For anyone who stores their vehicle over winter, those firstfleeting glimpses of spring mean more than just warmer weather – they mean the chanceto get your car out of storage and take it on its first drive of the year. Oftenguides will simply list the parts of your car to look at, but if you’re new tothis, these steps can be confusing. This comprehensive step-by-step guide ensuresyou can bring your car out carefully and prep it for fun drives in the warmerseasons.
Check underneath the car
Have a quick look underneath the car to see if there havebeen any leaks whilst the car has been in storage. If there are leaks, identifywhere they’re coming from and see to these first. A leak could occur fromanywhere in the car that holds liquid – be it petrol, windscreen washer, oil oranything else. You should be able to have a rough guess at where the leak iscoming from by looking at where the wet patch on the ground is in relation tothe car above it.
Check to see the lights (front, rear and indicators) stillwork. If any of the bulbs have gone, you’ll need to replace these before youset off on your first drive.
When you put your car into storage, you’ll (more thanlikely) have taken the battery out to help preserve its charge. If you’ve putit on a maintainer to charge it over the winter, make sure that there’s nocorrosion or damage before you fit it back in the car.
If you haven’t taken your battery out, you need to checkthat it has enough charge as a battery without charge won’t be able to startthe car. You can check it with a voltmeter when the car is turned off. Theweather will greatly affect the performance of the battery as well – a batterywill need more charge in cold weather.
You’ll want to consider changing the oil to help the enginestay healthy. Old oil can get contaminated with water or rust over time, andputting this through the engine could damage it. Changing the oil takes awaythis risk. You could also change the oil filter at this point as well, toensure a fresh, lubricated engine.
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
Turn the car on and let it runfor ten minutes, as this will help the oil to drain more easily.
Locate the engine oil screwunderneath the car. It will be towards the front of the car. Make sure you havea 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 assoon as you remove the screw. Once it’s open and is starting to drain, leave ituntil it’s completely discharged and wipe the opening. Place the screw back in,but not too tightly.
Find the oil filter (they areusually on the side of the engine) and remove it. You might want to use glovesif it’s still hot. Give it a clean around the filter section.
Add some rubber seal to theoutside of the oil filter (whether it’s new or old) and twist it back intoplace.
Now you need to add the new oil.Remove the oil filler cap and pour the oil into it. It’s important to check howmuch oil you need in your car’s manual so you don’t over or under fill.
Start the engine and let it runto circulate the oil throughout the engine. After it’s been running for aminute or two, check the dipstick and, if necessary, add more oil. Now all youneed 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 fluidslike screen wash, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid. Whilst most ofthese 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 afterstorage to ensure you won’t hit any trouble after you’ve set off.
There will be a container with ablue lid showing a diagram of a windscreen. This is the windscreen washingfluid. Simply top this up with washer fluid and it’s done.
The transmission fluid stick isusually red or pink, and will be found under the bonnet. With the enginerunning, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean and put it back in. Remove it againand check the level the coolant reaches. As it is a sealed unit it shouldn’trequire topping up however if it does, see a mechanic to resolve the issue.
Check the coolant by removing theradiator cap and looking at whether the fluid is up to the fill line. This mustbe done when the car isn’t hot and hasn’t been running. If the liquid is belowthe line, fill it with the same brand coolant as is already in the car.
The brake fluid reservoir will beon the driver side of your car, and you should be able to see the fluid throughthe container. The fluid should be a golden colour – brown means it needsreplacing. As it is also a closed system, it shouldn’t be low, however toppingup is fairly easy.
Check the pressures in your tyres and, if not at the correctPSI, inflate them until they are right. You should also use this opportunity tocheck the sidewalls of the tyres for cracks or bulges, and make sure there’senough tread on the tyres (the legal limit in the UK is 1.6 millimetres). Ifthey 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. Ifthere is a crack you’ll need to replace the belt, as it could break duringdriving and create a costly problem for you to solve.
The suspension shouldn’t have any play in it and thereshould 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.
If you stored your car with a full tank of fuel, you’ll needto check to see if it’s separated or water has got in. There are products availablethat 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 topush it too hard. Test the brakes at low speed initially to check they stillwork, try to use all the gears, and check everything’s still working as itshould be. The first drive should be no longer than 30 minutes, and just usedas a test of the car.
Taking your car out for the first drive of the year isexciting, but properly preparing it is imperative. Remember that the moreeffort you put into bringing it out of storage, the lower the chances are of itfailing later on. After that first test drive, the world is your oyster!