All your bags are packed and everyone’s raring to go. But before you finally get on that shuttle or taxi to bring you to the airport or even the seaport where you’ll be taking one of the most important steps towards enjoying your long-awaited holiday vacation, you really have to make sure that your car is secure and safe in the garage. Better still, you should already have finished doing your pre-flight or pre-boarding checks on the car that you will be leaving behind at least the day before your departure.
The thing is that you’re not only going to worry about car theft when you leave the car at home. There are other things that can happen while you’re away. Objects can fall, leaving dents and scratches on your car. Or you might come home to a car that still looks nice, but may already have problems inside. The point is you can never be too sure that everything will be alright with your car. So how do you keep your vehicle safe and secure when you and your family are away on a holiday?
Even if you are going to secure your car inside the garage, it pays to apply an appropriate car cover to help protect it against the accumulation of dust and other particles that may fall on its painted surface. Garages can protect your vehicle from dust coming from the environment, but you still cannot get away with dust particles that emanate within the garage itself.
You have to choose the right car cover though. Ideally, you would want something that fits right on your car so that there will be as little space as possible where dust and insects can enter. It is also important to choose one that is made of breathable material. This is to help prevent moisture from getting trapped inside the cover. Choose one that is resistant to mold and mildew as well as durable enough not to rot while you’re away.
If you don’t have a garage, then it’s imperative that the car cover you choose should be tougher and more weatherproof than one that is designed for indoors. Remember that you will most likely be leaving your car outside the house, so it is crucial that you look for features that will protect your vehicle from the elements.
Change the Motor Oil
If you will only be away for a couple of days, then you clearly don’t need to do this. However, most holiday vacations rarely last a few days. Some can even last several weeks up to a few months. Now, if you are not going to use your car for an extended period of time, it is a must that you change the engine oil. The last thing you need is to let old, deposit-filled oil to remain in your system while you’re having the best time of your life in Aruba or perhaps even in Marseille.
Old oil already contains a handful of contaminants that you don’t want adhering to the different components of your engine. If the motor oil is allowed to sit there for more than a month, these contaminants can settle at the bottom and may initiate a series of processes that can degrade the overall performance of your engine. By the time you arrive from your holiday, you’d find your engine to be not running as smoothly as when you left it.
As such, always change the oil before you go on a minimum of 30-day holiday break. It is also imperative that the oil filter be replaced.
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Keep the Batteries Fully Charged
Batteries lose their charge over time. The conventional way of keeping the batteries fully charged is by disconnecting only the negative terminal of the battery. The negative terminal cables are then wrapped in a clean piece of cloth while the battery terminal post is also wrapped in cloth to help minimize corrosion.
Now, if you don’t want to lose all of your electronic presets, what you need is a trickle charger. This is a device that connects your battery to a standard electrical wall outlet. The good thing about a battery tender is that it delivers very low amounts of electricity (hence, the word ‘trickle) to your battery so that its charge is maintained. When you arrive from your vacation, your car battery will still be fully charged and you’d have no problems cranking your engine or even turning on the various electrical systems in your vehicle.
If you don’t want a trickle charger, then you might want to ask somebody you trust to go to your house every 2 weeks just to start the engine and drive your car for at least 15 minutes. This should help charge up the minimally-discharged car battery.
Fill or Empty Your Fuel Tank
If you have a diesel engine, it’s always a good idea to fill up your tank if you’re going to leave it for several weeks. This will help prevent the buildup of moisture inside the tank while also keeping the different seals from becoming too dry and brittle. It is also a good idea to add fuel stabilizer in your fuel as this can help prevent the buildup of ethanol. Such fuel additives can also protect your engine against corrosion, varnish, and gum. That’s not all. If you intend to leave your car behind for a year, the fuel stabilizer will keep your fuel from deteriorating. When you do get back home, you’ll be sure you’ve got the energy to drive.
If you own a car that runs on petrol, it is a good idea to empty your fuel tank to the point that you have barely enough to make the trip from your house to the nearest gasoline station. Petrol, unlike diesel fuel, has the tendency to become ‘stale’ with the passing of time. This is related to the effects of evaporation. Additionally, any additives in the petrol fuel also degrade over time. This can lead to insufficient combustibility and substantially less power. Fuel economy can also suffer in the long run. Leaving your fuel tank nearly empty should allow you to fill it up with fresh gasoline by the time you return.
