At some point most of us will need to store our car, or at least not use it for a few weeks. 

This is a guide to storing your car and returning it to service while, as far as possible, avoiding many of the problems that can arise.

The storage environment

  • Ideally the vehicle should be stored in a secure, enclosed area. 
  • Open sided carports are not ideal but are better than no protection at all. 
  • Avoid parking near trees or in areas where the vehicle is exposed to atmospheric contamination.
  • Car covers should be used to prevent dust build up that could damage paint and bright work, however, avoid car covers in areas where the vehicle will be exposed to wind, as moving car covers will wear through the paint on panel edges and corners.

Storage options

  • The best way to store a vehicle is to not store it at all, but have someone you trust drive it regularly. This should be weekly for about 30 minutes to allow everything to reach operating temperature and to circulate oils and fluids.  Do not ignore regular servicing as it will still be required even if the vehicle doesn’t travel the specified distance.
  • If you can’t arrange for regular use, the appropriate storage arrangements depend on the length of time you plan to store the vehicle. 

Up to four weeks

For periods up to about four weeks no special treatment is necessary, however:
  • It should be cleaned inside and out and left to thoroughly dry before being stored. 
  • Tyres should be inflated to approximately 30 kpa above their normal pressure. 
  • Connect a smart battery charger that has a trickle charge or maintenance mode to keep the battery charged. 
  • Chock the wheels and leave the handbrake off.
  • Cover tyres to protect them from sun exposure (if applicable)

Returning the vehicle to service

Apart from correcting tyre pressures and disconnecting the battery charger, there are no special requirements for putting the vehicle back into service after a short period of storage.  However, it is important to be on the look-out for any operational issues that may arise. 

More than four weeks

For periods greater than about one month:
  • The vehicle should be serviced and oils, coolant and fluids changed. 
  • Clean inside and out and thoroughly dry before storing. 
  • Keep the battery charged by connecting a smart charger that has a trickle charge or maintenance mode.  Note that depending on the battery’s age and condition, it may fail and need to be replaced. 
  • Place the vehicle on suitable stands with the suspension in a loaded position (its normal operating position) and the tyres clear of the ground. 
  • Leave the park brake off. 
  • As fuel has a definite shelf life, leave a minimal amount in the tank. 
  • Cover tyres to protect them from sun exposure (if applicable)

Returning the vehicle to service

For storage up to three months, remove from stands, attend to tyre pressures, remove the battery charger, and add fresh fuel to the tank. Assess battery condition and replace if necessary. Once back in service watch for any unexpected operational issues that may arise. After longer periods a full service and brake system inspected should be carried out as well. 

A word of warning

Long term storage can result in problems no matter how well the vehicle is prepared, so you need to be prepared for the possibility of some unexpected expenditure.