Maybe you have a convertible that you love to drive in the summer, but now winter has arrived. Or perhaps you’ve decided a more permanent home is needed for your pride & joy. Here are key steps to take before you store a vehicle, preserving the life of the bodywork & engine..
1. Clean It Up
It may seem counter-intuitive to get the car washed when you’re about to put it away for months, but it is an easy step and one you shouldn’t be overlooked. Water stains or bird droppings left on the car can damage the paint. Make sure to clean the wheels and undersides of the arches to get rid of mud, grease or tar. For added protection, give the car a coat of wax.
2. Change the Oil
Skip this step if you’re only storing the car for a week or two. Consider getting the oil changed if you will be storing the vehicle for longer than 30 days. Ford recommends this step in its owner’s manuals, saying that used engine oil has contaminants that could damage the engine.
3. Top Up the Tank
This is another long-term car storage tip. Fill the tank with fuel if you expect the car to be in storage for more than 30 days. Topping it off will prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel tank and keep the seals from drying out. You should also purchase a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-bil, to prevent ethanol buildup and protect the engine from gum, varnish and rust. The fuel stabilizer will prevent the petrol/diesel from deteriorating for up to 12 months.
4. Keep It Charged
An unattended battery will eventually lose its charge. Get someone to start the car every 2-4 weeks and drive it for about 15 minutes if possible. This will maintain the battery’s charge, and keep the engine and other components adequately lubricated. It is also a good idea to run the air-con to keep the parts in working order and the air quality fresh. Failing this, another option is to disconnect the negative battery cable. You’ll likely lose the stereo presets, time and other settings.
TOP TIP: Park the car with the battery-end nearest the door. You can then easily connect jump start cables if needed!
5. Don’t Use the Handbrake
It’s usually a good idea to use the handbrake / parking brake, but don’t do it when you leave a car in storage. If the brake pads make contact with the discs for too long, there is a chance that they might fuse. Instead, purchase tyre chocks to prevent the car from moving.
6. Prevent Flat Spots
Make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended tire pressure. If a vehicle is left stationary for too long, the tyres could develop flat spots as the weight of the vehicle presses down on the tyres’ footprints. This process occurs at a faster rate in colder temperatures and in vehicles equipped with performance or low-profile tyres. In some cases, merely having someone drive the car for a while will bring the tyres up to their normal operating temperature and get rid of any flat spots. In more severe cases, a flat spot can become a permanent part of the tire and it will need to be replaced.
7. Maintain Insurance
You might be tempted to cancel your car insurance when your vehicle is in storage. Although that might initially save money, there is a chance that the insurance company will raise your rates due to the gap in coverage, which could cost you more in the long run. This can vary based on where you live and who your provider is, so contact your insurance company to see what options are available to you.
TOP TIP: If you’re not using the car for more than 30 days, consider notifying the DVLA to put the vehicle on SORN
Here’s a checklist of what to do when you’re ready to bring your vehicle out of storage:
- Check the windscreen wipers to see if the rubber is cracked or brittle.
- Check the tyre pressure and inflate the tires to the recommended specs.
- Check the brakes. Rust may have accumulated on the brake discs. In most cases, it should go away after you drive the vehicle for a short time.
- Check fluids to make sure there have been no leaks and that they are at the recommended levels.
- If the battery cable has been disconnected, make sure that you reconnect it and that the battery terminals are clean.
- Wash your vehicle to remove any dirt that may have accumulated.