Planning an overseas trip? Here’s how to prepare your car for a stay in the garage

Putting the car into storage

When you go away, you want your car to be safe. You could lend it to someone reliable, lock it in your garage or put it into a secure car-storage facility.

If you like your car to be driven regularly, perhaps ask someone who’s collecting your mail or watering your plants to take it out for a quick spin each week.

Here’s what to consider.

Is your registration up to date?

  • Check the expiration date of your car's registration to ensure it doesn’t expire while you’re away.
  • If you’re going overseas, driver's licences can be paid up to three months in advance at police licensing centres (not their agents). You must present proof of travel when applying.

Is your insurance up to date?

  • Advise your insurance company that you intend to store the car, and confirm whether it will be fully covered by the existing insurance policy.
  • If you’ve arranged for someone to look after and drive your car while you’re away, your insurance company may request that you lodge a drive and claim authority form. You will need to give the details of the person who’s going to look after your car.
  • Most insurance companies will allow payment in advance, but check with your insurance company to find out how far ahead the car insurance can be paid.

Is the storage space right?

The ideal situation for storing a car is within a dry, covered, well-ventilated, lockable area. It should have adequate space around the vehicle for inspection and movement. Using a car cover or covering the car with old bedsheets will keep it clean and minimise paint and trim damage.

Short-term storage

Before putting the car into short-term storage:

  • Inflate the car's tyres to above normal pressure by 40kPa (6psi).
  • Chock the wheels using suitable wood blocks.
  • Release the parking brake.
  • Ensure the battery is fully charged and the electrolyte level is correct.
  • In hot weather, leave the car's windows open slightly for ventilation.

If the car is in your garage, get someone to run the engine each week, maybe a friend or relative who’s checking the house and garden. They must open the garage doors and windows before starting the engine to prevent a build-up of harmful exhaust fumes.

Ask them to run the car's engine until the normal operating temperature is reached, and then for a further 15 minutes after that.

While the engine is being run, have them switch on the air conditioner for five minutes to stop the air conditioner compressor seals drying out and ensure that oil in the system doesn’t drain away from moving parts.

Long-term storage

When preparing your car for long-term storage, take the same steps as for short-term storage, but with the following additions:

  • Check the tyre pressure.
  • Advise your insurance company your car is in storage, and where.
  • Fully service the car and fill the fuel tank.
  • Wax and polish all bodywork and chrome.
  • Arrange to have the battery slow-charged regularly.
  • Raise the car off the ground and support with axle stands.
  • Make sure the tyres are not touching the ground.
  • Caution: Do not use bricks to support the vehicle.

When you get your car out of storage:

  • Check the tyre pressure.
  • Remove the support stands.
  • Clean the battery terminals and reconnect.
  • Check the oil, water and fuel.
  • Carry out any special instructions outlined in the owner's manual.
  • Test the brake pedal pressure.
  • Start the engine and check operation of all the systems.
  • Important: Seek expert advice if your car's systems appear abnormal.