When your car is not in use, there are steps you should take to keep it maintained. From flat tyres and watered-down fuel to rusted paint and fused brakes, there are plenty of things that can happen to a vehicle, even when you place it in long-term storage. Performing some basic maintenance steps ensures the car stays ready for the road while not being used.
A garage is the ideal place to store a vehicle for long periods to keep it safe from harsh elements such as rain, snow and hail. When a garage is not available, a solid, waterproof cover is the next best option. When choosing a cover, find one designed to accommodate the exact make and model of your vehicle to keep out as much moisture as possible. A public storage facility allows you to keep your car parked indoors and though it comes with a fee, they are typically gated and secured with locks or codes for added protection.
Clean It Before Storing
Before storing a vehicle for any period of time, wash it down, paying close attention to the wheels and undercarriage as they tend to collect more grease and tar build up. A good coating of wax adds an addition layer of protection to the paint job. Cover any scratches with clear nail polish to protect the exposed metal from rusting during storage. If using a cover, make sure the car is thoroughly dry.
If the car has scratches, use touch-up paint to cover them. When left in the elements, the exposed metal can begin to rust. Clear nail polish can also be used as it has the same effect.
Have the Oil Changed
If storing your car for more than a few weeks, have the oil changed beforehand. If a vehicle sits and the oil is contaminated or it has broken down, it can damage the engine once it is driven again. An oil change can be performed on your own, or through the use of a repair shop. When having the oil changed, request a new oil and air filter.
Fill It Up
Filling up the fuel tank prevents any moisture build-up and it keeps the seals from drying out. As an added precaution, use a fuel stabiliser. This can protect the engine from rust and other corrosion from contaminating the fuel. Most fuel stabilisers work for up to a year if the vehicle is not driven.
Keep It Charged
A battery will lose its charge after time when not in use. If it is not possible to drive the car a few minutes every couple of weeks, disconnect the negative battery terminal. Another option is to use a trickle charger. This machine hooks to the battery similar to jumper and plugs into an outlet. It delivers a low amount of electrical power to the battery so that it does not lose its charge.
Leave the Parking Brake Off
When parking a car for long periods, leave the parking brake off. If the parking brake is left on, you run the risk of the brake pads fusing with the rotors, which can cause damage and costly repairs. Use a tyre stopper instead. Also known as a block, a tyre stopper keeps the car from rolling unexpectedly. You do not need one for every tyre as one or two is sufficient.
Before you park that car, check the tyre pressure. Ensure they are at the recommended pressure to prevent the tyres from developing flat spots due to the weight of the pressure. If a flat spot occurs, it can become irreversible and damage the tyre. Tyre pressure can be checked using an inexpensive digital or mechanical gauge found at auto part stores. It is easy to use; just hook it to the valve stem on the tyre and read the pressure. The amount of recommended pressure depends on the vehicle and it is found in the owner's manual.
Keep It Closed Up
When a vehicle is parked in a garage, it is not completely resistant to rodents, which can cause damage to the interior or even the wiring under the bonnet. To prevent mice and other pests from entering, cover any openings, such as the air intake or the exhaust pipe. You can use steel wool for this as it repels mice.
Just because you park your car for long periods does not mean you should stop maintaining it all together. Avoiding a damaged engine, a flat tyre, a rusted body or bad brakes will save you plenty of headaches and expensive repairs. Luckily, all this maintenance takes only a little bit of time and is well worth having your car ready for the road next time you need to use it. Even when you have maintained the vehicle before storing it for a long period, give it a once over before driving it again. This requires checking all of the fluids, the brakes and the tyres.