use the wrench or pliers to remove the battery terminals and then the battery. This will break the circuit. You should then short the positive and negative wires by tying them together with a cable tie or insulating tape. Leave the wires to short for approximately 45 minutes to drain the circuit. At this stage, it’s a good idea to clean the battery and its terminals with a mixture of water and baking soda. This will take care of any rust that’s present, but be sure to rinse the battery after cleaning. Once the 45 minutes is up, reinstall the battery and connect the terminals.
You can also reset the car computer with your battery switched on, although this does require specialist tools (namely a fuse puller and code reader) and knowledge as you’ll be working on the vehicle’s fuse box.
How to restart your car if it stalls
If you come to use your vehicle and it starts but goes on to stall throughout your journey, this can present another inconvenient issue. There are many reasons why cars stall, the obvious one being that your car hasn’t got enough fuel to run. A lack of air and an inability to ignite can also cause stalling. Faulty parts that may have been overlooked and not remedied during lockdown could be to blame too.
If your car has stalled, come to a safe standstill by gently pressing the brake to slow your speed. Before you attempt to pull away again, press the clutch and select first gear. You can then begin to gently accelerate. Lift your foot off the clutch pedal gradually until you find your bite and release the handbrake whilst lifting the clutch and pressing the accelerator. The car will then begin to slowly move, once it does take the pressure off the clutch while continuing to accelerate.
If your vehicle continues to stall, seeking advice from a professional (like us!) to rectify the underlying issues is vital.
Don’t take any chances by following these golden rules!
Before you start to use your car again, be sure to prioritise vehicle maintenance. By completing these essential checks and tasks, you can navigate post-lockdown life safely and conveniently. Check your engine oil, brake and clutch fluids, and coolant levels, as well as your fan and air conditioning belts. Your tyres may also be underinflated after this prolonged period of inactivity so spend some time before your first journey inflating these to the correct air pressure.
You don’t have to take on your post-lockdown return to the road alone. For just £25, you can enlist our professionals to complete a ‘Keep Fit for Cars’ to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy. In addition to topping up essential fluids, checking your tyres, and giving your vehicle a long-overdue clean (both internally and externally), we can even top up your fuel so you’re ready to take on any journey.