If you’re not going to use your car for a few weeks or even months, you’ll want to make sure it stays in good condition and that it’s safe to drive when you need it again.
Ensuring the battery doesn’t run flat and checking your tyres regularly can really help you avoid a stressful start to your first time back behind the wheel.
Here are some simple steps you can take to keep your car ready for the roads.
Check electronics are off
Have you ever turned your car engine off, only to find out later on that you left your lights on? It’s easily done, especially if you’re in a rush or you’re distracted by your kids.
So just be sure all electronics are off, including the radio, before switching off the ignition.
Keep it covered
If you’re fortunate enough to have a garage – and you haven’t been tempted to turn it into a junk room – then this is ideal for keeping your car safe and protected from the elements while it’s not in use.
If you’re going to leave your car outdoors, on a driveway or parked on the street, it might be worth buying a weatherproof and secure car cover to keep your car clean, dry and hidden from prying eyes. The Honest John website recommends Dupont Tyvek car covers, which can be tied down with a washing line wrapped under the car, so they don’t blow off in high winds.
Before leaving your car under wraps, check the windows are fully closed and do what you can to keep away animals like rats or mice that might try and make their home in your vehicle. Auto Express recommends stuffing clean rags into the exhaust pipe and any other areas animals could nest. Before driving again, make sure you look under the bonnet to see if any wires or belts have been chewed on.
Clean it up
Don't put your car away while it’s wet or grimy. It’s really worth giving it a clean first. Things like old bird droppings left on cars can lead to paint damage. Give it a wax too for a bit of extra protection.
Start it when you can
Your biggest concern may be the battery running flat. The AA says that most modern cars with a fairly healthy battery should last at least two weeks before needing to be started up.
When you start your car, allow the engine to run for 15 minutes to re-charge the battery and help keep the engine in good condition. If your battery is a little older, you could do this more often, perhaps once a week. When keeping your car running, make sure you do it in a well-ventilated space, as exhaust fumes in a closed garage can be dangerous.
Alternatively, you could use a smart charger to keep the battery topped up.
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Top up on fuel
Keep your car topped up with fuel, even if it’s not going anywhere for a long time. It’ll be ready to go when you need it, and will prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel tank.
Other fluids need considering too if your car is to be unused for a while: check your oil level and change it if necessary (all the information you need to do this should be in your car manual), and lubricate your car door locks and boot hinge to ensure they keep working smoothly. A lithium grease based car lubricant will do the trick.
Look after your tyres
Cars left unused for weeks or months can get flat spots, when the weight of the vehicle sitting on one spot flattens out part of the tyre.
The good news is that these flat spots normally disappear after a bit of driving around - although the car may feel unusually juddery at first.
To prevent flat spots, Halford recommends increasing your tyre pressure by 3 psi before leaving your vehicle unused.
Keep it safe from thieves
Don’t forget security. Before giving your vehicle a long holiday – preferably in the garage – check you haven’t left anything that might tempt opportunistic thieves; that includes anything from a satnav to sunglasses.
Also, ensure your alarm or immobiliser is enabled when you leave your car, by checking for the flashing light on your dashboard. If you don’t have an immobiliser, you may want to consider buying an alarm or a trusted classic - a steering wheel lock.
Keep your car insured
By law, your car needs to be insured if you leave it parked on the street, on your driveway or even in your garage. The exception is if you’re storing your car off the road and decide you’re not going to drive it at all, in which case you’ll need to get a Statutory Off-Road Notice or SORN. You can find out more about registering your vehicle as off the road online.
Taking care of your car while you’re not using it can go a long way in ensuring that you’ll be able to drive safely and carefree once you’re back on the road.