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I am leaving my car (2016 Toyota Rav 4 XLE) to go on vacation. This will be during the winter so December to January. It will be under covered parking, but I am worried about what the cold will do to it if it isn’t going to be driven for 1 month. Any tips on what I should do to protect it before I leave?

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    Maybe increase the air pressure in the tires by about 0.5 bar (and check the pressure of the spare tire at that opportunity). In addition to the recommendation regarding the battery (disconnect the minus, typically black or sometimes blue) that was already posted. – Dr. Manuel Kuehner Oct 21 at 12:34
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    @Dr.ManuelKuehner: That should probably be an answer or part of one. – R.. Oct 21 at 12:59
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    From experience: Don't leave the parking/emergency brake engaged. Mine "fused together" with the wheel after only about 10 days parked at an airport once. – Jeff Y Oct 21 at 14:02
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    First of all, there's no such thing as "Winter in Texas". It's nearly November and my A/C unit is still struggling to maintain 68 degrees (F). Second, if modern cars can't sit static for a month without encountering problems (which I don't doubt), then this should be the biggest Buyer-Beware on new cars right there. Modern electronic junk. (Sorry, just had to say it). – Josh Campbell Oct 21 at 19:56
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    @Redwolf the "coldest" January in Austin barely went under 5 Celsius.... that's not "winter". If my car can sit for a week in -20C..... I am sure a month at roughly 5 isn't critical... – Patrice Oct 23 at 16:09
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Your vehicle will be perfectly fine. You don't necessarily need to do anything before leaving.

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    Agreed. I often left a vehicle in the canadian winter cold for extensive period of time. The only issue I had was a car covered of snow, ice or whatever precipitation was when I was away. I always made sure to a full tank to minimize condensation. – Gabriel Mongeon Oct 21 at 19:31
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    1 month is just too short to cause real problems, assuming everything is in proper conditions to start with. 3 months+ and you may need to do some preventative work like disconnect battery. – Nelson Oct 22 at 4:19
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    Concur - my car only gets driven once every 2-3 months normally. One month and its not cold will be absolutely fine. The main risk will be vandalism/burglary.. – Criggie Oct 22 at 10:47
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    Agreed, a month as a one off is absolutely nothing for a modern car – Dan Oct 22 at 14:58
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Clean out the interior first; make sure there's no food or anything that could spoil or attract a hungry animal. You don't need to disconnect the battery unless you already need a new battery.

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    +1: Removing biological waste is a good idea! ;) – Dr. Manuel Kuehner Oct 21 at 14:20
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    yeah, disconnecting the battery seems a bit extreme - I would be pretty worried if anything was drawing enough current with ignition off that it would ruin the battery that fast! – Michael Oct 21 at 18:46
  • @Michael some alarm systems can drain the battery relatively quickly – purpleACR Oct 22 at 23:04
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    @purpleACR Ah... especially if the alarm is set off! Err, wait... – Michael Oct 23 at 1:01
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I would disconnect the battery, apart from that all else will be fine.

Most cars have circuits, like the clock, that consume power at all times. Disconnecting the battery stops this drain, but it won’t stop the natural discharge of the battery.

  • And just in case, I'd borrow a pair of jumper cables, leave them in the car so you are ready when you return, and find the battery voltage down enough to not start the car upon your return. – zipzit Oct 21 at 6:17
  • @zipzit perhaps your comment is slightly more relevant for the other answer? As that will be happily discharging its battery... – Solar Mike Oct 21 at 7:10
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    @zipzit Really, a set of jumper cables is just a thing you should own anyhow, regardless, in case of emergencies. (Unless you've got an electric or hybrid vehicle, that gets a bit more complicated...) – Darrel Hoffman Oct 21 at 14:31
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    Keep in mind that disconnecting the battery will mean that some settings may be lost: clock time, radio station presets, stuff like that. – studog Oct 22 at 13:12
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    I definitely WOULD NOT disconnect the battery on a 2016 Toyota. If there was a poster for "starts reliably after a few months" that would be a poster of a recent-model Toyota! – Fattie Oct 23 at 14:35
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For one month I think that you are just fine without any extra precautions. But if it's for a longer period, then you may consider the following ideas.


I recommend three action points, one on them is stolen from the comment of user Jeff Y.

