This one for all the car people out there on how to store your car correctly! I will go over the winter, lockdown, scorn or long periods of no use tips to avoid any issues. We all love our pride and joys as they mean the worlds to use and they are an extension of us and more than a piece of metal that takes us from A to B as they deserve our time and love. These tips are here to help keep it running and tip-top during periods of no use, so it doesn’t end up costing you or resulting in a time wasted with waiting for a mechanic or expensive trip to the dealer.
Here are my tips on how to look after your MINI during non-use:
As with all modern cars now the power and state of the battery are key for the starting and all electronic in the car with that being said, there are so many ways to look after it.
Invest in a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up that way it doesn’t die and doesn’t cause any faults warning lights and keeps the alarm active
There are two types of chargers:
Dumb – Old school charge which will top up the battery at a cheaper cost as they are similar like any charger but doesn’t know when the battery is fully charged, so it’s up to you to stop it from overcharging
Smart – Moden advance charging unit which adjusts for different types of the battery from acid to lithium so can be used on any car brand regardless of the type of battery. The smart unit is a ‘plugin and forget’ as it will top of the battery then stop charging and will monitor the charge level and turn back on when needed when the battery drops down to a certain level.
Obviously, with both systems there is a price difference ranging from £30 for dumb and £80 above for smart chargers – It will depend on how often you will keep the car on the charge to know which one to buy and maintenance and time should play in the critical factor. Personally, I use a CTEK trickle charger which is the best one you get, and it has never failed me after five years of owning one.
I understand that some people will say let the car idle for 15 minutes which will charge the battery is true. But this will use fuel and depending on your country you can not leave a car unattended when it’s idling, and it’s not a good idea to idle a vehicle in a closed garage due to carbon monoxide risks. I would rather be warm inside and getting on with life as the smart charger did it’s a thing over the winter or eating ice cream in the summer so take your pick.
Often overlooked by people as you just expected not to do anything to them, which is a fault of many motorists as they forget it’s the only thing keeping you on the road!
If your car is going to sitting for a long while then pump up your tyres to 15 psi above what they should be, e.g. standard psi 34 – storing psi 49 – this stops flat spots on your tyre as deforming under the constant load of the car on them when stationary. Where possible to move the vehicle forward or back to stop flat stops even more periodically. Leave a note on your steering wheel or dash to remind you to deflate to correct pressure when your car out from storage to drive. If you have more money, you can buy tyre protectors, but you have to jack up the car and place them underneath or invest in a scissor lift.
The age and condition of the tyre play a major factor as well as having cracks, or an old tyre is dangerous as like any rubber over time it degrades, making it unsafe. Use your free time to check for any nicks, cracks, bulges on the inside or outside facing of the tyre. To check the age of the tyre is very simple as it’s a legal requirement of all tyre manufactures. If you look at the tyre sidewall, there will be the manufacture date code such 1519 – where 15 denotes the week of manufacture and 19 represents the year, meaning the tyre was manufactured on the 15th week of 2019. Always a good thing to look when buying new tyres just in general so you can maximise your time with the tyre.
Fluids – Oil, Coolant, Brakes & Fuel
Checking all the fluids are another major point as they key the car running how it should when it fires up from storage, so its best to check their levels, condition and age.
The oil will be a simple one as a dipstick, or the colour of the oil will tell you, but if it hasn’t been changed in 6 months to 1 year, this would be time to change it or learn how to do it as it’s off the road. Once again like tyres or any perishable items oil does go off as it degrades over time so it doesn’t matter if you have done 5 miles or 8,000 miles in a year it will still need to be changed. Remember, £50 of oil is cheaper than a new engine…
Coolant is slightly different to oil as you can visually check it, but it’s harder to tell as you have to think when it was changed/flushed or do a test using coolant test strips which tell you the health of your coolant. If the coolant hasn’t been changed in 2-3 years, look to change it or learn how to do it as it’s off the road as this can be done with ease on a driveway or garage using simple tools.
If the car is stored over the winter inside or outside having a good level of anti-freeze mixture will stop any coolant from expanding and cracking the coolant tank or lines. Same can be said to the washer fluid as it can expanding and cracking the washer fluid bottle due to no anti-freeze additive.
Brake fluid is similar to coolant as well to check it for issues and condition along with assessing whether to change or not.
If you can leave the car in gear only and put stop behind the rear wheels as brakes and especially the handbrake can cease if they are left on over prolonged time which is an issue you don’t want.
Check your brake discs if your car is kept outside as them being steel will cause them to rust.
Often debated topic of how much fuel should you put into your tank when it’s being stored? The simple answer is either full or near on close to top to avoid any issues with the fuel tank or lines. Having fuel in the system stops the riot in the lines or tank and avoids are moisture or oxidation in the fuel or system.
Wash your car to remove any dirt or grime etc. to avoid any rust or unwanted mould growth and dry it correctly at points to avoid any issues with changes with the weather.
If you have a car cover, put it on after full cleaning and drying the car all over to avoid any scratches or moisture retention from the cover.
Convertibles or roadster make sure you top is up to stop creases in the fabric.
Clean the interior and if possible, make sure there is no damp or spillage on any surfaces as the car. Once it’s locked, it will be breeding ground for any bacteria over time. So clean appropriately either by hand or wet vac and disinfectant kill any unwanted smells or bacteria.
Do open the car periodically to check on any smells or any issues within the cabin.
Also, another perfect time to change a thing that people always forget about it! The cabin air filter which is easily removed by pulling two tabs and inserting a new filter which is a 5-minute job and cheap part buy at £15. Not replacing it every year damages your air-con or heating system just any dirty air filter as your restricting it’s operating efficiency.
If you have a leather dash or surfaces I would advise on covering it as the heat from the sun will cause it to be damaged, crack or peel away if it’s left outside in the summer under prolonged heat.
Getting back on the road
Once you want to take your car back on the road, make sure to follow these procedures to give it the best chance to get it going.
Make sure to unplug your battery chargers and reset the tyres to the correct pressures and reset the tyre monitor sensor, so you don’t get the dash warning later.
Check your oil and coolant to make sure they haven’t dropped before think about starting as the last you want to start a car with no major fluids.
I advise this as there might have been an unnoticed leak or the under trays are hiding a major leak that your unaware or not noticed.
Turn the key one click or press the start button once to allow the fuel pump to prime, which will make an audible noise and let it do it for about 10 seconds then start the car.
A gentle drive around without going for high revs till after about 5 minutes and in the time do test your brakes as the pressure will be low the first time you press them.
Having OBD reader will look at any error codes that pop up and allow you to work out everything from a bulb out or emissions issue.
Hopefully, these tips will keep your MINI in tip-top condition now given it’s not being used or limited usage.
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