Just because you’re not driving your car, that doesn’t mean that it’s immune to being neglected. From your wiper blades to your tyres, your fuel tank and your engine oil all stand to lose without some preventative measures prior to storing your car.

There is a lot of information out there about how to restore a barn-find, or things to do before starting a vehicle after many years of storage, but what about shorter term? Read on to find out.

Should I fill up the tank before storing my vehicle?

The first and easiest step to looking after your vehicle while it’s not being driven is to fill your car with fuel. The empty space in a fuel tank can build-up condensation, possibly causing contamination in the fuel from water, as well as the rust that inevitably follows. Generally, this is only an issue when storing vehicles for 3-6 months or even more, but filling up your tank is cheap insurance.
Women at fuel bowser

Filling up your car with fuel before storing it reduces condensation build up in the tank

It’s worth noting that petrol and diesel have a ‘shelf life’ once put into a vehicle tank. In hot climates, petrol can go bad in as little as 3 months, while diesel will start to settle and gum up after 9-12 months. In this event, draining the tank and putting fresh fuel in is your best bet.

While you’re at the service station filling up your tank, you might as well check the tyre pressure. You should ideally be doing this once a fortnight while driving your car and once a month if the vehicle isn’t being driven.

Modern radial tyres are not as prone to developing flat spots in storage as old bias ply tyres used to be, but if you’re storing your car for longer than 4-6 months it is worth rolling your vehicle backwards and forwards to stop the internal plies of the tyre becoming permanently deformed.

Why are my brakes rusty?

When leaving your vehicle parked for extended periods of time, rust can form on exposed metal parts of the brake system, such as the brake rotors. 
Rust on brake disk

Even two weeks of sitting can result in rust buildup. It's a non-issue that clears itself up with normal use.

Rust on brake parts looks pretty average but will come off during normal use when you next drive your vehicle and it’ll look mint again. If you’re one of those neat freaks who like their wheels to be spotless, make sure you get the rust/brake dust off them as soon as you can.

Dangers of parking under trees?

If you can, try to avoid parking under trees and power lines. Over time acidic tree saps, bird droppings, as well as items like pine needles and leaves, can build up on the car and damage the clear coat. Leaves and pine needles can cause residue that gets caught up in sunroof drain tubes and boot openings, increasing the risk of corrosion, flooded footwells or damp smells.

If you do have no choice but to park under a tree, make it a habit to check bonnet and boot openings for leaves and dirt that can trap moisture. Many vehicle owners have come back to a car parked under a tree for a few weeks to find the cowl in front of the windscreen chock-a-block full of debris.

Another thing to think of is your wiper blades. Some owners opt to leave them raised off the windscreen, and the thought here is that grit, sand, leaves, can get trapped under them. What’s the first thing you’ll do when you jump in your beloved vehicle to drive it? Rinse the windscreen, dragging all the schmutz around, scratching up your glass.

Car covers can be useful in this situation but ensure your car is very clean first. If you use a car cover on an unwashed vehicle, the act of fitting and removing the cover can rub dirt and grit into your paint, causing swirl marks. Unless it’s a Nissan, in which case the swirl marks are a factory feature.😁

What about when the time comes to drive my vehicle?

If you do finally start your vehicle up to go for a drive, make sure you go for a decent drive to get everything nice and warm. Operating a cold engine can result in condensation and fuel building up in the engine oil. Getting the engine up to temp, and keeping it there, will help to burn off excess moisture, ensuring your vehicle is in tip-top shape when the time comes to get back into the regular commute to work.
Milky residue from engine oil and moisture combining

A milky substance under your oil cap isn't always a coolant leak. if your car only ever sees short trips, it could be condensation

What if I’m storing my vehicle for longer than 6 months?

If you’re leaving your vehicle for even longer periods of time there are fuel additives and stabilisers that you can add to your tank to ensure fuel (either petrol or diesel) won’t break down in your tank. For extended periods of time, a battery maintenance charger is also well worth the investment. Many automotive enthusiasts will use these devices on project cars or race cars that are stored for many months between seasons.

Leaving your wiper blades raised up off of your windscreen will help to prolong their life. Rubber, as it is subjected to many dozens of extreme heat cycles by being on contact with a searing hot windscreen, can become brittle and crack, leading to streaky windscreens and poor visibility in wet conditions.

Rolling your vehicle forward or back a metre or so once a month will keep your tyres from developing flat spots as mentioned earlier. Once a tyre gets a flat spot, it’s more or less unusable on the road. With awful vibrations and compromised handling. It’s just not worth the hassle. If you’re a real nutter, removing the wheels totally and leaving the vehicle on jack stands isn’t unheard of.

Looking after your vehicle while it’s not being driven is not a big or expensive task but it can help to prevent costly repairs or parts changes down the road.

Stay safe and stay home. Or, if you’re reading this in the future, post Coronavirus inflicted lockdowns, enjoy your freedom! Bastards.

Love, Tyre Review.