Preparing your car for long term 'storage'
What you need to do with your car depends on how long your vehicle will be left in storage. As a guideline, we've broken it down to 'up to a month', 'one to three months', and 'more than three months'.
- Don't remove a car battery lead unless you know the radio code.
- Vehicle’s on-board computers can be affected by long term disconnection of the battery – check the car’s handbook or contact the manufacturer.
- Plastic covers should not be allowed to rest on paintwork. Flapping covers can damage paintwork.
- Make a note of what you've done to the vehicle and put it in the car as a reminder when you need to use the car again.
- For long periods or high value cars consider using a commercial storage company.
- You could simply arrange for someone to use the vehicle once or twice a month in dry weather – providing its motor insurance, vehicle tax and NCT, etc. are current.
If you doubt the car battery's ability to remain charged consider investing in a 'smart charger'. These only charge the car battery when it needs it and can be left connected without risk of overcharging.
- Get the anti-freeze concentration checked – particularly in Winter
- Leave the handbrake off if parked off road – chock the car wheels securely first.
- Leave the car windows partially open for ventilation – but only if the car's is in a secure garage.
- Unpainted metal parts can be sprayed with WD40 to reduce corrosion – don't spray rubber or trim.
Up to three months
In addition to the above points;
- Clean, and polish the car – hose under wheel arches to remove mud but make sure it's dry before putting it away.
- Invest in a 'smart charger' that can be left connected to the car battery without risk of overcharging.
- If you suspect dampness, raise or remove carpets and dry thoroughly.
- Check that drain holes in car doors, sills and bulkhead/heater are not blocked.
- Lift wiper arms so that the blades are clear of the glass.
- Talk to the Irish Motor Tax Office about your options to get a refund on your motor tax for the period the vehicle is off the road.
- You may also be able to reduce your motor insurance cover to fire and theft only.
- If the car's in a garage, make sure there's plenty of ventilation
- Alternatively, seal the garage and use a dehumidifier – cheaper and probably better than heating. (A dehumidifier will need a low-temperature shut-off though as it can't work below about 4C but corrosion is not a problem in very cold weather, provided the car is dry and free from road salt.
More than three months
In addition to the above points;
- Carry out an 'oil and filter' service.
- Slacken auxiliary drive belts – alternator, power steering, air conditioning, etc. Don't slacken the camshaft drive belt.
- Lubricate locks with suitable lock oil.
- Spray under the car bonnet, around the battery box, under the wings and the metal in the boot area with WD40 or similar.
- Lift the vehicle onto blocks or stands to raise the car wheels clear of the ground and unstress the tyres.
- If you can, remove the car wheels and store them flat in a cool dark place.
Starting a car left unused for a long time
The work required to start a car that's not been used for a long time will depend to some extent on how well the car was prepared before being put into 'storage'.
- Check tyre pressures
- Check that nothing's nesting under the car bonnet or has chewed through the pipes/hoses
- Re-tighten any drive belts loosened when the car was put away.
- Check all car fluid levels before starting – change the oil once the car's running
- Stale fuel could be a problem – hopefully there's not too much in the car’s tank so that fresh fuel can be added and can get through to the engine
- Taking the plugs out first and turning the car’s engine over is a good idea as this will reduce the load on the engine whilst the oil is redistributed
Check brake operation including the handbrake – the brakes will probably be seized on if the car's been left with the handbrake applied. Try engaging a gear and driving gently, otherwise dismantling may be necessary.
Arrange a full car service, such as an AA Car Service once the car is running again. AA Car Servicing cuts out the inconvenience of taking your car to a garage. When your vehicle needs a service or repair an AA Mobile Mechanic will come to you at a time and place of your choice. And you have the peace of mind that the work completed is AA assured.