Vehicle Maintenance for Essential Drivers

At the time of writing, discussions are still ongoing concerning whether to continue the six months MOT extension, which started at lockdown. Meanwhile, fleet managers and essential drivers still have a duty of care to ensure vehicles are roadworthy, or risk invalidating their fleet van insurance or courier insurance.

Keeping drivers and other road users safe is a top priority and involves making sure vehicles are checked and maintained regularly, whether they have been on the road or mothballed. You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get three penalty points on your licence for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Here is some advice for both essential drivers and those looking to re-introduce their vehicles in the coming weeks.

Keeping Up with Maintenance

For vehicle fleets and independent drivers, the MOT extension reduced the headache of keeping your vehicle on the road despite some garages being shut. However, it’s still essential to keep up with maintenance, especially given that may companies have seen increased mileage.

Here are some areas to check to make sure your vehicle is roadworthy. If you do spot a problem, ‘Highways England Driving for Better Business’ has suggested trying to find a mobile mechanic if garages are still shut or cannot fit in a service at short notice.

Daily check:

  • The windscreen, windows and mirrors are clean and free from obstruction.
  • All lights are working, including headlights, indicator lights, brake lights and reversing lights.
  • Brakes are working correctly without juddering, vibrating or making a screeching noise. You might also notice the vehicle pulling to one side, which could indicate a brake issue or an imbalance or uneven pressure with the tyres.


Weekly checks:

  • Tyres are in roadworthy condition including pressure and tread - cars, light vans and light trailers legally require 1.6mm. There must be tread across the middle three-quarters and around the entire tyre and they must be free of cuts and bulges. Check pressure before your journey when tyres are cold. Warm or hot tyres can give a misleading reading.
  • Check to see where the level of the brake fluid lies. It should be within half an inch or so of the cap. If low, add the recommended brake fluid for your vehicle. Low brake fluid may result in brake failure and a potential accident. Learn to recognise the low fluid warning lights if your vehicle has them fitted.
  • Engine oil levels are in accordance with the manufacture’s handbook,
  • Water level in the radiator or expansion tank is sufficient and the windshield washer fluid levels for front and rear windows.
  • Battery power is sufficient


Mothballed Vehicles

Whether your vehicle has been sitting in the depot or on your drive, it doesn’t do well if not being used. If you are intending to keep it off the road for a further length of time, Driving for Better Business recommends starting it every few weeks to prevent the battery going flat, blowing through the air conditioning to keep the lubricant flowing and moving the vehicle to prevent flat spots on tyres.

Whilst some people may be tempted to disconnect the battery during a vehicle’s inactivity, it recommends against this as it can interfere with the computer system in modern vehicles.

Reinstating Your Vehicle

Depending on how long your vehicle has been off the road, it is a good idea to have it checked over by a mechanic before venturing too far. Aside from areas such as tyre pressure and low battery power (which can also affect the engine management lights), there could also be rodent damage because of chewed wires or even nests. Modern electronics can also cause issues when left un-driven for long periods of time.

Insights company Cazana also suggests checking for brakes sticking and maybe tarnished and lightly rusted discs, air-con systems for recharging, navigation and infotainment systems that may need to be reprogrammed due to lack of use and that diesel particulate filters are in good order.

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