For anyone who stores their vehicle over winter, those first
fleeting glimpses of spring mean more than just warmer weather – they mean the chance
to get your car out of storage and take it on its first drive of the year. Often
guides will simply list the parts of your car to look at, but if you’re new to
this, these steps can be confusing. This comprehensive step-by-step guide ensures
you can bring your car out carefully and prep it for fun drives in the warmer
Check underneath the car
Have a quick look underneath the car to see if there have
been any leaks whilst the car has been in storage. If there are leaks, identify
where they’re coming from and see to these first. A leak could occur from
anywhere in the car that holds liquid – be it petrol, windscreen washer, oil or
anything else. You should be able to have a rough guess at where the leak is
coming from by looking at where the wet patch on the ground is in relation to
the car above it.
Check to see the lights (front, rear and indicators) still
work. If any of the bulbs have gone, you’ll need to replace these before you
set off on your first drive.
When you put your car into storage, you’ll (more than
likely) have taken the battery out to help preserve its charge. If you’ve put
it on a maintainer to charge it over the winter, make sure that there’s no
corrosion or damage before you fit it back in the car.
If you haven’t taken your battery out, you need to check
that it has enough charge as a battery without charge won’t be able to start
the car. You can check it with a voltmeter when the car is turned off. The
weather will greatly affect the performance of the battery as well – a battery
will need more charge in cold weather.
You’ll want to consider changing the oil to help the engine
stay healthy. Old oil can get contaminated with water or rust over time, and
putting this through the engine could damage it. Changing the oil takes away
this risk. You could also change the oil filter at this point as well, to
ensure a fresh, lubricated engine.
How to change the oil
To change the oil in a car,
you’ll need a few things:
A new oil filter (optional)
A socket set
A jack or set of ramps to use to raise the car
Turn the car on and let it run
for ten minutes, as this will help the oil to drain more easily.
Locate the engine oil screw
underneath the car. It will be towards the front of the car. Make sure you have
a container ready to catch the oil, and then use your wrench to undo the plug.
You’ll want to be careful at this point, as the hot oil will start to flow as
soon as you remove the screw. Once it’s open and is starting to drain, leave it
until it’s completely discharged and wipe the opening. Place the screw back in,
but not too tightly.
Find the oil filter (they are
usually on the side of the engine) and remove it. You might want to use gloves
if it’s still hot. Give it a clean around the filter section.
Add some rubber seal to the
outside of the oil filter (whether it’s new or old) and twist it back into
Now you need to add the new oil.
Remove the oil filler cap and pour the oil into it. It’s important to check how
much oil you need in your car’s manual so you don’t over or under fill.
Start the engine and let it run
to circulate the oil throughout the engine. After it’s been running for a
minute or two, check the dipstick and, if necessary, add more oil. Now all you
need to do is to check there are no leaks and, if not, then you’re done!
Check other fluids
Your car doesn’t work on oil alone – check the other fluids
like screen wash, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid. Whilst most of
these are closed systems where there is no way for the fluid to get out
(meaning you shouldn’t have to change it) it’s always best to check after
storage to ensure you won’t hit any trouble after you’ve set off.
There will be a container with a
blue lid showing a diagram of a windscreen. This is the windscreen washing
fluid. Simply top this up with washer fluid and it’s done.
The transmission fluid stick is
usually red or pink, and will be found under the bonnet. With the engine
running, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean and put it back in. Remove it again
and check the level the coolant reaches. As it is a sealed unit it shouldn’t
require topping up however if it does, see a mechanic to resolve the issue.
Check the coolant by removing the
radiator cap and looking at whether the fluid is up to the fill line. This must
be done when the car isn’t hot and hasn’t been running. If the liquid is below
the line, fill it with the same brand coolant as is already in the car.
The brake fluid reservoir will be
on the driver side of your car, and you should be able to see the fluid through
the container. The fluid should be a golden colour – brown means it needs
replacing. As it is also a closed system, it shouldn’t be low, however topping
up is fairly easy.
Check the pressures in your tyres and, if not at the correct
PSI, inflate them until they are right. You should also use this opportunity to
check the sidewalls of the tyres for cracks or bulges, and make sure there’s
enough tread on the tyres (the legal limit in the UK is 1.6 millimetres). If
they aren’t at least 1.6mm, or have cracks or bulges, they’ll need replacing.
Make sure you check the belts for any cracks or looseness. If
there is a crack you’ll need to replace the belt, as it could break during
driving and create a costly problem for you to solve.
The suspension shouldn’t have any play in it and there
should be no leaks. Ensure the rubber in the suspension is flexible and soft –
if it’s hard or vulcanised, you’ll need to change these parts before you set
off on your first drive.
If you stored your car with a full tank of fuel, you’ll need
to check to see if it’s separated or water has got in. There are products available
that will help you do this. If the fuel has been contaminated, you’ll need to
drain the fuel and add fresh fuel back in. If you left it empty refuel the car,
checking for leaks as you go.
Starting the engine
Turn the key and start the engine. If it doesn’t start,
check that everything’s connected and you’ve gone through the steps correctly.
Let it idle and stay off the accelerator until it’s up to temperature. Don’t
start the engine in the garage, as this will create exhaust fumes.
Your first drive
When taking your car on its first drive, remember not to
push it too hard. Test the brakes at low speed initially to check they still
work, try to use all the gears, and check everything’s still working as it
should be. The first drive should be no longer than 30 minutes, and just used
as a test of the car.
Taking your car out for the first drive of the year is
exciting, but properly preparing it is imperative. Remember that the more
effort you put into bringing it out of storage, the lower the chances are of it
failing later on. After that first test drive, the world is your oyster!