Preparing your Car for Storage

by edstorm

How to make sure that your car is in as good condition when you take it out of storage as it was when you put it in.

You may be planning to go away on holiday or a business trip, or simply have a car that you don’t plan to use for an extended period. For instance, you might not need a vintage convertible over winter. If you won’t be driving a car, a practical and safe option is to use a self-storage facility to store it. However, you should take several precautions to ensure that the car will be in the same condition when you drive it out of the storage facility as it was when you drove it in.

Under the hood

First and foremost, ensure that all your vehicle’s fluids are topped up. That means filling up on oil, petrol, water, coolant and, if needed, fuel stabilizer.

Your oil filter should also be changed before you put your car away. Old oil left in the car can become acidic and could eat away at the engine. Fresh oil won’t degrade at the same rate or to the same degree, helping ensure that the engine seals will remain in good condition.

Don’t forget to grease your steering and suspension components. If you fail to do so, rubber bushings and seals in the suspension and steering systems may dry out and start to crack.

If you own an older vehicle, it’s essential that you disconnect the battery. If you leave it connected, it will drain completely, potentially damaging its cells and meaning that you’ll have to buy a new battery when you take the car out. Some more modern vehicles have a feature that automatically charges the battery every so often to keep it from dying out. This is called a “trickle charger”.

The exterior

Before storing your car, give it a good wash and wax. Failing to do so means that any residual dirt and dust left on the car may corrode the paint, eventually resulting in rust damage. Once the car has been washed, waxed and properly dried, it’s a good idea to put a cover over it. This will protect it from any dust in the storage unit. 

Before storing a car, you should have the tires deflated to 10 psi below the manufacturer’s recommended psi. This may result in a flat spot on the tire after leaving it in storage for an extended period, but not to worry – the spot will even out after driving for about 15 kilometres. If your tires are already slightly worn and you don’t want to risk flattening them, you can jack up the car to stop the spots from forming.

Additionally, you should stuff the exhaust pipe and any other small holes and air intakes with some fine cloth, and then cover it with mesh or gauze. This will stop any small critters from making the car their home in your absence. Although some recommend the use of mothballs or other repellents, these can leave a horrible odour in your car.

When it comes to wiper blades, you can either remove them altogether or wrap them in clear plastic wrap. It’s best not just to pop them into the “up” position because they can then easily be knocked or blown down, potentially damaging your windscreen.

If it’s a convertible you’ll be putting away, it goes without saying that the roof should be up.

The interior

It’s important to ensure that no bits of food or drink are left lying around. Otherwise this could attract animals and insects, cause rot and leave a horrible smell. If you’re a smoker, remember to clean out the ashtray. You may also consider taking carpets out the car because these can become damp and musty, leaving a bad aroma in the car.

In manual cars, don’t leave the handbrake on. Also, don’t leave automatics in the “park” gear. Over time, this can result in the brake pads rusting to the rotor drum. Instead use wheel chocks to keep the vehicle in place.

General tips

Make sure that the car’s license will still be valid when you take it out of storage.

Once you’ve finished preparing a car for storage, leave yourself a a note on the steering wheel, to remind you about anything that has to be replaced (such as wiper arms) or reconnected (like the battery) when you go to fetch your vehicle.

Updated: 02/05/2014, edstorm
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Rose on 06/20/2014

I didn't know the bit about disconnecting the battery. My battery is dead on my car - I guess I'll have to get a new one

ologsinquito on 02/05/2014

This is very useful advice.

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