10 tips for maintaining a car you don’t drive often
Been a while since you fired up your engine? If your car’s gathering more dust than miles, you might be wondering if you should be doing anything to keep it maintained. And you should be. Old or new, it’s important to keep your car in shape when it’s not being driven often. Follow our car maintenance do’s and don’ts to keep your wheels in tip-top condition.
1. Keep your battery charged
How long a car battery can sit unused depends on its age and condition, but if you leave it uncharged for a long period of time it will die eventually. Modern car batteries tend to stay charged for at least a couple of weeks, but only if the battery is healthy. The best way to keep a car battery charged is to start your vehicle and let it run once a week. You won’t need it to run for very long, roughly five to ten minutes will do and make sure you don’t leave the car unattended while its running. Even better, take it for a quick lap around the block.
2. Take it out for a spin
Not only will a short drive keep your battery powered, but it’ll keep your car lubricated. There are many moving parts to a vehicle so running the engine allows oil to coat critical components in the engine and gearbox. Otherwise, they could dry out and lead to costly repairs. Aim to go for a short drive at least every few weeks if you can. And try not to leave your car sitting for months without starting it.
3. Freshen up your oil
If you’re wondering ‘does oil go bad sitting in an engine?’, the answer is yes. When a car is sitting idle, oil can degrade and lose its lubricating properties. That’s why it’s important to change your oil regularly, whether you’re using your car often or not. How often you need to do this varies from vehicle to vehicle, but a good benchmark is every six months.
4. Check your tyres
Even if you’re not driving regularly, it’s essential to check your tyre pressure and tread depth. You can check the pressure of your tyres at one of Sainsbury’s petrol stations. Try and do this before you park it up and schedule regular checks. Tyres are an important safety feature, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their pressure in case you need to use the car unexpectedly.
5. Stick to your service schedule
You shouldn’t skip a service just because you’re not using your car. But if you do, it’s even more important to book one in before you get out on the road again. During a typical car service, they’ll inspect your brake systems, test your battery and replace your engine oil (if you haven’t already done it yourself recently).
6. Keep it covered
If you’re not going to use the car for a month or so, consider keeping it covered. Invest in a quality car cover designed to fit your vehicle. This will keep it protected from the elements - which is especially important in cold weather - and it’ll deter any potential pests or rodents. Even better, store it in a garage.
7. Make sure it’s clean
Before putting your car into storage, it’s important to give it a deep clean and polish. Head to your local petrol station to get your car washed, with the option of getting it jet washed as well. Keeping your car clean will extend the lifespan of the exterior and help you avoid rust. While most modern cars are rust-resistant, it’s worth checking for early signs of rust as it can be very difficult (and costly) to repair.
8. Get a car tax refund
If you’re planning to take your car off the road for a few months, consider applying for a refund on your car tax. It’s easy to go online and register your vehicle as off the road (SORN) - and you may be able to save some money in the process. Just don’t forget to tax your car and declare it as on the road before you start driving again.
9. Keep your keys safe
It’s easy to overlook little things like keys when you’re worrying about how to store your car safely. Losing keys can be stressful, so keep them in a safe place - maybe alongside other valuables. For extra peace of mind, why not add key cover to your car insurance?
10. Check your car insurance
Before you hit the road again, make sure your car insurance is still valid. It’s easy to forget about it, especially if you’re not driving often. If you need to take out a new policy, take some time to think about the type of insurance you need. With Sainsbury’s Bank Car Insurance, you can choose from two types of cover – Comprehensive, or Third party, fire and theft – and tailor your policy with lots of additional extras to choose from.
Ready to take the wheel?
So, now you know these handy car maintenance tips and tricks, you can rest assured your vehicle will run like a well-oiled machine (literally). For more advice on looking after your car, check out our detailed guide to car maintenance.
Sainsbury’s Bank Car Insurance is arranged and administered by Sainsbury’s Bank and is underwritten by a carefully selected range of insurers. When you get a quote we will tell you who the insurer is before you buy the policy.
This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.