Whether you’re going on a long trip, packing away your truck for the winter, or need to prep your vehicle for storage while you make a long move cross country, it’s essential that you take a little time to properly ready your automobile for long-term storage.
Skimping on this process could have expensive consequences like a ruined engine or damaged interior. Letting your stay parked for a few weeks is usually safe, but you store your car for several months, proper maintenance will ensure your four wheels are ready to drive when it’s time to get it out.
Here are a few things you’ll need to do to make sure your car is ready to store safely:
Deal With Fluids
Give your fluids a good look over. The oil should be safe in storage for up to a year, but you should change it beforehand if it’s old, dirty or you’ve reached the mileage limit. If your car is in storage for more than a year, you’ll want to “fog” the engine, which entails spraying fogging oil into the carburetor, inboard motor, and air intake. The process helps protect your engine against corrosion.
Before putting your car in storage, fill up the gas tank. Once your tank is full, add fuel stabilizer to the gas to keep the fuel fresh and ready to go. A fuel stabilizer removes water from the engine system and helps keep your engine safe from corrosion. You’ll want to let your engine run for about five minutes or so to make sure the solution works its way through the engine.
Double check to make sure your coolant and other fluids are topped off.
Depending on the age and model of your car, you may need to remove the battery from your vehicle. You can keep it charged by connecting it to a battery maintainer or a trickle charger. Make sure you store the battery on a piece of wood or another non-conductive surface to prevent an accidental shock. New models may require the battery stay connected due to computer memory, in that case, you can still hook it up to a battery maintainer with the hood open.
When in doubt, refer to your car manual or contact a local mechanic to ask.
Wash it Down
Before storing your car away for the winter, make sure to do a thorough scrub down of the entire vehicle. It’s imperative to make sure all dirt and grime are removed from the surfaces of your car, and that the car is completely dry to prevent rust, mold or deterioration. Don’t forget to vacuum the inside of the vehicle, so your car is ready to go when you climb back inside.
If you particularly love to baby your car, give it a good waxing seal before storing.
Keep Pests At Bay
Unless you store your vehicle in a temperature-controlled specialty unit, bugs and pests may find their way to your vehicle in hopes of staying a while. You can keep bugs and rodents away by covering your exhaust pipe with a ball of steel wool, using fabric sheets inside the car (bonus, it’ll smell great when you come back), and laying moth balls in the storage area.
Check Tire Pressure and Brakes
Before storing, inflate the tires on the vehicle to the maximum amount allowed (check the sidewall of the casing for specific numbers). Your tires will naturally lose air over time, and filling them before storage, will ensure the tires maintain safe levels while stowed away.
You can store cars with automatic transmissions in park. If you have a manual transmission, keep the car in neutral, disengage the parking brake and use tire blocks to keep the car from rolling (ideally, your storage location is on level ground, making this a non-issue).
Crack a Window
Before locking your car away for a while, roll down a window or two about an inch. This will allow air to circulate inside the car. The air circulation will prevent moisture buildup, mildew, and funky odors.
Invest in a snug fitting car cover for added protection. The cover will keep your car extra protected from dirt and dust, even if you do store it inside.
Other Small Stuff
The longer you store your car, the more detailed you’ll need to be. You may need to remove your windshield wipers to store separately. Don’t forget to wrap the wiper arms with towels to prevent scratching your windshield.
Depending on where you store your car, you may consider covering the surface of the floor with a tarp to prevent moisture build-up under the vehicle. If your storage area is well-insulated, this may not be an issue.
Store It Properly
One of the most important things to decide is where you’ll store your car. While you can store it covered outside, ideally, you’ll have access to at least a covered garage or storage unit. For newer vehicles (or classic cars), a temperature-controlled storage until provides the best protection.
Pro tip: If you aren’t using your car for six months or more, you might be able to temporarily drop your insurance coverage or reduce it to liability only. This could save you quite a bit of money on your monthly insurance bill.