Chances are, because of the crazy world we live in right now, you and your big hunk of metal sitting in your driveway have taken a step back in your relationship. Wondering how to look after your car when you’re not driving it as much as you would normally?
Top Tips for an On-the-Road Hiatus
You’re not driving your car for a few days at a time, or maybe even a month or more goes past. You might’ve even managed to completely self-isolate and don’t plan on leaving the house until the pandemic is completely over…
Whatever the situation, you’re probably wondering how long your car can sit without driving it. Or whether a few days off makes much of a difference. And if there’s anything you should be doing to protect it.
If your hunk is the jealous type, and he’s spending lots of time glaring at the two-wheeled, pedal-powered version in his den (aka garage), then some TLC is just what he needs to reassure him.
Plus, it’ll keep his tin-heart pumping with love for you, and engine purring along nicely when it’s time to take him out again. Read on to learn how to care for your car while you’re on an unplanned hiatus.
Give His Body (and Undercarriage) a Keen Polish
Allay his fears and give his body some lovin’ with a thorough clean, wax, polish and buff dry. Be mindful of any water restrictions in your area!
Then, give his undercarriage a once over and treat any less than desirable impurities and corrosion if you know how. If you find anything you can’t fix, it’s time to get that seen to ASAP.
Take care with any dents or scratches that you don’t do further damage. Use your finger to apply a little silicon lube over his rubber seals and windscreen wipers to stop them perishing. He’ll really thank you if you go so far as to give his interior a good massage with leather protector or vinyl oil, while a soft wipe of his mirrors and inner windows will have him twinkly eyed at you.
Further protect his cabin from mould and mildew with a moisture absorbing Hippo or similar. And consider installing a dash protector, windshield and steering wheel cover (and lock to help prevent theft) if he’s being stored outside. It’ll help with sun damage and, even if you’re putting a cover on him, it’ll help with radiant heat inside.
Give Him a Soft Bed Indoors Out of the Weather
Sweep out the garage, close the windows and lay out some soft carpet or underlay. Your hot-rod will love you for being his protector in giving him a soft bed out of the rain, wind, dust and damaging ultraviolet sun.
Not just that, the bed will spread his weight out over a larger area, increase his contact with the ground and insulate his tyres against cold concrete (reducing the chance of flat spots).
Make his home smell fresh and clean by scattering cotton swaps dipped in peppermint oil around him. It’ll repel mice and other rodents who might cause hidden damage while he’s waiting for you to return.
If you don’t have a garage, then sheath your hunk in a thick, breathable car cover. Avoid plastics because they can cause sweating. This can lead to nasty corrosion, mould and paint blisters. Ouch.
Thinking about parking him under the shade of a tree? Don’t. Corrosive bird and bat droppings can eat his paint – even through his cover.
Want him to even more loved? Visit regularly and check for signs of rubbish, dirt or small animals that can get into the engine bay or between his body and his cover and cause damage.
TIP: If your set of wheels is going into professional storage, don’t forget to update your insurance provider on where it will be.
Look After His Ticker
When your hot-rod is left to his own devices for lengthy periods, his tin-heart can lose charge over time. This makes it harder to turn him on (and nobody wants that).
It’s unsurprising that with most of us practicing a certain degree of self-isolation, our roadside assistance service is seeing more call-outs due to vehicles being driven infrequently.
If your break is extended, give his ticker a boost by investing in a battery maintainer. This handy device maintains current within the battery to prevent it from discharging too far. Then, starting your car that’s been sitting for weeks is no problem!
No battery maintainer? You might be wondering if, or how often, you should start your car while it’s it’s lying dormant. We recommend turning it on and revving it up at least once a month, for long enough to get it warm under the bonnet (around 30min). Or even every couple of weeks to be safe, especially if you have an older battery. A battery’s chemical capacity reduces as it ages.
And if you are taking him on the road every week or few, to buy groceries or for another essential trip, drive to a store/location a little further away so his ticker gets a good lift.
Car Storage Prep: Under the Hood
Your hunk is a complex beast (brains too, not just brawn), with moving parts and liquids that can cause damage if they’re dirty and left to settle.
Keep him purring by treating him to a full service – replacing oil and fluids, even brake fluid if he’s going to be sitting for a while. A quick spritz of his battery tray with some fragrant WD-40 will even keep corrosion away.
Idle moving parts can get stiff or seize over time, so sooth his door latches, locks, bonnet hinges (and other inward-facing bits that swing, latch or pivot) with a smear of lithium white grease.
If you can’t do some of this yourself then know that car maintenance and servicing workshops are (at the time of writing) considered an essential service. If you really must, take him for a date at your local mechanic’s place.
Also note that handbrakes can fuse or fail when left on, so chock his wheels instead. We recommend you gently manoeuvre his gearstick into gear if he’s the manual type, or leave your automatic hunk in park.
Take Him Out and Fill Him Up
Did you know that if you’re leaving your car for more than a few months, then a half empty petrol tank makes it gassy? Luckily, we’re just talking about oxygen in the tank. Less fuel = more oxygen.
It’s lucky that there’s nothing your hot-rod loves more than being wined and dined – and now is the perfect opportunity! While you’re on your extended break, his volatile petrol will evaporate, causing condensation that will react with the oxygen, and eventually cause oxidisation (aka rust).
If his half-used fuel is left to diminish, it can become gummy inside the tank and engine, clogging filters, injectors and fuel lines over time. The solution? Wine, dine, and treat him to dessert with a fuel stabiliser. This will protect his tank and engine if it’s going to be a while before you go out together again.
Is your hunk a diesel? His tank will survive longer (up to a year) without any additives, but more fuel means less condensation, so time to take him out on a date. Petrol station. Fun!
As for electric cars, they can be charged to capacity and left plugged in without constantly consuming energy. They’re clever enough to manage the charge level to ensure their battery remains in tip top shape. Without costing you a mint.
Satisfy His Tyre Desire
No one loves a bald, or in this case flat, spot. Over time, even the most expensive tyre will lose pressure. It’s time to fill them up.
Follow the recommended PSI for your car under heavy load if your break will last months (hint: 40-50 PSI is above normal and helps prevent flat spotting).
How long you leave your car parked will also depend on whether it’s a good idea to remove his tyres altogether. Can’t take your hunk for a spin and get him all revved up once a month? Jacking him up and removing his tyres will protect them best. Store them on a cool, dark place while they’re off the car.
Think Long Term
It’s easier than you think to look after your car when not driving it, right? And when you’re ready to start driving regularly again, all this TLC will pay off. You’ll be able to kick off your relationship exactly where you left it.
But be aware, even with the best preparation for storage, your car might experience some hiccups. So, it’s best to give him a once over and check his fluids, replace his fuel or just head straight to your mechanic just to be sure.
Remember, whether you’re driving or not, it’s important you’re properly insured. At PD Insurance, we can help you get the best deal on your comprehensive car insurance. We offer a range of discounts, including one for exclusive owners of their car.
We also offer an early shopper discount, a claims free discount and a paid in full discount. Need contents for your car too? We’ll cover you.
Over to You – How to Look After Your Car When Not Driving
Do you have any more tips for someone on a break from their car? Any other thoughts on how long a car can sit without driving? Or how to look after your car when you’re not driving it?
Let us know in the comments and if you liked this article and please share with friends.