Inflate Your Tires to the Correct Pressure
It is important to inflate your car’s tires to the correct air pressure before you go on a lengthy vacation using a portable air compressor. This is to help prevent flat spots. This occurs if the car has not been moved for too long such that its weight compresses the under inflated tires, leaving behind a characteristic ‘flat spot’. This is most evident in low-profile and performance tires as well as in colder environments. If this is allowed to continue, the flat spot can become a more permanent feature of your tire such that you’re left with nothing to do but to replace it.
Getting someone to drive your car every week for about half an hour should help get the tire temperatures warm enough to get rid of the nasty flat spots. Alternatively, you can always choose to remove the tires, support your car with appropriate jack stands, and store the removed tires using a tire tack in your garage. It is more tedious but is a much better solution especially if you’re going to be out for at least 30 days.
Place Tire Chocks
For daily use, the parking brake can be a great tool. However, if you’re planning on leaving your car for at least a month, it’s best to forget applying the parking brakes. Doing so can fuse your brake pads to the brake rotor since they will be in contact for a long time. Instead, place tire chocks or tire stoppers so that your vehicle will not inadvertently move.
In case you do not have tire chocks, you can always improvise. If you have several bags of cement you can use these to block the tires from both sides. If you have concrete blocks or wooden blocks, you can also use these. Whatever you do, make sure never to engage the parking brakes especially if you’re going to be away for at least a month.
Organize Your Garage
If you’re going to leave your car inside your garage, make sure to organize everything. If you have shelves that are literally filled with cans, bottles, and other containers of automotive and hardware supplies, you may want to take them down and put them in a box to be placed on a safe corner of the garage. Pests that may find their way into your garage can climb up these shelves and knock these items down. Good if your car is parked far from these shelves. But if not, then you’re looking at possible dents and scratches on your vehicle even though you may have a car cover.
Make sure to organize everything. From your hand tools to power tools and even heavy machines, and devices that you may have. You don’t want any of these to inadvertently roll into your car and forever change the way your ride looks.
A garage heater can also help provide a better ambient temperature if you are in a colder country.
Clean Your Car
Most folks don’t think about giving their cars a proper wash before they leave for a holiday. You should. Bird droppings, water stains, and even particulate matter can get ‘baked’ onto the surface of your car and can potentially damage its paint. Every square inch of your car from the top all the way to the body panels and even under the car should be washed and thoroughly cleaned. Don’t forget the wheels and the tires and even the fenders where tar, grease, and mud may have accumulated. Giving it a good wax should help preserve the shine of your car until you get back from your holiday vacation.
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Don’t forget the interior. You don’t want to get in your car if it smells awful, as if there’s a dead rat already rotting inside. Remove all critters, pests, and insects that may be present in your passenger cabin. Make sure to clean every nook and cranny of your car’s interior and using a leather conditioner can help protect your seats. Don’t leave out the car mats as these can be filled with debris, insects, and what have you. Make sure to clean these as well before you go on a lengthy holiday.
Secure Your Car
Once you’ve cleaned your car, make sure to secure it. Remove anything that is valuable. Consider removing your stereo system as well as other electronic devices that can be easily removed. Check your glove compartment as well as the compartment in your center console. Sometimes there are things that we keep there that can be especially interesting for other individuals. When you’re done, make sure to lock your car.
If you don’t have a garage and you’ll be leaving your car outdoors, make sure to park it in a well-lit area. You may also consider installing a motion-activated spotlight or outdoor light. And if you really want the best security for your home and your car, you can invest in one of those home security systems that you can easily manage on your smartphone from anywhere around the world. You can pick one that has motion sensors and alarm triggers. This way you can actively thwart any attempt by unscrupulous individuals who may want to break into your car.
Consider putting pseudo-safety mechanisms on your car. For instance, you can place stickers of highly-advanced car security systems on certain body panels. You may also want to put a blinking light to mimic that of an active car alarm security even though it is only a battery-operated device. These may or may not deter car thieves, but they do work in most cases.
Keeping your car safe when you go on a much-needed holiday for you and your family shouldn’t be difficult at all. Simply adhere to these very simple tips and you can stop worrying about the car you left at home. This way, you can focus on enjoying the things that you want to experience on your holiday vacation.
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