How to Maintain a Vehicle You Don’t Use Often
While it’s relatively common to leave a car unused for prolonged periods due to changing circumstances, your vehicles require a certain level of maintenance to be done to keep it running properly. Now that many are sheltering in place amid changing times, taking some time to care for your vehicle can help you avoid a breakdown in the future.
Whatever the reason you need to take your car off the road, we’ve put together an expert guide of everything you should do to make sure your vehicle is protected and its condition is not going to deteriorate.
Where to Store Your Car
First of all, you’ll need to choose a suitable place to store your vehicle. If you have a garage, this is the best choice as it will provide shelter from the elements. You can also look at using heaters in unseasonably cold weather.
Not everyone has a garage, but if you’re keeping your car outdoors, on a driveway for example, then you can still protect it from the worst of the weather with a suitable cover. Here’s Endurance’s guide to protecting your car if you’re parking outside.
Although there’s a cost involved, using a storage facility is another safe and sheltered option. Look for one that has climate control and is not too far away so you can check your vehicle periodically.
How to Prepare Your Car for Storage
Step 1: Thoroughly Wash Your Vehicle
When storing your vehicle, you’ll want to protect the bodywork and make sure there’s no dirt eating away at it. Getting a thorough car wash beforehand can ensure bodywork issues, such as rust or chips, are remedied before sitting idle for long periods.
If you’re looking to wash your vehicle at home, then you’ll need a few items. Grab a bucket, a sponge, car shampoo, and a pair of gloves, and start at the top before working your way down, doing the wheels last. Check out more tips on protecting the paintwork here. Once you’ve given the car a wash, apply a protective coating—wax is a good option, but a ceramic coating or a film is even better and will prevent moisture from getting in.
Step 2: Have a Full Tank of Fuel
If water gets in the fuel tank, you could get rust and engine problems. To prevent moisture from getting into the fuel tank, make sure you fill the tank up before putting the car in storage.
You can also use fuel stabilizer too. It’s simple to add and it can help keep your fuel fresh and improve general lubrication.
Step 3: Put Air in Your Tires
Air pressure in tires fluctuates when there are changes in temperature and this can affect the lifespan of your tires.
Just fill it to the recommended level, not more, as this could overstress the tires, reducing their lifespan. You can check the psi recommended by the manufacturer by consulting your owner’s manual or by checking the sticker on the inside of the driver door (or sometimes behind the fuel cap). A simple tire pressure gauge tool is well worth the investment and means you can carry out this task at home when the tires are cold for a more accurate reading.
Step 4: Check All Essential Fluids
You want to make sure your engine stays well lubricated and prevent any moisture from getting in that could cause corrosion. Check and top up what needs to be topped up, inspecting the brake, transmission and power steering fluid, coolant, and windshield washer. If you’re storing your vehicle over winter, especially if it’s going to be left outdoors, make sure you have enough antifreeze in the coolant mix and in the windshield washer fluid.
Step 5: Get an Oil Change
For optimal long-term storage, it’s good to change the oil too. This is because old, contaminated oil can cause damage to your engine. Oil changes are commonly overlooked due to financial reasons and busy schedules, but taking some tips to get this done is essential to keeping you on the road longer. You can also take your vehicle for a drive around the block to get the fresh fluids circulating around the engine and cooling systems. This will help everything stay lubricated while the car’s in storage.”
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Step 6: Use a Protective Cover
If you’re going to be leaving the car outdoors, get yourself a suitable weatherproof cover to keep the elements out and your car protected.
It’s worth using a cover even if the car is in a garage as it can help keep the cold out and prevent the buildup of dirt, as well as provide some protection from pests. If pests nest in your car, you could be facing costly repairs to remove them and fix the damage when you come to use your car again.
Keeping pests out of your car starts with a deep clean of the interior, removing any wrappers, sticky residue, and other trash. Blocking up potential entry points such as the air vents and exhaust with something like steel wool can also help keep those pesky critters out.
Checklist: Things to Do While Your Car Is in Storage
- Check-in frequently: The best remedy is prevention, so catch any problems early by checking your vehicle every now and again for moisture, damage, pests, and leaks.
- Don’t let the battery lose its charge: If you don’t use your car battery for more than a few weeks at a time, it could lose its charge. If you’re keeping the car in storage, then you’ll want to avoid taking it out for a drive, and you can get around it by using a trickle charger or battery tender.
Checklist: Things to Do Before You Get Back on the Road
When you’re ready to take the car out of storage, you’ll need to get it ready for the road again. Here’s a checklist to keep on hand-curated by our experts to properly maintain your vehicle.
- Check the bodywork for any corrosion.
- Check for pests: telltale signs include droppings around the car or inside it, nibbled cables or fabrics including the seatbelts, nests, and spiderwebs.
- Remove anything you used to block vents and the exhaust.
- Rubber can naturally break down over time. Check the wiper blades haven’t worn and become cracked and unfit for purpose.
- Inflate the tires to the recommended tire pressure.
- Check your fluid levels and fill them up as needed.
- Reconnect the battery if you’ve removed it.
- Wash the car and depending on how long it’s been, apply another protective coating.
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