Coronavirus: Check your car, AA urges, after spike in flat battery callouts during lockdown

New Zealanders should start their engines once a week during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Automobile Association (AA) says, following an abrupt spike in battery-related callouts.

Ordinarily, about 40 percent of AA's roadside emergency breakdown assistance callouts are battery-related.

That surged to 60 percent after March 25 - an increase of 50 percent - after the Government escalated New Zealand's coronavirus response to alert level 4.

A "large number" of those callouts are due to flat batteries, AA communications advisor Catherine Gaffaney told Newshub. The AA did not have a breakdown of the total number of battery-related incidents it had been called to.

Motor vehicles are not getting as much use during the lockdown, as New Zealanders are only allowed to use them if they're travelling to do essential work or accessing essential services.

After weeks or even days of neglect, motor vehicle batteries run down, leaving them with insufficient charge.

To counter the effects of non-use, the AA recommends starting your vehicle's engine for 30 minutes once a week, to ensure the battery is topped up, and coolant and engine oil are circulated.

There are also maintenance chargers available, the AA says, which are designed to be plugged in and left, and can switch on and off as required to keep the battery topped up.

Another common problem for under-used cars is tyres losing shape and developing flat spots. This can be countered by simply inflating the tyres more than normal the next time you go to the petrol station, the AA says.

Last week, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced that all driver's licences, Warrants of Fitness (WOFs) and Certificates of Fitness (COFs) that expire this year will be valid until October due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Some vehicle certifications that expired on or after January 1 will also be valid for up to six months from April 10.