Maintenance: Is coronavirus in cars a risk?

coronavirus in cars

The COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted via droplets in the air from people coughing. So if someone with the virus coughs into their hand then touches a door handle and you touch the handle after them and rub your eye or similar, you could catch it.

Why cars might be at risk of coronavirus

If someone with the virus gets in, they could spread it to in-car surfaces such as door handles, dashboard, ventilation controls and radio volume knob. If it’s a family member, partner, or work colleague and they drive the car, the steering wheel and gear lever may need wiping down.

How to clean for coronavirus in cars

First of all, wash your hands regularly, as per UK government advice. Then clean hard surfaces in your car. You can make your own wipes by combining 60% water with 40% household rubbing alcohol. Alternatively, use diluted disinfectant or bleach. According to experts at the London School of Hygiene, you need a concentration of about 0.5% pure bleach.

Most domestic bleach has a concentration of 4.5-5% so you need to dilute it down. Then spray it onto a clean cloth (not the surface in the car) and wipe surfaces down thoroughly. Be warned: if you have fabric seats, you don’t want to get bleach anywhere near them as they may mark permanently.

Instead you might want to go for a product that’s marketed as anti-bacterial and anti-virus.

coronavirus in cars
It might be old and beautiful but not even this 1972 Alfa Romeo Montreal is immune from transmitting coronavirus

How long does coronavirus live on solid surfaces?

Research is still ongoing into the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus but similar viruses can be spread onto solid surfaces in droplets from people coughing. They might then survive on these for anywhere between two hours and nine days according to research by scientists. The authors of the report in the Journal of Hospital Infection concluded: “Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to nine days. At a temperature of 30°C or more, the duration of persistence is shorter.

How long can coronavirus in cars live for?

At this time of year, the interior of a car isn’t particularly warm – unless we’re inside with the heating on. What’s more, it’s unlikely to get to 30°C or more. So assuming the above research is correct, the virus could live on the hard surfaces of a car’s interior for a few days.

Who is at risk?

Given the above, it would make sense that driving instructors and taxi drivers are particularly vulnerable to catching it. Not only are they in a confined space with various people (it’s difficult to practice social distancing in a car). But the virus could be spread onto hard surfaces by droplets in saliva and survive. Mechanics could also potentially be at risk, if they’re working on a car that’s just been dropped off.

But it is important to stress that the virus doesn’t just live in the atmosphere. And neither does it survive for long on soft surfaces such as fabric seats.