Tips on storing a car long term
Whether you need to store a car long term or pull it out of storage and start it for the first time, this article has tips for you.
Start a car after long term storage
Ok, so you dead uncle’s widow is finally signing over the title to Uncle Joe’s Corvette. But it’s been sitting in the garage since Uncle Joe’s first heart attack 15 years ago. So you want to know how to bring it back to life. Well, here’s the step-by-step.
First, change the oil and filter. Even if Uncle Joe changed it before he threw the cover over it 15 years ago, you want fresh oil coursing through the oil galleries when it finally starts up. Next, install a new air filter and evict the critters that have homesteaded the air filter box. Then remove the spark plugs. Squirt a few shots of oil into each cylinder.
You’ll need a new battery. But clean the terminals first. Then disconnect the ignition system (pull the coil wire or yank the fuse). Crank the engine with the spark plugs out to spread the oil and build oil pressure. Pulling the plugs let’s you do that without causing stress or wear on any the parts that haven’t had oil for along time. When the oil light goes out, or the gauge reaches normal, you can stop cranking.
You can assume the gas in the tank is toast. And, if it’s fuel injected, chances are the fuel pump is shot too. But you’re welcome to give the old stuff a try. Install brand new spark plugs, reconnect the ignition, and try starting. If it starts, DON’T rev the engine. Let it idle by itself. It’ll be pretty noisy as the lifters pump up.
If it doesn’t start or you’re not getting any fuel pressure, you’ll have to drop the tank and get it professionally cleaned before you replace the pump and fuel filter. If you don’t get it professionally cleaned, trust me, you’ll be installing another new fuel pump within a few months.
Now’s the time to check the transmission fluid—before you take it for a drive. If it’s an automatic, the fluid should be bright red. If it’s not, now’s the time to change it. Most manufacturers have updated their transmission fluids to synthetic, so you won’t find any of the old stuff around. But the new stuff is supposed to be backwards compatible.
Check the tires for age cracking. Check the condition of the fan belts. Check the brake rotors and all brake lines for rusting. Pump the pedal to build pressure and see if it holds pressure. Then check under the vehicles for brake fluid leaks. Grease all steering linkage and ball joints. Spray all suspension bushings with silicone lube or dry teflon spray. Check shocks and struts for leaks.
Then you can take it for a short drive. Run it up to operating temperature to make sure the thermostat works and the hoses hold the pressure. Then bring it home.
After your first test drive, change the oil again. Change the coolant. Change the brake fluid and transmission fluid.
Store a car long term
You read everything so far, right? Well reverse it. Then do the following.
Performance tires develop permanent flat spots after long term storage, so put the vehicle on jack stands. Normal street tires will also develop flat spots, but in most cases they’ll go away after a short drive.
Lube rubber parts like control arm bushings and motor mounts with silicone spray to slow down the dry rot. Change the oil and brake fluid and put in fresh coolant—you’ll need the anti-corrosive additives in both to prevent corrosion. Clean the radiator fins. Stuff steel wool in the exhaust pipe and then seal off the throttle body and exhaust pipe with plastic wrap and rubber bands (to keep the critters out. Tie brightly colored surveyors tape on each and stream the tape out of the hood so you’ll remember to remove them before starting. Some guys remove the brake pads and seal them in a zip lock bag. Then they remove the rotors and store them in plastic bags with anti-rust packets. If you can’t do that, at least coat them with oil to prevent rust.
Find the fresh air intake for your heating system and seal that off to prevent critters from building nests inside.
The battery will be dead in about 30 days. You can either connect it to a battery maintainer (if you have AC power) or pull the battery and use it in another vehicle.
There you have it—the best way to store a car long term and take it out of storage
© 2012 Rick Muscoplat