If you’ve read a few of our earlier posts, you’ll know that we’re pretty big car guys. There are a lot of nuances to owning a car, and long term storage (a stay longer than 3 weeks) is no exception. Putting a car away isn’t as easy as tossing that winter parka into one of our bins, so take read over a few quick tips on car storage so that you don’t come back to a ride with a dead battery and a rats nest under the hood.
Location Location Location
Ideally you’ll want to keep your vehicle somewhere indoors if you’re not going to be able to drive it for an extended period of time. A roof and four walls will protect it from the elements and keep temperatures relatively stable to prevent rust and sun damage. If a garage or other indoor facility isn’t in the cards, you can make do with a weatherproof car cover to help keep things clean and dry.
Mind Your Fluids
Like tuning a car to take on snowy or difficult terrain, there a few technical odds and ends to take care of if it’s going to be sitting around for a while. Consider changing your oil if your car will be in storage for longer than 30 days. The contaminants in used engine oil can actually damage your engine if left sitting over a long break. In general, you’ll want to avoid gunk accumulating anywhere on your vehicle so that it doesn’t skip a beat when you take it back on the road. Top off the tank to prevent moisture from building up and keep the seals from drying out. Mixing in fuel stabilizer will prevent ethanol buildup and protect the engine from gum, rust, and varnish issues too.
Tires and Brakes
Cars are designed to move and sitting still for too long can actually do a number on your tires and brakes. It’s usually good practice to engage the parking break when you’re, well parking, but you should avoid using it if you’re putting your car into storage. If the brake pads are in contact with rotors for too long there’s a chance that they might actually fuse and cause a whole mess of problems.
Don’t forget that the tires on your car are malleable. If a car is left stationary for long periods of time, flat spots can form on your tires just because of the weight that they are keeping up. Make sure your tires are inflated to their proper pressure or have someone just drive the car for a bit to prevent flat spots from becoming permanent. Thought it’s a bit more work, taking the wheels off and putting your vehicle up on jack stands is another option to keep your tires fresh. Replacing a tire when there’s plenty of tread left will always sting.
Stretch Those Legs
Turning over the engine every now and then is probably the most important bit of car storage info that you should remember. Bonus points for actually driving it around for a few minutes too. Doing this will keep your engine (and other components) properly lubricated as well as maintain your battery’s charge.
A car battery just left unattended will eventually lose its charge if given enough time. If you can’t make arrangements to run the car for a few minutes every two weeks or so, you can save your battery by simply disconnecting the negative battery cable. You’ll lose stereo presets, time, and other electronic settings, but at least you won’t need to buy a new battery.
Clean Before Storing
Don’t skip out on giving your car a good cleaning before putting it away. A good wash (and wax for that extra bit of cleaning) will keep water stains, bird droppings, and other nasty stuff from damaging the paintjob while your car is in storage. Don’t forget to clean off mud and grease from the wheels and underside too. As a final touch you should also take some time to seal off any gaps or pipes (exhausts or air intakes) to keep any critters from turning your ride into a winter home.
Note that a gap in coverage could actually cost you a lot more in the long run if you choose to just discontinue insurance when your car is in storage. Your mileage may vary on this one but you should always speak to someone at your insurance company about what options are available to you instead of just turning your coverage off like some switch.