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Guide to Preparing your car for long term storage

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.

One month

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.