Check Your Unused Vehicle's Condition

While your car should remain out of trouble while parked for weeks on end, it is important to check on it and warm it up regularly to maintain a decent running condition.


  1. Set up a schedule for checking the car.
  2. When you first check your car, you should check the body. Look for rust spots and any vandalism. Take action if anything looks to be serious.
  3. Check the tires before setting off. Look for any crazing or cracking, and feel around the sides of the tyre for lumps or bulges. If you find any of these, the tyre should be replaced for safety. Check the tyre pressures before driving off, with a good quality (preferably electronic) gauge. Don't take a quick trip to the gas station to check pressures with their inaccurate and/or abused station gauges - it's not worth it. Don't check your pressures after driving as your tires, and the air inside them, will warm up. This will give a false reading. If the pressures are lower than recommended, you'll need to fill them. Under-inflated tyres will reduce your MPG, will wear quicker and can catastrophically part company with the wheel rim.
  4. Start up the vehicle and take it for a quick ride. Be sure to take a few left and right turns, make a few stops to check the brakes, and keep the radio off so you can listen to any sounds that aren't normal. Make sure the engine temperature reaches its normal position on the gauge.
  5. Smell for any exhaust. If it smells funny, or is strong, you should have it checked. There could be a leak in the exhaust somewhere.
  6. Once you've shut off the engine, pop the hood. Let the engine cool a few minutes by checking the tire pressure.
  7. Check the engine oil. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it off on a paper towel. The oil should be a brown color. Avoid letting it get black. Replace the dipstick and pull it back out and check the oil level. If it is a quart low, add more oil, but keep an eye on how often you need to add oil. If it's fairly often, you may have a leak.
  8. Check the engine coolant. This should remain constant at its "full" level. If it's any lower, add more and keep a close eye on its progress. Once again, frequent refills could indicate a leak.
  9. Check the windshield washer fluid. This doesn't have to be full, but you should avoid letting it run completely empty.
  10. If you're leaving your car for some time, release the handbrake (parking brake) and chock the wheels. This will avoid the brakes seizing on. If you're leaving the car for a very long time (months), jack up the car and support it on axle stands. This stops the tyres from cracking.
  11. Close everything up, lock the doors, and check back again in a week!


  • Make notes of anything out of the ordinary and keep a constant eye on the progress of those things.
  • Checking up on your car once a week is a good rule of thumb.
  • To add pressure to your tires, use a foot pump or compressor driven from the car's cigar lighter.
  • If there is a need to leave the vehicle for more than a month, find someone you trust to continue your routine. If no one is available disconnect your battery.
  • If the oil is quite dark, get it changed. Walmart is fairly cheap and quick, but like most "Quick Lube" places, they often make mistakes that will destroy your engine. Try to Change the Oil in Your Car yourself, it takes half an hour, and will save you lots of money in the long run.


  • Watch out for odd smells and leaks. They indicate that your car is in need of service, and driving it will subject it to additional wear, which means higher maintenance costs in the future.

Things You'll Need

  • A car
  • Car keys
  • Paper towel
  • Air Pressure Gage
  • Extra oil
  • Extra coolant
  • Extra washer fluid

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