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Avoiding flat batteries and flooded engines: Ways to keep cars in good condition while sitting idle

AA Ireland said a lot of breakdowns at the moment are from faults caused by lack of use.

Image: Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem

CAR USERS SHOULD be starting their engines every few days to avoid a flat battery while cars are sitting idle for most of the time in recent weeks, AA Ireland has advised. 

The insurance company AA Ireland said it has seen an increase in the number of breakdowns, around 250 a day, often due to a fault caused by lack of use lately. 

Its rescue workers given some advice on how to keep cars in good condition while most people have been using them less. 

Avoiding a flat battery 

Flat batteries are the main problem with cars at the moment that have been left unused for a long period of time. 

Although non-essential travel is currently not on the cards, the AA said starting your car for at least 20 minutes every few days can help to keep the battery from going flat.  

It’s advised to do this in an open space rather than a shed or other enclosed area to avoid overheating from poor air circulation and the build-up of fumes. 

Taking the car for a short drive will charge the battery faster, but it can be charged just as effectively at home with this method. 

Avoiding a flooded engine 

A petrol engine floods is flooded with fuel when it’s sqitched off too soon after being started from being turned off. This happens with petrol engines regardless of how old they are. 

To steer away from this, the AA advises to avoid starting and then switching off the engine within a 20 minute period. 

If the vehicle has to be moved a short distance to let another car out, for example, it’s advised to leave the engine running for at least 20 minutes to decrease the chance of flooding and keep the battery in a healthier state of charge. 

Warning lights

People are advised to keep an eye on their warning lights, as always. These are generally measured on a traffic light system – red lights indicate immediate attention, while yellow/amber lights indicate to drive straight to the repairer.

However, if the light is yellow/amber and there is a difference in the vehicle’s performance, people should immediately stop and seek assistance. It’s advised to contact your garage in advance to make sure they are able to help you. 

Oil levels 

Now is as good a time to check oil levels in your car as any. 

Ensure your car is on level ground, pop the bonnet and find the dipstick. This might not apply to more modern makes of cars, so check in with the owner’s handbook first. 

It is advised to wipe the dipstick clean and look at the minimum and maximum markers. 

Put the dipstick back in place and then remove it again to see where the oil level appears. As long as there is oil somewhere between the minimum and maximum line, it’s safe to drive the car. 

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However, if the oil level is below the minimum line, or close to it, you should avoid driving until it can be topped up. 

When filling your oil, check your handbook to make sure it’s the right oil for your car.

Look for a rubber cap with an oil symbol on it, and pour the oil in slowly to avoid overfilling.   

Check the oil again a few minutes later, adding more until it reaches the desired level. 

Tyre check 

Check with your handbook again to see the correct tyre pressure for your car. 

Use the air pumps at petrol stations to inflate tyres if necessary, and ensure you aren’t over-inflating them. 

It’s also advised to adapt your driving to help reduce wear and tear on tyres. Avoid aggressive cornering, harsh breaking and driving at high speeds.  

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