Maybe you’ve got a classic car you can’t drive every day. Maybe you’re going on a long vacation. Maybe cold or rainy weather has made your convertible temporarily silly. No matter your reason for storing your vehicle, there are several steps you can take to make sure it’s still in good shape when you return to it.
1. Find A Space
Of course, storing your car requires having somewhere to store it. If you don’t have an indoor space, putting a cover over your vehicle will do in a pinch. But it’s preferable to locate a space like a garage or large storage unit to keep your car indoors and out of the elements.
2. Clean The Car
You’re not going to use your car for a long time, so it can be easy to think you don’t need to worry about cleaning it for a long time, either. But the opposite is true: Cleaning your car before you store it is important, as materials like road salt and bird droppings can damage the paint if they remain on the car. Also be sure to wash the undercarriage, and wax the body for a final layer of protection.
3. Fill Your Tires and Tank
Tires naturally lose pressure over time, and it can be a real bummer to return to your car after a long absence and find it sitting on a flat (or four). Make sure your tires are fully inflated before you store the car. You can also elevate the car on jack stands to alleviate pressure on the tires.
Ironically, your car needs a full tank of gas even if you’re not going to drive it for awhile. That’s because a less-than-full tank has room for air and moisture to enter, which are the two ingredients for rust. Also consider buying a fuel stabilizer product, which can keep gasoline usable for up to a year.
4. Ward Off Animals
Animals, especially rodents, are not friends to cars. They may try to nest in a stored vehicle, and where rodents nest, they chew–not good news for your car’s wiring and seals. One anti-rodent measure is to plug the tailpipe and other potential rodent entryways. (It’s a good idea to leave some kind of reminder so that you don’t forget to unplug these holes when you bring the car out of storage.) Mothballs are also effective, and rodent-repellant spray may prove useful as well.
5. Don’t Forget About The Battery
It’s the big day: You’re finally getting your car back out of storage. You get in, turn the key, listen for the engine’s triumphant roar, and–nothing happens. Oops. Dead battery.
Whenever you drive your car, the car charges its own battery. But that can’t happen when the car’s sitting in storage, and over time, the battery may lose its charge. Here are some steps you can take to deal with that problem:
- Have someone periodically take the car out of storage and drive it around to build the battery back up
- Use a trickle charger to keep the battery charged
- Disconnect the battery entirely (especially recommended for year-plus storage periods)
Batteries are fickle, so you should probably have a backup charging plan regardless of what strategy you use for tending to the battery.
6. Bringing Your Car Out of Storage
What you do at the end of your vehicle’s storage period is just as important as what you do at the beginning. There are many in-depth checklists on the Internet, but here’s a quick rundown of a few things you should do when bringing your car out of storage:
- Open the windows to air out the car for a bit
- Remove any anti-rodent plugs
- Reconnect or charge the battery
- Check the engine, fluids, and tires
- Examine the brakes for rust
- Look at the windshield wipers for cracks; replace if necessary
- Clean the vehicle
It’s also a good idea to take the car for a test drive. Make sure everything looks and feels right–and enjoy your reunion with your vehicle.