Close up of driver starting ignition

Staying off the road doesn’t mean your car won’t need looking after.

There will be times in your life when you won’t be getting behind the wheel regularly. No doubt 2020’s various lockdowns and being housebound are locked into your memory: it was a strange time of banana bread, toilet paper madness and empty roads all across the UK.

While the Covid-19 lockdowns are now behind us and will (hopefully) not be repeated any time soon, there will still be periods in your life when you won’t drive as much as usual.

Whether this is due to an illness, holiday, or simply having a second car that doesn’t see as much action as your primary vehicle, it’s important to maintain the condition of your lease car for when you do get back on the road.

And depending on how long you’ll be leaving your car idle for, there are different steps you can take to look after it.

We’ve broken down some key things to be aware of, so that, no matter your circumstances, you can get back to driving safely during your car lease.


Our first tip is probably the easiest and it requires minimal planning!

Empty fuel tanks attract condensation, which could damage your car down the line. Prevent this by topping up before leaving your car stationary for an extended period of time.


We do love an easy tip like this.

Battery maintenance 

You don’t need to have an electric car lease to pay attention to your battery.

Most modern cars will be able to go a good two weeks without needing a helping hand with a recharge – if they have a healthy battery that is.

But leave your car for long enough and you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Cars need to be used regularly to maintain the battery charge and keep the engine starting properly. Which is why you need to be prepared if you plan on leaving your car stationary for a while.

(It’s that or face having to whack the jump leads out – as this writer had to do at a busy airport after a two-week holiday in Majorca).

If you won’t have access to your car for a week or two, you can connect the battery to a mains-powered charger to top it up and prevent the loss of power. But if you’ll be around, you can save a lot of faff down the road by starting your car regularly and letting it run for at least 15 minutes.

This will recharge the battery and help keep the engine in good condition – particularly if it runs on petrol. Be warned though, if you don’t keep to the 15-minute recommendation then you run the risk of making the situation worse as many short journeys are known to kill battery life over time.

If you drive an electric car, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach. Though they have 12-volt batteries just like petrol cars, they’re charged differently. Just starting the car will operate the charging system.

So, running the car for ten minutes once a week or so should be enough to keep the battery in tip top shape.

And it goes without saying – though we’re going to say it anyway –whether you drive an EV or a petrol vehicle, never leave your car running unattended.

Brake and tyre maintenance

Okay, so you’ve taken the necessary steps to keep your car starting without problems.

But have you thought about how to keep your car road-worthy? It doesn’t take long for basic safety standards to slip during a period of inactivity, so it’s crucial to think about the condition of your car in advance.

Looking after your brakes

During a prolonged period of inactivity the brakes on your car can seize up, which will make driving more difficult – or even dangerous. You might feel like your car is pulling to one side, or that the brakes are still on even when driving.

But driving with seized brakes can damage the discs and even the wheel hub. In extreme cases, driving with seized brakes could generate enough heat to make them actually catch fire.

Not ideal!

If you’re home, try and move your car back and forth during those times you’re running the engine, so they don’t seize up. Use both the handbrake and foot brake when you do this to keep them active.

If you’re not home, it’s a good idea to check your brakes at the start of your journey. As you pull away, press the footbrake – it should feel sharp, not spongey.

If you notice screeching or scraping sounds, vibration, or an increased distance to slow down then there may be an issue – in which case, you need to take the car to your local dealership.


Looking after your tyres

It’s just as important to test your tyres as it is your brakes.

Over or underinflated tyres can lead to a blowout on the road, which can be scary and dangerous depending on where it happens and if it’s safe to stop.

You can check your tyre pressure before setting off and compare to the manufacturer’s recommendation. In fact, if you’re a responsible driver checking your tyres regularly it’s a good idea to invest in a digital pump so you don’t have to keep topping up at your local supermarket.

(This editor was given one for Christmas by her very practical Dad a few years ago and while not initially excited about it, said pump has proved to be very useful).

They’re small, easy to use and relatively inexpensive.

Don’t forget to look at the tread depth and any general wear and tear too. Worn tyres are dangerous and will need replacing; if you’ve taken out a maintenance package then you may already have the cost of tyre repair or replacement covered by your lease.


Safe storage

If you’re leaving your car unattended and undriven for longer than a month, there are some additional things you can do to look after it.

First, consider giving it a thorough clean and polish – especially if it will be parked outside and exposed to the elements. It’s important to look after the paintwork yes, but a thorough clean of the inside should stop any unwanted guests from setting up shop.

If you keep your car in a garage, keep the car dry and well-ventilated to prevent mould and mildew from setting in. It may also be a good idea to keep your car off the street if you can, especially in the winter. Animals and wildlife are known to shelter from the elements in stationary cars.

It’s important to protect your lease car from the elements, as your funder will inspect it at the end of your lease and can charge you for any damage in excess of fair wear and tear.

You can check the BVRLA Fair Wear and Tear Guide to see what counts as a reasonable allowance before you hand your car back. We would recommend you refer to it throughout your lease to best look after your car.

A happy family heads out on a car journey

 Taking your car back on the road

If your car has been stationary for a while – and especially if you haven’t followed any of the above guidance – there are things you’ll need to check before you start the engine and head out on the road.

First, check your MOT status. Brand-new cars don’t require an MOT until 3 years after the date of its registration, so if you’ve had your lease car for longer than that, you’ll need to make sure it’s got a valid MOT certificate before you drive anywhere.

Assuming your car is roadworthy, you’ll need to check things like fluid (coolant, windscreen washer, engine oil), tyre pressure and brakes. Make sure nothing is nesting under the bonnet or in the wheel arch too; when it’s cold, cats are known to curl up in those little pockets of space for warmth.