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When you return from the long hiatus, the last thing you want is a stolen, dirty, or defunct vehicle for which you’ll need to call the tow truck and repair guy



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Fri 14 Jul 2023, 3:17 PM

Summer is here and schools are shutting down for the long break. And you may be planning to take your family away from the sizzling cities of the Middle East to cooler destinations, as is the long-standing tradition here.

But two months from now, when you return from the long hiatus, the last thing you want is a stolen, dirty, or defunct vehicle for which you’ll need to call the tow truck and repair guy. And so, as a preventive measure, here’s a bunch of basic-but- crucial dos and don’ts of car ownership to look into, before flying out.

Parking spot

The number one rule of thumb is to scout and secure a suitable parking spot to leave your vehicle while you are away. The fortunate few may have a private or reserved parking spot in one’s building or villa and may not have a worry in the world. But for the overwhelming majority who will have to rely on public parking spaces, I suggest you leave your vehicle in an area that is well-lit and has a reasonable amount of human activity.

If you can take advantage of a friend’s unused basement parking spot or garage, one that may have security measures in place, such as surveillance cameras or 24×7 security staff, do it. Utilising paid facility, like the long-term parking lots in the airports or a storage facility for cars like CARS Café, may also be good options. Some of these facilities are even climate-controlled environments, but they aren’t cheap. Better to take this course of action, than to be penny-wise and pound-foolish, I’d say.

Lock up

As simple as it sounds, it’s important to double-check whether you’ve left your car doors locked and the windows rolled up before taking that long flight out. This has several advantages. One is that it thwarts easy unauthorised access to your vehicle. This will not only discourage people from taking stuff out of your vehicle but also from misusing it for other purposes.

Valuables

It is best to retrieve any items of value and/or personal belongings from your vehicle and store them at home or wherever it suits you best. And if for some reason you plan to leave them in your vehicle, don’t leave them in visible areas like the seats, floor, or dashboard. Use the glovebox or central cubby. This also helps discourage the thieving mentality in some.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have litter. If you have garbage lying around in the vehicle, especially food-related items like tea cups, food boxes, etc., make sure you dispose them, because it can very easily facilitate growth of mold or other fungi. Upon returning, make sure you open the doors and windows, and let air enter the vehicle, with the A/C running to ensure airborne microbes are removed to some extent.

Where’s my key?

The other important thing is to keep your key in a very specific location, preferably one that you usually use. This ensures that it is readily accessible when you get back, be it after a week or a few months. A case of the missing key is not something you want to crack on your hurried first day of work after your return. Personally, I tend to take the car key with me wherever I go and leave the spare in a safe spot or with a friend or family. Top of the front tyre or inside the bodywork cavities are far from ideal locations.

Car cover

If you intend to leave your vehicle parked outdoors for an extended period, consider using a car cover to protect it from the elements, the harsh summer sun, and dust. This can actually help preserve the exterior and prevent unnecessary damage like paint discolouration due to bird droppings. Also, make sure to have it tucked into the windows or have it fastened somehow because you don’t want it to be gone with the wind, as I saw the other day.

I’d also recommend using a sunshade opened fully on the windshield to protect the dashboard from cracking and to keep the cabin cool.

Battery health

It’s anyone’s guess that the most talked about point, especially in this sort of scenario, is whether the battery will be able to work its magic i.e., crank up the motor after weeks of inactivity. The car battery tends to dissipate energy. Hence, consider disconnecting the battery or using a battery maintainer to keep it charged. Alternatively, you can ask a neighbour or a family friend, or even the building security guard to start it up once a week and let it idle for a few minutes to keep it operation-worthy. Else you can always call the friendly guys at CAFU.

Tyre pressure

It is best to keep the tyres inflated to the recommended pressure before exiting the country. Although flat spots are not as common as dead batteries in vehicles, it is still a possibility to factor in, depending on the duration of your absence. I’d ask a friend to start the vehicle and take it for a short drive once a week. Even around the parking lot will do, as long as the contact patch of the tyres changes.

Local guardian

It is equally important to call or at the very least leave a message to a trusted neighbour, family member or friend about your plans. And ideally, you should mention dates of departure and return, duration, location, etc. Taking into consideration the fast-paced lives of people in the city, the best way to make easy work of this additional responsibility is to park it within the vicinity of a friend’s parking lot, so he or she sees it every morning on his or her way to work.

Insurance coverage

Please review your car insurance policy to ensure it provides appropriate coverage, especially for the period you’ll be away. It must cover theft, natural calamities, fires, etc. Again, if you are required to pay a little extra, we suggest you do.

So, this is our practical guide, a roundup of all the tips and tricks on how to keep your car in good health while you are away scuba diving in Seychelles, backpacking in Europe, getting culturally enriched in the Indian subcontinent or just lazing around at home. If you’d like to share any of your suggestions, open up your inbox and write to us.

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