Try to avoid a flat battery
The best way to make sure your car makes it through long-term storage or significantly reduced usage is to keep its battery healthy.
Using a battery conditioner, or trickle charger, is the most effective way to do this. It will keep immobilisers and other energy-sapping components from draining your battery completely.
Just keep in mind that using these devices could be impractical if your car is parked on the street as you may need to drape cables across the pavement, which can become a tripping hazard for passers-by.
If there are two cars in your household you may want to consider alternating your essential trips in them. You should also be mindful that repeated short journeys will flatten your battery faster than usual, which is even more reason to follow the government’s guidance to shop for necessities as infrequently as possible.
Most importantly, you should avoid turning your engine on, only to turn it off again shortly after.
Take care of your tyres
You’ll need to inflate your tyres to the maximum recommended pressure found on their sidewall, as they will lose pressure over time, even if they’re not being used in motion.
If left for a long period of time this can lead to flat spots and your tyres losing their round shape, especially on older tyres.
If you think you may be leaving your car idle for a number of months, rolling it (very carefully) every so often can ensure the tyres won’t get worn unevenly
Give the car a thorough clean
Scrubbing your car before storing or when using it less frequently will not only help keep it looking its best, but could prevent damage further down the road.
Waxing your car can stop tree sap, bird droppings and harsh weather leaving its mark on your paintwork, but make sure you give the car a thorough clean before applying a coat.
Paying attention to your tyres will ensure brake shavings, mud and grease are removed, which can help to prevent corrosion later on.
Top up vital liquids
You should check fluid levels to keep your engine well maintained and have your car ready to drive when you need it. Top up your:
- oil, but only after safely draining used oil and its corrosive elements. Take your car on one last essential journey so that the fresh oil can circulate around the engine
- fuel, to prevent moisture from accumulating in the tank and rust developing. Adding fuel stabiliser will extend its lifespan too
- coolant, to ensure you’re ready to drive once essential travel restrictions are lifted
- window wash, to make sure your car is prepared for its next outing on the road.
Park in a suitable place
If you’re not planning on using your car for a while you’ll need to leave it parked somewhere safe and sheltered from the elements.
A private garage is the best choice, as it could help deter would-be thieves and vandals, while also protecting your paintwork from adverse weather and other outdoor threats. You should make sure your car is dry and the garage is well ventilated too.
The secure location means you can even leave your car in gear with chocks behind the wheels instead of the handbrake to save the handbrake cable from stretching.
If a garage isn’t an option, try to park somewhere shaded during the day and well-lit at night. Trees offer protection from some types of weather but will leave your car more vulnerable to bird droppings and tree sap, which you’ll have to clean up later.
A cover will protect your car against the outside world but should only be used when it’s not obscuring a necessary parking permit.