How to look after your car when you're not using it

How to look after your car when you're not using it

From time to time, you may not need to use your car. This could be due to illness, because you’re away, you’re trying to save money on fuel, or simply down to bad weather. Whatever the reason, the last thing you want is for your car to conk out while it’s not being used. Read on to find out how to keep your car in good shape if you won’t be driving it for a while.

Green drawing of a tyre with a tick next to it.
Green drawing of a tyre with a tick next to it.
Green drawing of a tyre with a tick next to it.

Will the brakes seize if they’re not in use?

Depending on how long your car is left unused, sometimes the brakes can seize. If you don’t have a garage in which to store your vehicle, there’s more chance of your brakes seizing up. The brake pads can become ‘stuck’ to the disc due to rusting, especially after rain. But don’t panic: seized brakes are fairly common and can usually be prevented or managed with some basic maintenance.

Moving your car backwards and forwards once a week or so (if safe to do so) can prevent seizure. Alternatively, if your car is parked in a flat garage or private area, you could leave it in first gear with the handbrake off with the wheels securely chocked.

What can you do to look after your brakes if your car is off the road?

Before you take your car off the road, if you think you have some issues with your brakes you should carry out the checks below and follow up any problems with a professional.

·       Firstly, check the brake fluid level to observe the quality of the fluid and identify if there is enough inside the reservoir, and if there are any leaks.

·       If your brake pads have worn, this too can cause a stiff brake pedal. This will occur if there is not enough friction made between the brake pads and the brake disc. You will generally hear a grinding sound whenever you brake.

·       Another issue that could cause serious problems is dragging brakes. The grinding of the two metals within the brake’s system will generate a dragging sensation; this often leads to a burning smell and can cause extreme damage.

·       One of the most common causes of vehicle brakes not releasing is a seized caliper, or brake pad. This can occur if the brakes are old or there is a large amount of rusting around the area. You will notice your car pulling to one side when you press down on your brakes.

If you find any of these problems with your brakes, get them resolved at your local garage, dealership or by another professional before you take the car off the road.  

Here are our top tips for keeping your car in good condition, on or off the road:

Keep it covered

If you are lucky enough to have a garage, keep your car in there. If it’s parked on the drive or on the street, consider a weatherproof car cover to protect it from the elements and keep it out of view.

Keep fuel topped up

Even if you know you won’t be driving it any time soon, having plenty of fuel in the tank will prevent moisture from building up inside the fuel tank. It also means that you’ll be all ready to go when you next get in the car.

Turn it on!

If you aren’t using your car regularly, the battery can slowly discharge, which means that your car might not start at all when you eventually want to use it.

To prevent this from happening and to keep your vehicle in good condition, start it up when you can. Let it run for approximately 10-15 minutes so it can reach its full operating temperature and re-charge the battery. This keeps the fluids cycling through the engine preventing build up and ensures that everything is lubricated. (If you keep your car in a garage, take it out onto the drive before you run the engine as exhaust fumes can be toxic.)

Clean your car first

Make sure you’ve given your car a good clean, inside and out, before you leave it unused for any long period. Dirt on cars such as bird droppings can lead to paint damage, and ancient crumbs in the interior can soon become mouldy and damage the upholstery.

Take care of your tyres

Check the pressure of each tyre and make sure they are all what they should be. Check the valves and valve caps for leaks and make sure the valve caps are screwed on tightly.

Cars left undriven for months at a time run the risk of developing flat spots. These occur when the weight of the car sitting continuously on one spot flattens out that part of the tyre. An easy way to prevent flat spots is to take the car out for a run every so often, or even just roll it forwards or backwards to shift the weight. (This also helps to prevent brake seizure.)

Get your car serviced regularly

It’s really important to give your car an annual service, even if it’s not on the road much. Winter weather takes its toll on all vehicles, especially those that aren’t kept in garages, so keep up with services as well as regular maintenance to ensure your car stays in top condition. Have a read of our winter maintenance article for tips on how to look after your car in the colder months.

Keep up with your car insurance

Even if you haven’t driven your car for months, by law it must be insured. It makes no difference if it’s parked on the road, on a driveway or in a garage. The only exception is if you keep your car off-road and you know you aren’t planning on driving it at all. In this case, you must register your car as being off the road with a statutory off-road notice (SORN). You’ll receive a refund for any full months of remaining tax, but you won’t be able to use the vehicle again until you tax it once more.

Looking after your car when it’s off the road FAQs

How long can a car sit without being driven?

A car can sit for around two weeks before it will need starting up for the sake of the battery. Leaving it for much longer than this means that the battery will start to run down.

How often should you start your car if you’re not using it?

Taking the car for a 15-minute drive once a week or so should keep any problems with the battery at bay. If you can’t take it for a spin, letting it run while stationary will do the same job.

What if my MOT expires?

You’re still required by law to have a valid MOT certificate, unless you’ve officially declared your car off road with SORN.

Find out how to prepare your car for its MOT with our MOT checklist.







Jump to section:

Jump to section:

Read next

Read next