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Beginner’s Guide to Taking Your Car Out of Storage

Published: 24/03/2015

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 seasons.

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.

Lights 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. Front of classic MG car

Battery 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.

Oil 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.

Oil filler cap

How to change the oil

To change the oil in a car, you’ll need a few things:

·        Fresh oil

·        A new oil filter (optional)

·        A socket set

·        A jack or set of ramps to use to raise the car

Step one

Turn the car on and let it run for ten minutes, as this will help the oil to drain more easily.

Step two

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.

Step three

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 place.

Step four

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.

Step five

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!

Modern MG

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.

Screen wash

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.

Blue hubcap

Transmission fluid

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.

Brake fluid

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.

Tyres 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. Wheel of a classic Jaguar car

Belts 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. 

Suspension 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 setoff on your first drive.

Frog-eyed Sprite

Fuel 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 todrain 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’tstart 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!

Red classic car

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