Step to store 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.
Step 1 for long term car storage
Change the oil and filter
Fresh oil has all new anti-corrosion and anti-oxidant additives in it. Change the oil and start it up so the fresh oil is throughout the engine during storage. Fresh oil also will be ready to go when you take it out of storage.
Step 2 Clean the air filter box and seal off the air duct before storing a car long term
Critters love to make nests and raise their you in the air filter box because it’s so secluded and away from the elements. So remove any debris in the box and locate the inlet to the air filter box. Stuff it with steel wool and seal it off with heavy plastic wrap and duct tape (HVAC aluminum tape works better). Then tape a length of brightly colored surveyors tape to the duct opening to remind you to remove everything before you start it up
Step 3 — Remove plugs and fog engine for really long car storage
Remove the spark plugs and fog each cylinder with an aerosol fogging product. Follow the can directions for the amount of spray for each cylinder.
After fogging, reinstall the spark plugs and torque them to spec.
NOTE: Most spark plug manufacturers apply an anti-seize nickle coating the thread of their spark plugs to prevent them from seizing in the cylinder head. However, this coating is considered a one-time use coating. If you remove the plug and reinstall it, the factory anti-seize will be compromised. So add a small amount of anti-seize to the threads and reduce the torque setting on your torque wrench by 20% to compensate for the anti-seize.
Step 4 — The battery won’t last through long term car storage
Don’t leave your battery in the car for long term storage
All batteries, even lead acid batteries self discharge
over time. In addition to their self discharge, if they stay connected to the vehicle’s cables, the current draw from the computers will completely discharge your battery with just six weeks.
If you have access to electrical power in the storage unit, buy a battery maintainer and connect it to the battery. That’ll keep it fully charged while your vehicle is stored and that will prevent battery sulfation.
Whichever method you choose, clean the battery terminals and posts first, so the battery maintainer can do its job properly
Step 5 — Deal with the gas
Ethanol fuels can be a problem for really long term storage due to phase separation and water adsorption. However, while phase separation and water accumulation can be a huge problem for small carbureted engines, it’s not nearly as big a problem for fuel injected engines. For seasonal storage (six months or less) on a fuel injected engine, you don’t have to drain the tank and you really don’t need to add fuel stabilizer. Filling with non-ethanol fuel will help, but not required for short term storage.
However, if you’re storing your car for longer periods or your vehicle has a carbureted engine, you should fill with a non-ethanol fuel and add fuel stabilizer. I prefer K-100 stabilizer over other brands like Sta-bil. See this article to learn more about fuel stabilizers and how they work (or don’t work).
Step 6 — What to do about your tires during long term car storage
It’s true that tires can develop flat spots when you store your car for a long time. But, unless you have performance tires, the flat spots usually re-form and roll right after driving for a few days. If you have performance tires or plan to store your vehicle for a year or more, it makes some sense to put the vehicle on jack stands during storage. But if you’re just doing season storage, you don’t need to put the vehicle on jack stands.
Whichever you choose, make sure you check air pressure and adjust to the spec on the label in the driver’s door area. Some people recommend over-inflating during storage to allow for slight leakage. That’s find as well.
If you remove the tires to store them, keep them in a cool place and out of the sun. Do not coat them with tire dressing.
Step 7 — Test/Flush your brake fluid before storing
Check your brake fluid with a moisture tester and test strips. If the fluid is borderline, flush the system so it sits with fresh fluid.
Step 8 — Test/Flush your coolant before storing your car long term
Check your cooling for freeze protection and pH balance (with test strips) before storing your car. Change the coolant if it fails the tests.
Step 9 — Seal off all other openings to keep critters out
Just like the air filter box, you want to seal off all opening to prevent critters from moving in during storage.
• Insert steel wool into the tail pipe(s) and seal with aluminum HVAC foil.
• Locate the fresh air intake to your car’s HVAC system and seal it
Apply bright surveyors tape to each sealed opening to remind you to remove the sealing material when you take it out of storage.
Take a car out of long term storage
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.
There you have it—the best way to store a car long term and take it out of storage
© 2012 Rick Muscoplat
Posted on by Rick Muscoplat