How to keep your car in tip top condition while not in use
Over the last year, with several periods of lockdown and advice to work from home and only travel when essential, many of us have found our mileage dropping significantly. Cars that have usually been used for the daily commute have been left stationary in driveways for long periods of time.
This isn’t the best news for our cars as a variety of issues can emerge if they are left without any attention for long stretches of time. The last thing you want is to return to your car to discover a flat tyre or that it won’t start. Or that rust has started to damage the exterior. Here are a few simple ways you can make sure that your car will be in tip top condition when you return to it and ready to tackle any journey.
Look after the battery
Some of the most common issues with cars that have been left to their own devices for long stretches of time are battery related. One option is to simply disconnect the battery which would prevent it from going flat. This way you won’t risk leaving anything running in the car accidentally that could drain the battery. Sat navs and dash cams are some of the top culprits in these cases.
If you’re not happy with disconnecting the battery, you could hop in the car once a week or so and start the car. This is more important with older models. Most newer models should be able to sit quite happily for a couple of weeks without starting. You don’t need to go anywhere, just make sure you’re in neutral with the handbrake on and run the car for a short while to top up your charge. If you can, try and do this at the warmest time of the day, especially in the winter. Starting the car in colder temperatures requires more energy, so try and nip out at lunch time if possible.
If you’re parked in a garage, make sure you pull out onto the driveway or park up somewhere else to do this.
Another option is to leave the battery on charge using a trickle charger. This is really only a practical option if you are storing your car in a garage or under cover in a driveway close to an electricity source. A trickle charger will slowly add charge to the battery over time and they are commonly used when a car is put into storage.
If the car is being left for months at a time without being used, it might also be a good idea to take a look at the battery every now and then and make sure that you can’t see any visible signs of corrosion. Have a quick look at the terminals and make sure they’re clean and that there is a good connection between the battery and the vehicle.
Look after your tyres
It’s a good idea to check your tyre pressure regularly in any case as this can help elongate the life of each tyre and can improve your fuel efficiency. However, if you’re not going to be using the car for a while, it’s definitely sensible to check them before you park up for the last time as they can lose pressure over time. Check the vehicle handbook which will indicate where to find the correct pressure for each tyre. Usually inside the fuel cap door or on the door sill on the driver side. Check the pressure again when you start driving again and top up if necessary.
Fill up the tank
It’s a good idea to top up the tank with fuel before leaving it for a long time. The main advantage of this is that a full tank won’t attract condensation which can cause issues if left for a while.
Give it a clean
It’s important to keep your car clean to protect the paint and any parts of the car that might be exposed to dirt or salt on the roads. Rust could develop, especially if it’s winter and you’ve been driving on roads that have been salted. Give it a good shampoo to make sure there are no impurities that are going to cause damage while the car is sitting there. If you’re parked under a tree, especially in one where birds like to sit, it might be worth doing a quick shampoo every now and then as bird poo can also damage the paintwork.
Think about where you park
If you don’t have your own garage or driveway, have a good think about where you’re going to park your car. You might want to avoid parking under a tree for the reason mentioned above. You probably don’t want to park too far away from your house, so you can easily pop out to check on it every now and then. You might even want to invest in a car cover which will protect the paintwork. You can get indoor and outdoor varieties and lots of different sizes to suit different makes and models.
If you are going to store your car in your garage, make sure that it’s as clean and dry as possible as the damp will cause all sorts of problems. It might also be worth checking for any pests that might have made their home in a corner somewhere.