How to Maintain Your Vehicle and Battery for Storage or Infrequent Driving
With travel plans on hold in the past few months, more vehicles remained in driveways and garages than whizzing down highways. Taking a few steps now will pave the way for a trouble-free start when we’re ready to hit the road again.
Time to Recharge
The No. 1 concern is the battery. Features such as keyless entry, onboard computers and memory settings for power seats can drain the battery in as little time as one week without driving. Invest in a battery tender, a device that plugs into a wall and delivers enough power to the battery to keep it charged, which protects against deterioration. Solar tenders are an option for vehicles that can’t be stored near a power outlet.
AAA members can have a battery service technician come run a battery system health test and make sure battery terminals are tight, clean and free of corrosion. They may also be able to install a battery tender if they have one in their truck.
Plan for Longer Term
Make sure to keep your car insured while it’s stored, as even stationary vehicles are susceptible to damage. Ask your insurance company if they offer lower rates for vehicles in storage.
Keeping your vehicle indoors in a cool, dry place to protect it from the elements is ideal. If outdoor storage is your only option, avoid parking your vehicle under a tree or near any other hazards. Try to park on a level surface or use wheel chocks so you can disengage the parking brake, as brakes can rust and seize up over time. Consider putting steel wool over your exhaust pipe and air intakes so rodents don’t climb inside and make a nest (and leave a note in the car reminding you to remove it later).
Clean the vehicle thoroughly inside and out, because trash can attract critters and a dirty exterior can cause paint problems over time. For more protection, consider a car cover or fresh coat of wax.
Temperature Takes a Toll
Fluctuating temperatures, can cause changes in tire pressure over time and lead to flat spots. Before storing your car, inflate your tires to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, and consider adding 10 PSI to avoid flat spots. Don’t forget to check your spare, but there’s no need to overinflate it because there’s no weight on the tire.
Changes in temperature can also affect oil deterioration. Just because your vehicle won’t be driven, that doesn’t mean it pushes back your need for an oil change. Consider getting one prior to storing your vehicle to remove acid and other contaminants that can cause corrosion. Top up your fluids and fill the gas tank up to prevent moisture buildup.
Ready To Go
When it comes time to hit the road, make sure to undo all the steps you’ve taken to store away your vehicle (a checklist at the beginning will help refresh your memory).
Check for rodents and inspect windshield wipers for cracks. Make sure to check the tire pressure, fluids and disconnect the battery tender.
Wash your car inside and out to remove any dust and dirt so you have a clean start before finally hitting the road.