Winter lockdown and your car – Part 2

Posted on January 12th, 2021 by Rob Marshall

Winter lockdown and your car - Part 2


We continue our advice, looking at technical issues that winter brings, when using your car infrequently.


1 Starting vs driving

We do not recommend starting an engine and letting it idle on your drive, or in a garage. While the exercise is unlikely to charge your battery sufficiently, it also introduces moisture into the engine and exhaust systems, which is even less likely to evaporate in cold, damp wintry weather. This advice is relevant to all internal combustion cars, including classics, and not just those fitted with fuel injection, as misreported in some popular media outlets.

For modern cars, we advise starting the engine without touching the accelerator, let the engine idle for at least 10 seconds to allow the cold oil to circulate, before driving-off smoothly and gently. The engine can be subjected to heavier loads and higher speeds as it warms.


2 Brakes

While our previous blog warns about park brakes seizing, consider that moisture and road salt accelerate corrosion on the friction brakes. The issue is prevalent not only on short, low-speed journeys but also on cars with regenerative braking, because the friction brakes do not become sufficiently hot to evaporate the moisture from the system.

Corroded brakes tend to bind, so be wary of the symptoms described in our earlier Part 1 blog.


3 Wheels/bodywork

Mud on the paintwork scratches the finish, while salt accelerates corrosion of the bodywork, alloy wheels and certain bright trim. Both salt and dirt absorb moisture, holding the damaging sludge against the paint. Consider also that a dirty car is less likely to dry than a clean one. Therefore, rinse the bodywork, underside and wheels regularly and treat the paintwork to a wash with dedicated car shampoo. Crockery detergent, and other household cleaners, can contain salt, which is why you should never use them to clean a motorcar. We plan to cover the basics of proper car cleaning in a future blog.


4 Undercover storage

We could dedicate several blogs to car covers alone but we shall distil the salient advice. Never apply a car cover to a wet (or dirty) car, because you risk trapping moisture that can damage the paint surface – in some cases, it can cause micro-blistering. A decent outdoor car cover should keep rainwater out but allow air to circulate to avoid condensation build. Be very, very wary of cheap car covers that claim to do both. Often, they represent the worse of both worlds, by letting moisture in and trapping it against the paint. Consider also that the action of a cover flapping against the paintwork will cause more harm, compared to a clean but uncovered car.

Avoid parking a wet car inside a garage, especially if it is unheated. Moisture can take longer to evaporate, compared with leaving the car outside and allowing air to circulate freely.