How should I prepare my car for months of non-use?


John Paul, AAA Northeast’s car doctor, answers a question from a reader who plans to be away for five months.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, file

Why. I will be in Florida for five months next winter. What are your recommendations for a car that will sit for so long? This is a very well maintained 2006 Toyota Camry with 46,000 miles.

a. Here’s what I did with a car that sat for six months. I changed the oil and filter and the door locks, hinges, and just about anything else that moved. I filled the gas tank and added a fuel stabilizer, and circulated the maximum amount of air on the tires (the only time you should do this). I also found four pieces of foam construction insulation, about an inch thick, and put it under each tire (helps prevent flat spots). I put a moisture absorber over an aluminum pie plate to collect any moisture and prevent mildew. I attached the battery to the battery tender. I also did car cleaning and waxing and covered the car with a car cover. When I returned the car was looking good and ran perfectly.

Why. I am referencing your answer in your column regarding the 2014 Honda transmission issue. Same problem with my Chevy Colorado. I went to my local guy about replacing the transmission fluid as you recommended. It has had a negative impact on the occasion, he said. Are you aware of this possibility?

a. In older cars, replacing the transmission fluid on a car with a lot of varnish buildup can sometimes cause problems. And usually, the owner suspected a problem with the transmission and was hoping a fluid change would help. So, it is believed that the fluid change caused the problem. If it were my truck and the transmission “chaggled” in it, I would change the fluid and add a friction modifier like Lubegaard or Lucas Transmission Fix and hope for the best.

Why. I have a 2020 BMW X3. My question is should I rotate the tyres? I can’t find any answer, pro or cons.

a. BMW just says to inspect the tires every 10,000 miles and never mentions tire rotation. So, in this particular case, I’d say that depending on factory maintenance, tire rotation is not necessary.

Why. I am replacing my Lexus RX 300 which has been a good vehicle. I’m thinking of Mercedes, and the model I’m looking at is the GLE 450. What do you think about this vehicle?

a. Like all Mercedes vehicles, it feels solid even on the road and with the doors closed. The technology is impressive with almost every advanced driver assistance system available. There have been some criticisms. Some small functions are hard to find and use. It took a few minutes to find and adjust the lumbar support. Also, the infotainment system can be a bit difficult to operate. The seats were quite comfortable once adjusted, and the overall ride and handling was great for an SUV. I am also glad to see that this vehicle has a spare tire.

Why. In connection with your recent diagnosis of the red brake warning light. I had the exact same warning lights with my 2009 Cadillac CTS. Via the warning code the dealer identified the problem as a worn wheel bearing which was replaced and the problem resolved. Now I wonder if the mechanic billed for replacing the brakes or diagnosing the problem incorrectly?

a. A worn out bearing will usually turn on the ABS light and not the red brake warning light. The red brake warning light will come on with a hydraulic problem related to the parking brake or braking system.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s car doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. E-mail your car question [email protected] Listen to Car Doctor on the Radio every Saturday morning at 104.9 FM or online,

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