Idle car

How to care for an unused car

If you're planning an extended holiday or your car will be unused for a while, you're legally required to keep your car insured. That's unless you issue a formal Statutory Off Road Notification at www.gov.uk.

Preparing your car for normal driving upon your return depends on how long it will be out of use. We break it down by 'one month', 'three month' and 'three month plus' categories below.

Up to one month

If your car's battery has a history of failing or you've never left it for longer than a week or two at a time, you may want to invest in a 'smart charger'. This is a device that automatically charges the battery only when necessary. Alternatively, you might consider removing the battery lead if you know the radio code. The following checklist will also help ensure your car is ready and raring for your return:

  • Check your antifreeze fluid is topped up, especially during the winter
  • Spray any unpainted metals with WD-40 to reduce corrosion
  • Leave the handbrake off if parking in a secure area to avoid wearing out the cable

Up to three months

Heed all the advice from the one month section, in addition to the following:

  • Clean and dry the car – including the wheel arches – to help prevent grime and rust building up over time
  • Remove carpets if you live in a particularly damp area
  • Lift your windshield wipers to prevent grime collecting between the blades and the glass
  • Call your insurance company to temporarily reduce your cover to include fire and theft only
  • Use a dehumidifier or allow for some ventilation if keeping your car in a closed garage

More than three months

In addition to our advice from the one month and three month categories, consider performing the following tasks:

  • Change the engine oil and filter
  • Have the drive belts slackened, including for the power steering and air conditioning where applicable, to preserve their efficiency for your return
  • Lubricate any locks with an approved oil and spray closures like the bonnet, battery box and boot area with WD-40 to prevent rust and corrosion
  • Arrange for someone to drive the car once or twice a month – under the necessary insurance, tax and MOT – to preserve its performance

Alternatively, remove the tyres and store them in a cool, dark place to remove any unnecessary stress. A commercial storage company with suitable premises can help you maintain your car's condition if it will go unused for a long period.

The qualified technicians at Charles Hurst can help maximise your car's health during an idle period. Please contact your nearest service centre to find out more.