It’s a bit like putting your car away before you go on holiday, except we don’t know how long this will be. Really important is take care of the battery, which will bleed its charge the longer the car isn’t started. But tyres can also lose pressure, petrol can oxidise and potentially clog up the fuel line, and brakes can corrode and get stuck.
Len, who looks after both our fleet of vehicles that are loaned to journalists and our historic vehicles, shared these tips on how to store your car – and getting back on the road again.
Most batteries hold charge for at least two weeks. The length will depend on how healthy the battery is and how cold the temperature is. If your car is secure, switching off the alarm can help maximise battery life. Len recommends starting the car once a week and letting it run for 15 minutes. Please be aware that you should never run an engine in a garage with the doors shut or leave the engine running unattended. A Smart Charger can also prevent the battery from going flat. Disconnecting the battery is useful if the car is being put in long-term storage, but this will disable the alarm and the central locking system.
If the car is stored in a damp environment, corrosion will appear on the brakes. The parking brake can also seize, where the pads or shoes are in contact with the disc or drum. To remedy this, Len suggests releasing the park brake and wedging “chocks” by the wheels so that your car cannot roll away, if you are on private land. If the car is parked on a public road, moving the car back and forth will help prevent the brakes from binding.
Fill up the fuel tank, to reduce the risk of condensation, which can cause problems over time. Petrol has a shelf life and can go off after three months. Diesel lasts longer, but if the vehicle isn’t used for longer than six months, it’s best to drain the tank and refill it. For other fluids, Len recommends topping up the oil, washer fluid and hydraulic fluid in brake and clutch systems.
When stationary, a vehicle’s tyres lose pressure over time. Inflating the tyres to maximum pressure, as written on the tyre’s side, can help. For cars parked outside, it’s recommended to cover the tyres, to prevent damage from sunlight.
When using the vehicle again, check all the fluids and the tyre pressure before starting. If the battery is flat and needs a jump-start from another vehicle, take care when attaching the jumper leads. In case of brake bind, slowly pull away at first and apply gentle pressure to the brakes to make sure they’re working and to remove any corrosion build up. Take a long journey, if local regulations permit, to give the battery the chance to recharge. And don’t forget to check the vehicle is taxed and insured. Finally, Len suggests avoiding parking under trees, as this could damage the paintwork and result in a very dirty car in a short time.