How to Prep Your Car for Storage

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Car wrapped in bubble wrap
The Big Sleep
Do you have a car that you're thinking of storing for a while? Maybe the winters are long where you live and your convertible roadster is purely a summer car. Perhaps you have a collection of automobiles and need to put a car up for storage. Maybe you simply want to give your car a rest while you're away on a long vacation. Well, if you are storing a car for any time longer than a few weeks, there are some tips you'll need to know in order to prepare your vehicle for long-term storage.
You will want to take the proper steps to prevent any damage to the auto and to sustain its ongoing performance. Nobody wants to return to a stored car to find the battery dead, the engine damaged, and rats living under the hood. The following tips will save you time and money when you're ready to get your car back out on the road.

Where to store your car

The place where you store your car is an important consideration. If you are storing your vehicle for an extended period of time, choose a clean, dry garage or a storage facility where the car can be kept indoors and out of the elements. 

Climate-controlled facilities are best in order to keep the temperature stable. Damp air can cause rust. If you don't have a garage, a public storage facility might be worth considering.

Top off the Gas

Make sure the car's gas tank is completely filled with gasoline and add fuel stabilizer, then drive the car before storage to make sure the stabilizer has been distributed to the engine parts. Fuel stabilizer will keep gas from deteriorating for up to a year. Storing a car with less than a full tank of gas leads to condensation and internal rust as moisture builds inside the tank. It can also cause the seals to dry out.

Before you store a car, be sure to change the oil and lubricate all exposed metal surfaces in the engine bay to protect it against corrosion. Grease the steering and suspension components to keep the seals and rubber bushings from drying out. Make sure the antifreeze and brake fluid levels are topped off. Also check the car for leaks from the engine, brakes, and transmission. If you find any leaks, fix them before storing the vehicle.

Keep it Clean

Here are some tips & trick before storage:

  • Wash and wax the car to prevent corrosion and to preserve the paint finish
  • Clean the wheels and inside the fender wells to get rid of dried mud or grease. 
  • Make sure the interior of the car is cleaned out completely and apply vinyl or leather conditioner to keep seats from drying and cracking. 
  • Place a pan of mothballs inside the vehicle to keep bugs away.

Avoiding Rodents

If a car is sitting for a while, it can become a home to rodents. There are several ways to prevent this. Make sure there is no forgotten food inside the car that will attract them. Plug the tailpipe with a cloth or aluminum foil to keep them from crawling in. They also love to nest in engine bays.
Use an anti-rodent spray that contains peppermint oil (they hate the smell) on the engine and to coat the wiring and hoses because rats are known to eat through your wiring and hoses, causing thousands of dollars in damage. There are also electronic battery powered ultrasonic pest repeller products on the market that emit a sound that rodents hate that can keep them from making your stored car into a condo.

Battery Tenders

Disconnect the car battery to prevent it from running down or place the battery on a "battery tender" to keep the charge topped off while you are away. That way the battery will be ready to start when you return. Keep in mind that newer cars have advanced computer systems which require constant power. Otherwise, they will have to be reprogrammed before you can drive the car again. If you do remove the battery, sit it in a safe "battery box" container, NOT on a concrete floor during storage.

A Word about Insurance & Covering Up

If you're storing a car for an extended period of time, contact your auto insurance agent and let them know. You could save money on your car insurance since the vehicle will not be driven on the road. 

And finally, cover the vehicle with a high-quality, permeable cover. If you have to store your car outdoors, use a weatherproof car cover.
Back on the Road
After your car's long nap, when you are ready to bring it out of storage, don't forget the following:
  • Remove any plugs to the tailpipe. Check under the hood for evidence of critters. Especially check your hoses, belts and wiring.
  • Reconnect the battery or take it off the Battery Tender.
  • Take the car off the jacks and check the tire pressure. Inflate the tires to the automaker's specifications.
  • Check the fluids to make sure they are at recommended levels. Even though the car has been sitting idle, a fresh oil change is a good idea.
  • Check the windshield wipers to see if they are cracked or brittle. If so, replace them.
  • Give the car a good wash to remove any dust, dirt or spider webs that may have accumulated.
Get out on the highway and enjoy!