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

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader planning to be away for five months.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

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

A. Here is what I did with a car that sat for six months. I changed the oil and filter and lubed the door locks, hinges, and just about anything else that moves. I filled the gas tank and added fuel stabilizer, and aired up the tires to the maximum amount on the tire (the only time you should do this). I also got four pieces of foam construction insulation, about an inch thick, and put it under each tire (helps prevent flat spots). I put in a moisture absorber on an aluminum pie plate to collect any moisture and prevent mildew. I hooked up the battery to a battery tender. I also cleaned and waxed the car and covered the car with a car cover. When I returned the car looked good and ran perfectly.  


Q. I’m referencing your answer in your column regarding the 2014 Honda transmission issue. My Chevy Colorado has the same issue. I went to my local guy about changing the transmission fluid as you recommended. He said on occasion it’s had a negative effect. Are you aware of this possibility?

A. In older cars, changing the transmission fluid on a car that had a lot of varnish buildup could sometimes cause problems. And usually, the owner suspected a problem with the transmission and was hoping a fluid change would help. So, it is assumed that the fluid change caused the problem. If this was my truck and it had a transmission “chuggle,” I would change the fluid and add a friction modifier such as Lubeguard or Lucas Transmission Fix and hope for the best. 

Q. I have a 2020 BMW X3. My question is should I rotate the tires? I can’t seem to get an answer, pro or con. 

A. BMW just states to inspect the tires every 10,000 miles and never mentions a tire rotation. So, in this particular case, I would say based on the factory maintenance, tire rotation is not necessary.


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

A. Like all Mercedes vehicles, it feels solid both on the road and even when you close the doors. The technology is impressive with just about every advanced driver assistance system available. There were a couple of critiques. Some minor functions are difficult to find and use. It took a couple of minutes to find and adjust the lumbar support. Also, the infotainment system can be a little daunting to operate. The seats, once adjusted, were quite comfortable, and the overall ride and handling were very good for an SUV. I was also pleased to see this vehicle has a spare tire.    

Q. Regarding your recent diagnosis of the red brake warning light. I had the exact same warning lights with my 2009 Cadillac CTS. Through the warning code the dealer diagnosed the problem as a worn wheel bearing which was replaced and the problem was solved. Now I wonder if the mechanic ran up the bill replacing the brakes or incorrectly diagnosing the problem?


A. A worn bearing will typically turn on an ABS light not the red brake warning light. The RED brake warning light will come on with the parking brake or a hydraulic issue related to the 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 to [email protected] Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at


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