Off-road Car and Caravan Storage
A vehicle can deteriorate rapidly, should it not be stored correctly. Rob Marshall guides you on what actions to contemplate to reduce some of the issues.
Regardless of how long and where you plan to store your car or caravan, treat its body to a thorough wash. Hose beneath the wheel-arches and underside, to prevent any mud from holding moisture to the metalwork. Should a vehicle be parked in a garage, ensure that the bodywork is dry and that no moisture remains within the interior. It is also worthwhile taking a car for a drive to ensure the engine reaches its full operating temperature, before locking it away. This ensures as much moisture as possible is evaporated from the engine and exhaust system.
Inside, remove all detritus and vacuum both carpets and upholstery; make certain that damp is not present between the floor and carpets. Wipe the controls with a cloth, impregnated with an anti-bacterial car trim cleaner, which will help inhibit any mould growth. Lower the sun visors also. Should your car be equipped with air conditioning, run an air-con cleanser through the system, which will prevent bacteria from breeding behind the air vents.
Leave the car in either first or reverse gears and release the handbrake, to ensure the brakes do not seize on.
LONGER TERM CAR STORAGE
Should your car be stored for longer than several months, plan for extra jobs. Drain / refill the engine oil and replace the oil filter. This will ensure that any corrosive contaminations trapped by the lubricant are removed and cannot damage the stationary engine. Similarly, make sure that the cooling system contains sufficient antifreeze to prevent the engine block from freezing. Lubricate the locks and latches too. Alternatively, get a garage to carry out a service.
Consider removing the battery and trickle-charge it at home. However, certain aspects of the car’s electrical system may be affected and, if your radio needs a separate code, make sure you know what it is prior to disconnecting the battery, Most modern batteries can discharge the cells after several months of standing and leaving it flat will cause irreversible damage.
It is not advisable to remove the spark plugs and pour oil into the engine cylinders on modern cars, because the oil can damage the catalytic converter, when the engine is started.
Pump the tyres up to between 40 and 45psi, which will help prevent the sidewalls from cracking. If you can obtain a ‘scrap’ set of tyres and rims cheaply, consider fitting them and storing your original tyres away in a dry and dark place.
Many caravan owners remove their tyres, to prevent ‘flat-spots’ occurring and they support the vehicle via its chassis instead. However, allowing a car’s suspension to ‘droop’ is not recommended, especially as damper rods will be exposed and might become more prone to corrosion. It is also very easy on modern cars to support the weight on areas of the underside that is not intended to bear such loads.
Apply a coat of wax, designed for vehicle paintwork, but do not buff it off. Should the car be stored in a garage, open the windows so that air can circulate around the interior. Be wary of doing this, if the car is outside, because open windows can let moisture in. Leave the air vents set to ‘floor’ and do not leave the air recirculation mode active.
Consider brimming the fuel tank, to reduce the risk of condensation forming. As petrol can go stale over time, add a fuel stabiliser additive
Opinions differ about whether or not car covers cause more damage than they prevent. However, regular checks on your stored car are vital in both cases.
If storing your car indoors, cover the body with soft and clean blankets. An inexpensive breathable car cover will suffice for the vehicle, which will prevent scuffs and marks from forming on the paintwork due to either dust or people brushing past.
Extra care is needed, if your car is to be left outside. Do not park your car beneath a tree; sap, bird droppings and dead leaves will damage the paint finish. Try to lessen condensation, by standing the car on a waterproof tarpaulin. Yet, never place a tarpaulin on top of the car. Wind can cause the material to chafe against the paintwork, which will abrade the surface.
Inexpensive car covers, even those that are advertised for outdoor use, tend not to be fully waterproof and will hold moisture against the car paintwork. Should you decide to use a car cover, invest in a good quality one that is not only waterproof but will also allow air to be distributed beneath it, preventing condensation. It must be strapped down firmly, to resist either flapping against the vehicle or blowing away completely.
At regular intervals, when the weather is dry, remove the cover and allow any condensation to evaporate. Open the car doors, to permit air to circulate within the interior. Do not start the engine and allow it to idle only; water will enter the exhaust as well as the engine.
If your car is off the road for more than thirty days, it might be worth claiming a refund on its tax disc (VED) using form V14. However, you will need to make a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), which can be done either through form V14, or online, using this link. Note that, without a displayed valid tax disc, you must neither store nor use your car on a public road or side road.
You can permit the MoT Test to expire but note that you cannot drive the car on the road at all, unless it is insured and you are driving to a pre-booked MoT Test appointment. Assuming your car passes, you can drive straight it back to your home but you must ensure it is taxed, before using it for any other journey.
Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) was introduced at the end of 2011, meaning that, unless a SORN declaration has been made, your car must be insured. Do not risk a fine by cancelling your motor insurance, before you surrender the licence disc and declare SORN.
It is prudent to insure your stored vehicle and such policies are available from specialist brokers.