  1. Maybe increase the air pressure in the tires by about 0.5 bar (and check the pressure of the spare tire at that opportunity).
    • This helps prevent the tires from getting a flat deformation.
  2. In addition to the recommendation regarding the battery (disconnect the minus because it is safer from electrical point of view, typically black or sometimes blue) that was already posted.
    • Disconnecting the battery will prevent that the battery slowly gets empty because there is typically always a (very) small energy consumption in a car even if it's parking. When you reconnect the battery then reverse the order. But I think that it's enough, if you just disconnect the minus and put some textile around it (it's covered with grease typically).
    • Maybe you need to input a code into your radio after reconnecting the battery. If that's the case, better prepare the code before you leave so that you don't need to look for it after you return.
    • Disconnecting the battery may be the single most important point regarding "being able to drive immediately after you return".
  3. No not use the parking-brake (if possible) because it can get stuck (especially it it's an old one).

Update

I found an related article online from the website https://driving.ca: https://driving.ca/porsche/auto-news/news/storing-your-car-for-the-winter-follow-these-eight-tips. The topics are:

  1. Get things clean
  2. Storage places
  3. Fuel up (--> Fill the fuel tank)
  4. Avoiding flat feet (--> Tire pressure)
  5. Oil and water
  6. Maintaining a charge (--> Battery)
  7. Unwanted car guests
  8. Tuck and cover
  • The parking brake would be a "problem" if you have a modern automatic parking brake. But I think you'd be fine with that. Have no real winter experience with that. One of my former cars was parked in -18 Celcius for about a week in 199x and we had no issues with that - apart from it being all frozen over on the outside. – Paul Palmpje Oct 21 at 19:37
  • @PaulPalmpje Thanks for sharing your experience. As usual with general advice, it's about statistics and probability ;). In general there is no harm in not using the parking brake if there is no need for it. – Dr. Manuel Kuehner Oct 21 at 19:47
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    My tires were fine for 3 months without use.. And the pressures were correct when I checked them when I started to use it again... No need to add air... – Solar Mike Oct 22 at 6:50
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    If there's an alarm/anti-theft system in the car, it might also need to be deactivated after reconnecting the battery. – user24582 Oct 22 at 12:46
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    If you go through any of the trouble of dealing with tire pressure, battery, and parking brake, you can just as well fill up with fuel having less ethanol content (typically premium in NA). Ethanol has more affinity for the water deposit at the bottom of your tank and will promote rusting if left undisturbed for a long period of time. – Jeffrey supports Monica Oct 22 at 19:30
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A full tank of gas will minimize condensation in the fuel tank.

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    and a full tank of premium (or other non-ethanol content) fuel will result in less corrosion potential – Jeffrey supports Monica Oct 22 at 19:32
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Lock your doors . . .

. . . and have a safe trip.

Weather is quite mild in Lubbock.

With the presumption that your vehicle is in good running condition, and has no charging system issues (like a bad alternator / battery, or an aftermarket alarm that constantly pulls 300mA,) you should have no issues electrically nor mechanically.

1

The main thing I can think of is to make sure that there is antifreeze in your radiator and not simply water. You don't want the water in your radiator to freeze and expand and damage the engine.

  • The odds of freezing weather in Lubbock, TX are fairly low. Not non-zero, but close. Good advice for more northern climes, however. Of course, if the vehicle came from the factory* with water, not antifreeze, in the radiator, that's a discussion to have with the dealership. Antifreeze help keep it cooler in the summer, too. *The car is a 2016 - highly unlikely to have had a radiator flush/fill in < 3 years of ownership unless an owner buys into all the services sold at the local quick-change oil place. – FreeMan Oct 23 at 14:11
  • Keep in mind that corrosion is also a problem in a water-only environment. mechanics.stackexchange.com/a/3575/57 – Bob Cross Oct 23 at 18:51
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It should be fine for a month, as-is, in a covered parking garage. Make sure you disconnect all devices from power ports. Things like phones and other accessories.

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    This answer looks cut off mid-sentence. – JAD Oct 22 at 9:49
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    I sometimes accidentally a word, too, but this answer seems it's missing mo – Pavel Oct 23 at 8:16
  • Blokes, if you see an obvious problem like that, just edit to fix it ! – Fattie Oct 23 at 14:45
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I'll add an alternative. Why not take public transportation to/from the airport?

Leave your car in your garage, hooking up a battery tender if you want. Give a friend the keys and ask them to take it out once or twice before your return.

Fewer problems with vandalism/theft/odd things due to an exposed vehicle. Almost certainly less expensive than a month's worth of parking fees.

In any event, enjoy the time off!

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