Here's how to maintain your car in good shape when you go on a long holiday

Going abroad for a couple of weeks? Or you've just been given a new company car? Here are some tips to keep your car safely and in proper shape. If you are not going to be using your car for a while, then you need to take care of it by protecting it from the elements. Dust and grime can take a toll on not just the car's paintwork, but also the electrics. And you do want your car to start at first crank when you come back after that long break. Then read on.

Wash and dry

Get the car washed properly, especially the underbody, where mud can collect easily and lead to corrosion. Also clean the wheel wells and mud flaps. After washing the entire car, apply a good wax. Clean the interior extensively too. Make sure that no food particles are left in the cabin as they will attract rodents. Remove the carpets if you are planning to store the car in a garage to prevent them from becoming musty. A complete wash will ensure that the car is ready for use whenever you need it later.

Tank up

It's a common misconception that when going on a long vacation the car's fuel tank should be left empty or the fuel will evaporate. Contrary to this belief, you should fill the fuel tank with fresh fuel — at least half the tank should have fuel in it.

Condensation in the fuel tank is a big problem in stored vehicles, so it is highly advisable that you fill the tank completely in order to avoid any empty space where water can accumulate and possibly lead to corrosion. If you fail to fill the fuel tank, then there is a chance of formation of air in the petrol tank. This air can create a vacuum and interfere with the functioning of your car's engine.

Tyre care

Overinflating the tyres by 3-4psi extra over the recommended air pressure is a good idea since tyres tend to lose air pressure over a period of time. However, if you plan to be away from the car for more than six months, then it's a good idea to set the car up on blocks/jacks to get the tyres off the ground and prevent flat spots and irreversible damage. Also, if all four tyres lose their air, you won't be able to drive the car to the nearest garage.

Closed quarters

Preferably try to park your car in a closed garage, which is well ventilated and completely dry. This is important because damp air or moisture would actually cause rust to form on your car.

Under wraps

If your car is going to be parked in the open, then it is a good idea to invest in a high-quality car cover. In case you live in a wet and windy area, you can cover the vehicle with a couple of extra car covers. The extra covers will provide an additional protective layer and absorb any moisture that may get through the topmost cover. A high-quality, breathable, custom-fit car cover that stretches to below the wheel wells is ideal. The wind will blow a loose-fitting cover against the painted surfaces of your vehicle and when you uncover it, it will look like it's been sandblasted. Of course, better the quality of the cover, the fit will be better.

Power off

Remove the battery terminals to prevent the battery from discharging. Also, leave a window marginally open if the car is stored indoors but not enough to allow small animals inside. Stuff a rag into the air intake and exhaust to prevent rodents from entering — covering this with a metal screen is useful too. Using strong-smelling chemicals such as soaps or mothballs also helps keep them away but these can leave a smell in the car.

Any non-functioning component of the engine should be replaced soon. Do not allow it to stay within the car as it may wither and cause damage to other parts as well. It is important to get repairwork done before safekeeping the vehicle at a unit. This will also keep your car in a ready-to-use condition when you return.

If you are comfortable with basic mechanics, remove the spark plugs and spray a small amount of oil into the cylinders to prevent rusting, and then insert the plugs again.

Also, do not forget to release the parking brake and park in gear instead. If the brake is left on, the brake pads can stick to the rotors. Place a large brick under the tyres to prevent movement, which is even more effective than using the brake anyway. Remove the carpets from the floor as they can get musty over a period of time.

Remind me

Place a reminder note to yourself on the steering wheel, outlining the optional steps you carried out from the ones listed (rag in exhaust, rag in intake, carpets and battery removed). When you return to the car, ensure that all these steps are reversed, ticking them off as you go down the list. The list must contain every item separately.

Keywords: car care