All packed up ready for a gap year. Passport, sunglasses, money…. Oh wait. What should I do with my car? Is it okay to leave it just like that or is there anything that I have to particularly take care of? Some say it’s better to unplug the engine terminals, some even suggest removing the tires. What about the car insurance? Should I terminate it? It seems like there’s a long list of things that you’ll need to deal with your car, but don’t exactly know what to do and where to start. Don’t worry, here’s a guide of what you need to pay attention to:
1. Change the engine oil
If you’re leaving your car for more than a month, it’s best to change the oil. This is so as the contaminants in the engine oil could cause damages to the engine. Having
2. Fill up the petrol tank
Fill it to a full tank when your car is to be left for more than a month. This is to prevent the accumulation of moisture in the fuel tank and seals from drying out.
3. Prevent tires from going flat
It is a good idea to inflate the car tires to the recommended pressure or maybe a little more (245-280kPa) to compensate for normal air loss and prevent flat spots. Flat spots occur when a vehicle is left stationary for a long period where the tires’ footprints are pressed down by the vehicle’s weight. Low temperatures can hasten the process, so it’s better to have someone to drive your car once a while bringing the tires back to their normal temperature and preventing flat spots. If the storage is more than a month, consider removing the wheels and place jack stands at each corner. Although this means more work, it can save you from spending on a new set of tires. Without the weight of your vehicle, the tires can remain in their shape when you return after a month or so. Reminder: Resume to the recommended pressure before getting back on the road.
4. Clean your car
Yes, clean it up! Although you may argue that it’s unnecessary as you’ll have to give it a wash when you’re back, it is something you shouldn’t overlook. Car paint can be irritated by bird droppings or water stains left on it. Make sure you clean the mud, grease or tar on the wheels and fenders too. Do not forget about the inside. Remove especially food scraps as this can attract rodents.
5. Do not use the parking brake
It is advisable to not use the parking brake when you plan to leave your car for a long period. The reason is that the rotors might fuse when the pads have contact with them for too long. Get a tire stopper (chock) to prevent movement.
6. Keep the battery charged or unplug it
If possible, have someone to start your car every fortnightly for about 10 minutes. Driving the car occasionally can maintain the battery’s charge. It’s also advisable to turn on the air-conditioner so that the parts can run and ensure the air quality is fresh. Don’t worry if you can’t get someone to start your car, you have two other options. The easier option is to unplug the negative battery terminal. Under the maintenance section in your owner’s manual, you’ll find safety procedures which you can refer to. You might need to reset your stereo, time and other settings when you return to your car. Another option is to purchase a battery tender (trickle charger) which plugs into a wall outlet on one end and connects to the car battery on the other. This helps in supplying electrical power to the battery from discharging. You’ll not lose your presets on the stereo and time too. Note: Car batteries contain acid, so handle with extra care. Avoid contact with clothing, and especially skin and eyes. Car batteries release explosive gas, therefore never smoke near one and avoid flames and sparks too. Safety precautions: Turn off all switches, no metal jewelry (rings, watches, bracelets etc) and wear eye protection.
7. Cover up your car
Ideally, a vehicle should be stored in a well-ventilated, relatively stable temperature and dry place. A garage would be a good choice. If you don’t have one, you could check under ‘parking’ and ‘storage’ in Yellow Pages. If you prefer not to spend money on storage and would rather park outdoors, make sure you get a weatherproof car cover to help maintain your car clean and dry.
8. Keep rodents out
Keeping your car in the garage keeps it warm and dry, unfortunately, these are the two factors that attract rodents. Rodents like to hide in cars and chew things. So, try covering up gaps to prevent mouse from entering, for instance, the exhaust pipe. Steel wool is a good tool for this. Spread mothballs (naphthalene) or peppermint (which is said to be unpleasant to mice) all around your car. Alternatively, place a few mousetraps and rat poison. If you’re taking this step, it is advisable to have someone check regularly, in case casualties happen. Otherwise, you’ll need to attend to a much worse smell than mothballs when you return.
9. Car remain insured
You might think of cancelling your car insurance while you’re away and the car is not in use for a long period. Yes, it saves money, however, your rates will increase when you resume the insurance as there’s a gap in between, which would cost more eventually. Different insurance companies may have different policies, so it’s best to contact your insurance company to check out available options.
It is not necessary for you to follow all 9 steps when you’re leaving your car. This depends largely on how long you’re away. You may choose to skip some steps, like covering it up, jacking it up or spreading moth balls all around, if you’re only away for a month or so. However, it is best to do all of them, especially if the getaway period is more than 3 months. When you’ve done with all the steps, unplugging the battery terminals, cleaning it, changing the engine oil, having someone to drive it occasionally…….you’re ready to leave! BON VOYAGE!