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Storing a car


Storing your car for a long time, involves more than just parking it in a garage and forgetting about it.

Find out the best storage environment and what checks you should make on your car to avoid costly repairs or replacements when it returns to the road. When available, follow the manufacturers guidelines.

Why is it important to properly store my vehicle?

If you don't, you could be up for expensive repairs. If you're going to store your vehicle for at least a year, you need to have its engine started periodically and given a run.

Where's the best place to store my vehicle?

The ideal spot is a well ventilated and dry garage. Don't park your vehicle under trees for a long time because sap and bird droppings can damage the paint.

How should I prepare my car for storage?

  • Clean the inside and remove all foreign objects, especially food scraps
  • Wash your vehicle, chamois dry and apply a good quality car wax if needed
  • Drive for approximately two kilometres frequently applying the brakes to help dry them out
  • For extra protection, drape your car with a cover made from a natural material that breathes. Never use plastic as it can damage the paint
  • Don't do anything special for short term (up to two months) storage.

How should I prepare the engine for storage?

When storing for one to six months:

  • Park the car on level ground
  • Leave in park (or in gear for a manual)
  • Leave the hand brake off
  • Chock the wheels
  • Block the air intake with a lint-free rag
  • Block the exhaust pipe with a rag

Should I carry out any servicing beforehand?

Change your engine oil and oil filter if it will be more than six months (three months for diesel vehicles) between the last change and the end of the storage period.

Change your engine coolant if it will be longer than two years between the last coolant change and the end of the storage period.

Should I register and insure my vehicle during storage?

If its registration expires during the storage period, contact your local RTA for advice. Check that you have adequate insurance cover for the storage term, especially if someone else will drive it while you're away.

Are there any places that will look after my vehicle while I'm away?

Yes. Check in our directory under Car Storage or in the Yellow Pages under 'storage' and 'parking'.

What checks should be made on my car while it's in storage?

If your car is being stored for more than two months, a monthly check on key components could save you money in costly repairs or replacements when your car returns to the road.

  • Check the floor under your car for signs of possible oil, brake, fluid or coolant leaks
  • Check and top up as required - battery, coolant, brake fluid and oil levels
  • Check tyre pressures
  • Start engine and run for 10 minutes
  • Run airconditioner for about one minute
  • If your car has a manual transmission, depress the clutch pedal several times
  • Depress the brake pedal several times
  • Turn steering wheel from side to side
  • Move your car so that each wheel revolves a few times.

How should I care for the engine while my car is in storage?

When storing for more than six months:

  • Remove your spark plugs, then squirt about 10 ml of engine oil into the engine via the spark plug holes
  • Replace spark plugs
  • Disable your ignition (the method varies from vehicle to vehicle)
  • Crank your engine for about three revolutions
  • Block air intake with a lint-free cloth Block exhaust pipe with a cloth

Do I have to disconnect the battery?

Note: Car Batteries contain acid, therefore avoid contact with eyes, skin, clothing and paint finishes. They give off an explosive gas, so avoid sparks and flames, and never smoke near a battery.

Only disconnect the battery if you're storing your vehicle for more than four weeks. Disconnect the battery terminals, negative first. You'll find safety procedures in the maintenance section of your owner's manual. If this isn't available:

  • Turn all switches off
  • Remove all metal jewellery - rings, bracelets, watches etc
  • Wear eye protection.

If I disconnect the battery, will this stop it from going flat?

No, it's normal for car batteries to discharge over time. To get the best charge retention, a battery should be:

  • Filled to the maximum level with distilled water and fully charged
  • Wiped clean and dry
  • Stored in a well ventilated, cool, dry area
  • Slow charged once a month.

Will my car's computer lose it's memory when the battery is disconnected?

This depends on the make and model of your car. Consult your owner's handbook, or call NRMA Motoring Advice on 13 11 22 for any special start-up procedures required when you reconnect your battery. Note: When you reconnect your battery, you may need to enter a security code for the stereo to work.

Should my tyre pressure be adjusted before storage?

Yes, increase the pressure to 245-280 kPa, (35-40 psi). This will help to compensate for normal air loss. Always resume correct pressure before you go back on the road.

Is it necessary to jack my vehicle up to prevent tyre damage?

It should be jacked up and supported on stands if:

  • You have radial tyres (the word radial will be moulded on the tyre sidewall) and your vehicle won't be moved for six months or more
  • Your tyres are of cross ply construction (usually fitted to older cars) and your vehicle won't be moved for four or more weeks.

Does petrol 'go off' when stored?

Petrol will store well for six months, provided the storage area is dry and not exposed to extreme weather conditions which may cause condensation in the fuel tank. Draining your fuel system and storing your car 'dry' could result in costly repairs. You may even need to carry out costly repairs to the fuel system before your car is driveable again.

What should I do with an LPG-powered vehicle?

Turn off the valve on the LPG cylinder while your engine is running on gas and allow it to run until it stalls. This will use up any gas in the lines. Don't store the vehicle near open drains.

Could my brakes seize if they're not used?

Damp, humid conditions could cause wheel cylinder or calliper seizure, particularly if your outer seals are in poor condition. Leave your parking brake in the off position and the wheels securely chocked. This may prevent shoes or pads from locking to the drums or discs. Always check and overhaul your brakes before you go back on the road.

Could my clutch seize when it isn't used?

The clutch on a manual car can lock to the flywheel if the car is stored in damp conditions. If this happens, your transmission may need to be removed to free the clutch plate.

What should I do before I get my car back on the road?

  • Check and top up as required the battery, coolant, brake fluid and oil
  • Check tyre pressures
  • Clean the windscreen and wiper blades
  • Check brake operation before driving off and again before joining traffic
  • Arrange for the vehicle to have a service and safety check.

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