Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

How long can a hybrid sit unused in the garage?

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid


I have an unusual maintenance question – or perhaps it is becoming more common. I have a 2011 Camry Hybrid, but I live downtown and do not use it often. It is now a little more than one year old and I have only 3,000 kilometres on it. Moreover, my wife and I go away for three months every winter and leave the car in our underground heated garage. I will detach the small battery's terminals before I leave. Obviously, the suggested maintenance schedule does not make much sense for me. Do you have any suggestions with respect to maintenance? – Michael

The consensus is that leaving a hybrid with nickel-metal-hydride batteries such as yours stored for three months should be okay, but four-five months might be pressing it a bit.

With the car shut off, there is no parasitic drain on the main battery so it will retain a charge for a long time. The same is not true for the service battery, the 12-volt unit common to most automobiles. Instead of unplugging it, I would suggest you invest $50 at the local car parts or Canadian Tire store in a battery minder, also called "smart charger," "intelligent charger", etc.

Story continues below advertisement

I have used one called Battery Tender for several years. Unlike the older generation of "trickle" chargers that apply a constant current and ultimately damage a battery or lower its full state of charge, these new units provide a charge until the battery is at a "full" state and then shut off the current. They contain electronics that monitor the battery and, when there is a slight drop in voltage, they apply a small charge, but only long enough to top it off, maintaining a high level of charge.

There is no such system available to the consumer market for the main battery pack in hybrids. These high-voltage units are extremely powerful/dangerous and should never be tampered with by anyone other than a technician trained in their use. Were a main battery pack to be fully discharged, it would require a trip to the dealer and a special recharging station.

Do you have an automotive maintenance or repair question? We can help. Send your queries to

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at