Have you ever been in a situation when you had to leave your car sitting in your driveway or in the garage for a longer period? If so, you have probably wondered for how long it can sit without being driven and should you do any preparations. In this article, we will go through several most common car storage scenarios and see what you should do in each of them.
What is the proper way to store a car?
As with many other things in our lives, this depends on variables such as the car in question, climate conditions and the building in which you will store the car. Still, the biggest variable here is the time, as the duration of storage is the decisive factor. If you are leaving the car for several weeks, all it needs is a good wash, a tank full of fuel and a battery tender. However, longer stationary periods call for more elaborate actions.
Other important factor to consider is the location where you will store the car. Although a garage or a similar closed enclosure is the best choice, any structure with a roof, such as a carport, will be enough. And if none of this is an option, you can even leave your car on the driveway and use a car cover to protect it from the elements. Still, have in mind that storing a car on a concrete floor or other paved surface is a must, as grass and moisture from the ground would cause corrosion.
How do I prepare my car for winter storage?
This is the most common situation that car owners face. If you live in a colder climate and have a convertible, sporty car or a well-kept old-timer, chances are you are not driving it over the winter. And while not exposing it to snow, mud and salt is a good thing, improper storage can cause other problems. These are the steps and tips you should follow when storing your car for winter, or any other period that ranges between one to six months.
Start with good and thorough cleaning. Besides a standard detailed car wash, try washing the undercarriage as much as possible. Remove all mud and dirt deposits, as they could cause corrosion and rust spots. You may also apply a coat of wax as an additional layer of protection.
The oil in your engine and other lubricants, such as transmission oil, contains various particles and contaminants. While your car is in storage, these particles can create deposits sensitive engine or transmission components. This would cause various running issues once you want to use your car again. To avoid this, perform an oil change in your engine and gearbox, if needed.
You may not know this, but fuel deteriorates and can go bad with time. To prevent this from happening, add a fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank. Also, fill up the tank with premium fuel, as this will stop evaporation and eliminate the danger of corrosion with the fuel tank. In the end, start the car and leave it running for several minutes. This will allow stabilized fuel to enter the fuel rail and injectors.
Even when the car is off, there are various systems that use some amount of electricity. With time, this will drain the battery, making it unable to start the engine once the time for that comes. In addition, deep discharge that happens in situations like this could cause irreversible damage to the battery. To make sure this doesn’t happen, connect your car to a battery tender. This is a special charger designed to recharge the battery at a slow rate. In case this is not an option, remove the battery from the car and take it with you.
Next, check the tire pressure and adjust it if needed. Tires can develop flat spots if sitting on a flat surface for a long time. Lifting the car on the jack stands is one solution for this problem, and the other is using flat spot removers. These purpose-built ramps use a special design to increase the contact surface of the tire. They are cheap to buy and easy to use, as you just drive your car on them.
Last step is to put a small open box with silica gel or baking soda inside the car. This will absorb any moisture and prevent unpleasant smells. With that done, close the car and pull a suitable car cover over it. If storing it inside the garage or other closed object, all you need is a soft cloth cover, which will protect it from dust. For outside storage, use a waterproof car cover that will keep the rain and snow off your car.
As an extra step, you may contact the insurance company and let them know your car will be off the road for the next several months. Find out if there are any special requirements in case you are using an off-site storage and always try to get a price discount.
How do I prepare my car for long-term storage?
Storing a car for over a year takes similar steps as winter storage, with several differences. The first is that in this situation, you need to remove all the fuel from the tank instead of filling it up. Even with stabilizers, fuel in your tank would degrade if left sitting in the tank for over a year.
Other big difference is the additional step that comes after removing the fuel. Remove the air filter and spray some fogging oil into the intake manifold. Repeat this with the exhaust. In addition, you can remove the spark plugs and spray a small amount of fogging oil into the cylinders. Acting as a damp barrier, the fogging oil protects all surfaces from moisture and corrosion. In the end, seal off engine intake and exhaust using a masking tape.
How often should you start a car in storage?
This is a very common question with car storage, and there is no universal answer. You want to avoid unnecessary cold starts, as this is when the most engine wear happens. However, certain cars, like some Porsche and various Alfas, can develop oil leaks if not driven for a longer period. This happens because crankshaft seals sometimes shrink too much when there are no regular heat-up intervals.
To be on the safe side, you can make a compromise. Start your car once or twice a month and leave it running for 15 minutes until it reaches operating temperature. While waiting, check for any unusual vibrations or sounds and look if there are oil or coolant leaks.