Depending on how long you’re leaving it, there are a few simple things you can do to make sure your car will be in tip-top condition and ready to use when you need it again.
Remember that even if you’re not using it, you’ll still have to insure your car unless you make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). You can only make a SORN if the car’s being kept off the road.
For long periods or for high value vehicles, consider commercial storage.
As long as your insurance covers it and the car’s taxed and MOT’d, you could simply arrange for someone to use your car once or twice a month.
Up to a month
- If you’re not sure the battery will last, and you have access to power, use a ‘smart charger’. These only charge the battery when it needs it and can be left connected without risk of overcharging.
- Get the anti-freeze concentration checked – particularly in winter.
- If the car’s parked off road, chock the wheels and leave the handbrake off.
- If the car’s in a secure garage, leave windows partially open for ventilation.
- Check tyre pressures.
Up to three months
As well as the 'one month' points above:
- Clean, and polish the car.
- Fill the fuel tank to the brim.
- Make sure the car’s dry if you’re storing in a garage.
- Consider a refund on your car tax by making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).
- You may also be able to reduce your insurance cover to fire and theft only.
- If the car's in a garage, make sure there's plenty of ventilation.
Over three months
As well as the one month and three month points:
- Arrange for an 'oil and filter' service
- Lubricate locks
Storing petrol and diesel
- Petrol stays fresh in a sealed container for about a year but starts to degrade in as little as a month when exposed to the air.
- Stored diesel should be OK for up to a year.
- Diesel fuel specs change through the year – summer diesel will be much more susceptible to waxing in cold weather than winter diesel.
- Condensation in the fuel tank is bad news and can lead to corrosion, water in the fuel and, in diesels, bacterial and fungal growth. Unless you can ensure a dry stable environment, it’s best to store your car with a full tank of fuel to reduce the space for water to condense.
Getting back on the road
Before you start a car you haven’t used for a long time:
- Check that the MOT and car tax are still current.
- Taxing the car will cancel any SORN.
- If you need an MOT, you can only drive the car if it’s to a garage for a pre-booked MOT.
- Check tyre pressures.
- Check nothing’s nesting under the bonnet or has chewed through the pipes/hoses.
- Check all fluid levels, before starting the engine.
- Check the brakes, including the handbrake – they may have seized on if the car was left with the handbrake on. Try putting into gear and driving gently.
Arrange a full service once it’s running again if your car’s been standing for a long time.
Laying up a classic car
Owners of classic cars often refer to leaving a car unused as ‘laying up’ – usually done over the winter to avoid corrosion from cold/damp weather and salted roads. Corrosion isn’t a problem in very cold weather, as long as the car is dry and free from road salt.
Things to think about if you’re ‘laying up’ a classic car:
- Spraying unpainted metal parts with WD40 will reduce corrosion.
- Spray under the bonnet, around the battery box, under the wings and the metal in the boot area with WD40 or similar.
- Hose under the wheel arches to remove mud, but make sure the car’s dry before you put it away.
- Check that drain holes in doors, sills and bulkhead/heater aren’t blocked.
- If you’re really keen you could seal the garage and use a dehumidifier, instead of ventilating it. A dehumidifier’s cheaper and probably better than heating but will need a low-temperature shut-off – they can't work below about 4C.
- If you suspect damp, raise or take out the carpets and dry thoroughly.
- Slacken auxiliary drive belts – alternator, power steering, air conditioning, etc. But don't slacken the camshaft drive belt.
- Lift the car onto blocks or stands to raise the wheels clear of the ground, and un-stress the tyres.
- If you can, take off the wheels and store them flat in a cool, dark place.
- Lift wiper arms so the blades don’t lie on the glass.
- Make a note of what you've done to the car and put it in the car, as a reminder when you need to use it again.