Following an announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the whole of England is entering a third lockdown.
The new restrictions, which will pass into law on Wednesday January 6, mean non-essential shops have been ordered to close and people told to stay at home unless they need to leave for work or a handful of other essential reasons.
For drivers, that leaves them questioning what garage services they can still access and whether they can still have MOTs and servicing carried out.
Are garages open?
During the previous UK-wide lockdown garages were classified as an essential service and were therefore allowed to remain open throughout to carry out “essential repairs or services”.
This remains the case in England, even under the new national lockdown.
That means that should your car need urgent attention from a mechanic there are still garages open that can carry out the work.
However, individual garages are not obliged to stay open and some may choose to close in order to protect their staff and customers.
Most garages that are still open have introduced simple measures to protect staff and customers. These include staff wearing gloves and regularly washing their hands; having hand sanitiser in public and staff areas; wiping down cars before and after carrying out work; implementing social distancing on site; minimising interaction and reducing staff numbers.
Some have also introduced online booking systems and zero-contact handovers, and others offer collection and delivery services to minimise the number of people visiting their premises.
Should I still take my car to a garage?
With a full lockdowns in place across England, the message is that you must stay at home unless your journey is essential.
Under the previous lockdown, taking your car to a garage for emergency repairs was permitted. So if your car has developed a serious or dangerous problem and you need to use if for essential journeys – such as getting to work or grocery shopping – then you can, and should, arrange to have a garage assess and repair it.
Garages will continue to provide MOTs as normal and your car must have a valid MOT to be driven. So, if you need to travel for work, you can still take your car for a pre-booked MOT test. There has been no indication of another MOT extension like that offered in March.
For minor problems or basic maintenance you should use your judgement about whether it is “essential” or whether it can wait until restrictions have eased. There is plenty of advice on basic checks you can carry out at home to ensure your car remains roadworthy and the Government has issued this checklist of areas to check to stay safe.
While garages remain open, if you or anyone in your household has Covid-19 or displays any of the symptoms you should not leave the house, even to take your car for urgent repairs.
Are petrol stations still open?
Like garages, petrol stations are regarded as essential retailers and permitted to remain open during the various lockdowns to provide fuel for those who need to use their cars.
As at other businesses that remain open, most are taking precautions to try to limit the spread of the disease. These include closing some forecourt kiosks, employing distancing measures in forecourt stores that remain open, and asking customers to only use contactless payments or pay-at-pump options.
What about car dealerships?
As under previous Tier 4 restrictions, car dealerships are required to close. However, the Government has confirmed that they can still operation a click and collect service for vehicles ordered and paid for online or over the phone.
However, their service departments will be allowed to remain open under the same exemptions that allow all other garages to continue to operate.
The previous closure of car dealerships and the broader impact of the lockdown on people’s lives saw a devastating drop in car sales, with new registrations falling by 97 per cent at the peak of lockdown.