Car Storage Preparation

If you plan to store your vehicle for longer than a week, you’re going to need to do a few things to get it ready. Otherwise, you’re going to have flat tires, a dead battery…and that’s just the start of the problems that you’ll have.

If you plan to store your car 6 months or less, here’s what you do:


  • Wash and wax exterior of your car – If you don’t clean and protect the paint, any dirt or contaminants left on the car will corrode the paint, and turn into rust.


  • Clean and vacuum interior – Again, dirt & debris can cause damage if left to sit for an extended period of time.


  • Top off fluids – Full fluid reservoirs will attract less moisture through condensation.


  • Change oil and filter – Old oil will become acidic and eat away at the inside of your engine. However, fresh oil will take much longer to break down. So, your engine seals should remain in good condition throughout the storage.


  • Grease steering and suspension components – A full grease service will keep the seals, and rubber bushings in your suspension from drying out while the car’s in storage.


  • Disconnect battery (for older vehicles) – If your battery is left connected, its charge will completely deplete, causing one or more of the inner cells to go bad.


  • Place battery on a trickle charger (newer vehicles that require a constant source of power) – Most newer vehicles are equipped with advanced computer systems, which require constant power. Otherwise, they’ll have to be completely reprogrammed.


  • Top off fuel tank and add fuel stabilizer – A full tank means that there’s less room for condensation, and a stabilizer will keep the gas from breaking down and evaporating.


  • Make sure parking brake is not engaged – If your vehicle sits for an extended period of time with the parking brake on, the brake pads can rust to the rotor/drum, causing the wheel to seize. Instead, use a set of wheel chocks to keep the vehicle in place.


If your car will be in storage for more than 6 months, do all of the above, plus:


  • Schedule periodic “start and drive” – There’s nothing worse for a vehicle than sitting. Seals dry out, parts rust together, and fluids break down. So, have someone start the vehicle, let it come to temperature, then drive it around the lot to circulate the transmission fluid, and axle grease.


  • Lubricate hinges & rubber seals – Hinges rust, and rubber seals dry out. So avoid both with a good coat of grease/lubricant.


  • Block off exhaust vents – This will keep the moisture, and the critters out.


If you plan to leave your vehicle in storage for a year or longer, follow all of the above steps, minus the start & run procedure. Then add the following steps:


  • Remove fuel from tank and run vehicle with “white gas” (i.e. Coleman fuel) – Even though you’ve removed all of the gas, it will still leave a residue, which will eventually turn into rust spots/holes. The white gas will purge the fuel system of the old gas, then evaporate cleanly, leaving nothing behind.


  • Coat metal parts with lithium grease or Liquid Wrench (oil-based) to prevent rust – A good coating of grease, or an oil-based lubricant will help prevent surface rust from forming.


  • Remove spark plugs and add mystery oil to cylinders – If you leave an engine to sit for an extended period of time, your spark plugs can rust in place, and corrode the inside of the cylinders. Removing the plugs, and adding an oil-based product like Marvel Mystery Oil will prevent that from happening.


  • Store car using another set of wheels and tires – If you do this, you won’t have to worry about flat-spots & dry rotting.


  • Remove battery – Over time, a battery can corrode, causing all sorts of damage under the hood.


  • Block AC vents – This will keep the critters, and the moisture out.


  • Loosen belts – You’re going to have to replace them when you pull the car out of storage. So, doing this now will save you time & trouble in the long-run.


  • Place the car on jack stands – This will allow the springs to sit uncompressed.


  • Deflate the tires, & cover them thoroughly – This will help prevent dry rotting & flat spots.


“Not using it” is the worst thing that you can ever do to a vehicle. So, following these simple steps will help to reduce the inevitable wear caused by storage.

Last word

Once you’ve prepared your vehicle for storage, write down exactly what you’ve done, then place that list in the glove box. That way, you’ll have a step-by-step guide to preparing the car to drive again, once you’re ready.

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