How to avoid COVID-19 while using your car, or when in someone else's vehicle.
- shares

The global coronavirus pandemic has placed most of the world, including the auto industry, into a state of constant flux.

As manufacturers raise their hands to create life-saving ventilators and car dealers brace for a sales slowdown, many consumers are left pondering the practical repercussions of mandated social distancing rules.

RELATED: Victoria's second stage three lockdown – your car and driving questions answered

And during a period of such great uncertainty, there's no such thing as a dumb question.

Fuelled by this mantra, we went to professionals to get answers for you.

Can I go for a drive for leisure reasons, or take a road trip?

No. People have been told not to leave their homes unless they are carrying out one of several essential activities.

These reasonable excuses vary from state to state but typically include: travelling to and from work or education, travelling to obtain food or medical supplies, travelling in an emergency situation and or travelling to provide care.

Can I have a passenger in my car's front seat?

Technically, you can be joined in your car by people from your own household, or up to one other person from outside your household.

To prevent transmission of the virus, the government's official advice is to maintain a 1.5-metre distance from other people and to avoid physical contact.

That means, unless you're the proud owner of a car with a 1.5-metre centre console (we could only think of the Ford F-350), it's probably best you don't have another person in your car at all, let alone in the front seat.

If you must share a vehicle with someone from outside your household, you should suggest they sit in the backseat, avoid touching the same surfaces, avoid touching your faces and both wash your hands before and after getting in the vehicle. Disinfecting any touchpoints in the car is also advised.

How do I properly clean my car?

For this one, we tapped Michael Simon, the owner of premium automotive concierge service Carcierge, which is still carrying out maintenance services for its clients amid the crisis.

"Prior to getting in the car, we’re spraying the door handles with Glen 20 and wiping them down with antibacterial wipes. Then we're disinfecting all the commonly touched things inside the car, like door handles, the steering wheel and the gearstick," Mr Simon said.

"When we're handing the car back, we're doing the same process again. Plus all our staff are wearing disposable gloves. We're also disinfecting car keys."

Can I still get my car serviced or repaired?

Yes, at this stage most service and repair centres will remain open, but it will vary according to location and capabilities.

"There will be those that don’t have capacity or capability, there will be those that have been directly impacted through sickness or financial hardship," Richard Dudley, CEO of the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA), said.

"MTAA’s national position is that we are an essential service, end of story.

"It’s quite clear we are an industry that allows other industries to operate effectively. You can’t have delivery of takeaway food if you don’t have a vehicle that’s going to operate effectively."

For those who require spare parts, there may be delays in sourcing parts from overseas due to manufacturing closures, so check with your service provider whether your car could be affected.

"Over the last 48 hours we’ve had conversations with our smash repair constituents around the country and [availability] really is dependent on the brand and type of part," Mr Dudley said.

"Some repair shops had a backlog of parts they'd already ordered, but new orders may not be delivered. It's expected to get a little bit worse as manufacturing shuts down around the world."

Can I buy a used car?

Yes. There has been an increased reliance on personal transport due to the risks associated with public transport and taxis, prompting some non-car owners to consider purchasing a used vehicle in order to get around.

James Voortman, CEO of the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA), says "people are allowed to buy new and used cars", with dealers and prospective buyers required to implement social distancing processes during test drives and the transaction process.

For more detail on this subject, read this article.

Can I take a car for a test drive?

Yes. If you're interested in buying a new or used car, contact your local dealer and they'll inform you of logistics.

Some dealers are bringing cars to customers' homes if requested and all vehicles are being sanitised before and after test drives, with contactless handovers to ensure social distancing practices are observed.

Trade-in valuations and sales enquiries are also being contacted online, while some dealers are embracing smartphone apps and video technology to conduct vehicle handovers or respond to sales enquiries on new, demonstrators or used cars.

For more information on the contactless sales experience, read this article.

Can I go to a petrol station?

Yes, petrol stations remain open despite shutdowns, but the official health advice is to wear gloves where possible, avoid touching your face and wash your hands after using the petrol pump.

Pay by card or contactless payment where possible, or exercise appropriate sanitation methods if handling cash.

Are dealerships still open?

Yes, for now. According to James Voortman, CEO of the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA), dealerships have not yet been asked to close at this time.

"At the moment, dealerships have not been required to close under the restrictions announced by Government," Mr Voortman told CarAdvice.

Can I still buy a car if I need to?

Yes. "Right now, consumers can still physically go into a dealership to purchase a car," Mr Voortman explained.

"Like other businesses, dealerships have put in place a processes to abide by the Government’s social distancing requirements.

"I am also hearing that dealers are responding to the current environment by offering services which limit the need for contact with customers.

"Things like contracting can be done remotely and initiatives such as at-home test drives are some of the ways they are adapting to this environment."

Can I get in an Uber or taxi?

Uber and similar services as well as taxis remain functional, although Uber has suspended its Uber Pool offering, given multi-passenger ride-sharing is inadvisable during this time.

It's recommended you avoid close contact with your driver (maintaining a 1.5-metre distance is ideal), use hand sanitiser upon getting in and out of the car, don't touch your face and wash your hands after exiting the vehicle.

Drivers of taxis and ride-hailing vehicles are encouraged to employ thorough cleaning practices as required.

What other precautions should I be taking?

Although petrol stations are regarded as an essential service and will therefore remain open, Mr Simon of Carcierge advises being prepared (without going full toilet paper hoarder, of course).

"Fill up now so you have a full tank of fuel, maybe make sure you additional fuel in the garage and ensure your car is roadworthy. We’ve found in the last week that a lot of our members are just getting servicing done 'just in case' which is a good idea if you can manage it," Mr Simon said.