Whether your favourite convertible has no use in the winter times or you are stuck inside as a result of Corona regulations, you cannot just leave your car in the driveway indefinitely without risking damaging it.
Of course the risk of your car being in an accident are minimal if you don’t drive it, but there are other risks that endanger the durability of your vehicle. In this post I will point them out and explain how you can prevent your car from turning into a rusty wreck.
The elephant in the room
This article describes how you can protect your car from all dangers that are caused by not driving your car for extended periods of time. If you don’t need to drive your car for a long time (perhaps because you are stuck inside as a result of corona regulations) it seems a good idea to just take your car for a short drive every once in a while. Indeed, it can prevent a lot of issues like a deep discharged battery, clumpy oil, etc.
But don’t celebrate too early, there are still factors you should account for to make your trip up and down the street a success. Just turning on your vehicle and moving it to the next parking spot to rotate the tires might save your rubbers, but you increase the risk of a rusty battery. Only if you properly use your car you can fix the minor issues; start your car and let it run warm, then drive for a bit. If you do this you don’t forget also turn on your air conditioning system to keep the parts running and prevent stale air from building up in your car.
You don’t have to be a genius to realize that if you don’t move your car for a while this will influence the tires. There are a few measure you can take to protect the tires from destroying themselves and to make sure you can drive your car when you want to use it again.
If you are storing your car in a protected place you can considering jacking up your car. This reduces the pressure on your tires, which in turn reduces leakage of air. It will prevent your tire from developing flat spots which can give the rubber tiny cracks and tears. Some people recommend filling up your tires with nitrogen instead, because it would leak less than oxygen.
When discussing the battery of your car when stored a lot of people will have different ideas about what is best to do for your car and battery. Modern vehicles have a lot of electrically powered equipment and sensors, which can even be turned on when your car isn’t running. This can result in your battery draining within two weeks.
If you don’t drive your car for a while the battery takes a hit, that is of course no surprise. When the battery is not deep-discharged yet you can probably still jump-start your battery and you are in the clear. However, if you leave your car unused for extended periods of time and the battery fully discharged you are risking permanently damaging the battery, which often is followed by an expensive replacement. The simplest risk-reducer is to disconnect the negative cable from the battery. You can risk losing some settings of for example your stereo, but at least you reduce the risk of ruining your battery. The more civilised solution is hooking up your battery to a trickle charger. You connect the device, also know as battery tender, to your battery and plug it into the wall. The device will deliver enough power to the battery to make sure it doesn’t discharge.
Rust is one of the greatest fear of car lovers. And yes, when you don’t use your car, rust can still endanger your beloved vehicle. The use of a (weatherproof) car cover is a controversial measure. On the one hand it protects your four-wheeler from dust, wind and rain. On the other hand it could catch and hold on to water. So if you decide to use a cover make sure it is made of the right weatherproof materials and if it is actually a suitable cover for your specific car. A way better solution would be to store your car inside. This is a drier place, and an additional bonus is the more constant temperature.
Not just the body of your car is susceptible to rust, the internals of your vehicle can also oxide. A smart move would be to run your car hot before you store it. You push as much water out of the trajectory of your fuel tank out from your muffler.
To see how to prevent your tank from rusting read the next paragraph of this article.
In general, you could leave fuel in your stored car for about six month, but this of course comes with some conditions. The first advice is to make sure your tank is full when you store the car for more than 30 days. There are two reasons for this. First of all it prevents moisture from collecting on the inside of the fuel tank, and secondly it prevents the seals of the fuel tank from drying too much.
Standard gasoline is believed to be good for about six months, whereas E85 disintegrates in less than those six months. Diesel is said to have a longer lifespan and could be good up to a year.
You can consider buying a fuel stabilizer. This mixture can prevent the fuel in your car from disintegrating in the tank and ruining your car. This is especially a danger if you plan on storing your car for longer than six months.
Other Liquids in your stored car
Another very important liquid in your vehicle is oil. For most cars it is recommended to change the oil every six months if the required mileage is not reached. If you want to be extra, extra careful you can change your oil after your car has been stationary for extended periods of time. Waste in your oil, like tiny metal parts, settle after a while and could be mixed again once you start your car after a while. Therefore it might be effective to change your oil before you start it again. This will not have the biggest influence on your vehicle’s performance, so unless you are driving a really vulnerable old-timer or expensive to maintain luxury vehicle you can save the hassle.
Don’t forget the details
You are not there yet, here are some minor details you might not immediately think about when storing your car for a long time.
Don’t use parking brake and leave it in neutral
“Wait, I should not use my parking brake when I leave my car for a long time?” Yes you heard that right. The brake pads can fuse with the rotors if they are under pressure for too long. The same holds for your clutch, so also make sure your car isn’t in gear when you say goodbye for a while. In order to prevent your car from rolling away you can use tire stoppers instead.
Fix the paperwork
Don’t overlook the details of the paperwork related to your car. It might be tempting to cancel your insurance, but double check the fine print. You won’t be insured to theft and fire damage anymore. Figure out if it is worth it to buy separate insurance for this.
Another disadvantage of cancelling your insurance is that your rates might be higher when you want to start driving again. Consider your specific case to see what the best options are for you.
If you are just using your car a lot less than usual it is at least worth it to update your average mileage with your insurance provider, this can result in a tremendous drop in your monthly rates.
Check with your local government if you still have to pay road taxes. This can also save you a nice penny, but this again depends on your specific situation.
If you store your car for a while it is possible that it misses it regular, mandatory mechanic visits, like the MOT (or your region’s version). This is generally not a problem if you do not drive, but as soon as you plan on using your car again you should make sure that your car is in order and that it is legal to enter the road.
Critters looking for a home
Nature finds a way. Yes, also to your precious car. If you store your car in a garage, your dry and warm car becomes very attractive to rodents and other small animals. Some things you can do to prevent from animals making your car their home and possibly destroying vulnerable parts are covering entrances and making the car a less habitable place. Covering things like your exhaust pipe and air intake will stop animals from nesting in there. Also think about putting mothballs in the interior of your car.
To do when you finally hit the asphalt again
You have survived the prolonged separation from your car and you can finally take it for a spin again. Don’t just turn it on and hit the road, do some small checks first. You can start by checking under the hood if any rodents visited your vehicle. Check for nests and chewed cables, belts and hoses. Next you should check your tires. Make sure they aren’t cracked and that the tire pressure is up to standard. Check for rust in the most important places, like brake discs. Finally check the details like the levels of your fluids (oil, coolant, etc.) to make sure they are still sufficient and that there have bene no leaks. Finally check your windshield wipers for deteriorated rubber.
That’s it. Congratulations! You took the time to take care of your vehicle and it pays of. You ensure that you can drive safely and you reduced damage to your car.