Maintaining Vehicles After Prolonged Periods of Downtime

If the vehicle you drive for work has been parked or in storage for a few months and you are planning to put it back into service, there are a few things you should do.

Do a thorough pre-trip inspection

  • Check all fluid levels – motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering, coolant, windshield washer fluid; top up with specified fluids.
  • Check under the vehicle for signs of leaks (e.g. “spots” on the ground). If you see any, find out what’s leaking or have a mechanic take a look and make necessary repairs.
  • If you didn’t start the vehicle regularly or store it with a trickle charger (also known as “battery maintainer”), you may need to charge the battery. Check battery posts for signs of corrosion (click here for more information).
  • Make sure all lights are working. Check that dashboard and interior lights are working. It’s handy to get someone to help you check exterior lights, especially the brake and reversing lights.
  • Clean the vehicle – inside and out. Use glass cleaner to clean the windows – inside and out.
  • Look for signs (and smells) of mice and other rodents. Look for chewed belts, hoses and wires. Check for “nests” in the air intake, under the dash and seats and in the trunk
  • For a handy pre-trip inspection form, click here.

Double-check the tires

  • Ensure the vehicle is equipped with the right tires for the season (e.g., if it’s summer and the vehicle still has winter tires, switch over to summer tires).
  • Use a pressure gauge to verify all tire pressures (including spare) match the manufacturer’s recommendation (see information on driver’s door post or in Owner’s Manual).

Catch up on deferred maintenance

  • If you postponed any repairs or scheduled maintenance before you parked the vehicle (e.g. tire rotation, oil change), make an appointment to get those things done before putting the vehicle back to work.
  • For more vehicle maintenance tips, click here.


  • Check insurance papers and / or licence plate to verify vehicle insurance is valid. If not, renew it before driving the vehicle.

Take a quick test drive

  • When you first start the vehicle, watch the dashboard for warning lights.
  • Take a few minutes for an easy drive around the block. Test the steering and brakes to see if they “feel” right. Listen for odd noises. If you feel or hear anything unusual, get a mechanic to have a look.
  • The first time you pass a fuel station, top up the fuel tank with fresh fuel. Fuel can degrade when exposed to heat, oxygen and humidity so getting fresh fuel into the tank helps to reduce the risk fuel may have gone bad.

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