What to do when restarting a car that hasn't been used for a long time

Stephen Wright, 2 years ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • howto
  • service
Mechanic inspecting car battery

WhoCanFIxMyCar has teamed up with VARTA, the battery specialists, to offer some advice on what to do when restarting your car after it has been used for a long time .

Road traffic has fallen massively throughout the UK and for many people come to a complete standstill due to social distancing restrictions. According to GiPA (Automotive Aftermarket Intelligence) traffic has fallen by 75% in some areas of the country.

That has left many drivers wondering whether or not there car will start first time after a lengthy lay off.

Our top three tips are:

  • The car should start again without problem if you follow a few tips

  • Charging is better than disconnecting or removing the battery

  • A battery check provides peace of mind

Jump to more advice

VARTA have created a handy video charged full of battery care advice:

Battery tips for your car that has been standing for a long time

 varta car battery video advice thumpnail for video

Advice for cars that have been static for week

Car batteries should be able to cope with several weeks of not being used, however for longer periods, VARTA recommend following the below advice:

When you get going, drive more not less

If possible, drive the car for 20-30 minutes rather than just very short journeys. This will allow the alternator to fully recharge the battery.

Avoid using electrics

Turn off the radio and use the electric windows and electric sunroof as little as possible, and only use the air conditioning system at a low level. This is because all these consumers draw power that can be better used to charge the battery.

Don't prevent sleep modes

If the car is parked for extended periods, keep the doors and boot closed and locked, only open if really necessary.

This will keep the car in automatic sleep mode therefore the power consumption of all electrical devices will be reduced to an absolute minimum – as soon as they open it wakes the electrical consumers and they start to draw power from the battery.

Keep it dry & clean

Ensure the battery is dry and clean, as dirt and moisture between the terminals can cause creeping currents and accelerate the discharge of the battery.

Charging is better than disconnecting

Even if a car battery is easily accessible, it is better to charge it rather than to disconnect and remove it. Electronic systems in newer vehicles can trigger error messages or lose data when the power supply is interrupted, which then may require a visit to the workshop to be reset. It’s enough to check the voltage from time to time and recharge the battery as soon as it drops below 12.4 volts.

Worried about your car battery? Why not get your local garage to check it. 

VARTA also recommend that if a vehicle is unused for long periods of time, particularly if it has an older battery, it is worthwhile having it checked at a garage to ensure it is in good working order and not close to failure.