Originally Posted by Don@DCCarCare.com
Long-term storage to my way of thinking is anything over a month. In 30 days, lots of things can start going wrong if you don't store a car right. Modern cars have their own problems since they can run a healthy battery down in less than a week sometimes with all the memory functions that have to keep going if you don't disconnect the battery.
Without getting into boring detail, here are the basics of good long-term storage:
Much as I get "ridiculed" by friends, I always park all our seldom used vehicles with 1x10s (or 1x8s or 1x12s - whatever fills the bill) under the tires. In my mind, it keeps the tire tread surface (and surrounding area of the sidewalls) away from the concrete - and the moisture-absorbing characteristics of the concrete. (I suppose this would be less of an issue if I had a sealed/epoxy-coated floor in our storage building). I've left old/scrap tires sitting over in a corner of the building in the past and, after a period of time, discovered the portion of the tires closest to the floor became dry-rotted/cracked. I know they weren't this way prior to "going to the corner". Anyways, I have yet to experience any dry-rotting of tires, even some that have sat for years, after storing tires with wood under them. Seems to work fine for me!!
- Vehicles are always better off being driven on a regular basis.
- If you must store, store indoors where the wind can't get to your car.
- Car covers are ONLY for indoors use out of the wind, no matter what they advertise!
- It is better to let a car sit for months than to run it once a week for a few minutes. The reason is that you can't get the engine and other drivetrain parts warmed up enough to do any good and you will create condensation in the crankcase and exhaust that will help kill your car.
- Give your car a bath and good coat of wax including chrome trim before storage. Use a product like Wurth Rubber care on the seals/rubber trim, and Vinylex on tires.
- Clean the interior, use Lexol on the leather and Vinylex on the vinyl before storage. No need to go overboard and leave it dripping, just a normal treatment.
- A pan of charcoal bricks (not the type with fuel in them though!) in a pie tin on newspaper inside the car will help soak up odors. Leave windows cracked just a little to let some air circulate and let window seals relax so they seal better in the spring.
- Remove important papers from the car/glove box. Try to leave the HVAC system in OFF mode to help keep critters out.
- Give the car a good run and get it fully warmed up right before storage.
- Fresh fluids at this point are a good idea. Oil and filter, anti-freeze, power steering fluid, tranny fluid and brake fluid should all be changed right before storage. A week or two before storage is OK except the oil, make that as fresh as possible.
- Once the car is parked where it will sit, remove the battery, store in a cool dry place and trickle charge it once a month. Be sure to check the water level and fill if necessary.
UPDATE: Reader Bill Wright reminded me that a modern trickle charger is a must have item for people that store vehicles for any period of time. In fact I have 6 Battery Tender Juniors on various old cars, and farm/lawn vehicles at my place. Since using them, dead batteries are a thing of the past and my batteries are lasting longer. Modern trickle chargers won't cause acid to boil away like a full fledged charger, but you should still check fluid every month just to be sure. We hope to carry a battery charger for this purpose in the near future.
- Fill the gas tank before storing with fresh quality fuel. If you drive your car so little that last years gas is still mostly in the tank, then siphon it off and use it in the lawn mower or dispose of properly! Fresh gas will last a full year if kept at a fairly stable temperature below 80 degrees. Filling the tank helps prevent condensation which helps rust tanks and fuel systems. Fuel additives for storage are not needed if storing for less than a year.
- With carburetor equipped cars, it sometimes helps to disconnect the fuel pump (plug the line so it doesn't drain) and run the car till the carb is dry. BUT, I have stored cars for many years without draining the carbs, and taken the carbs apart and found no deposits or "varnish" in the fuel bowls. Fuel will evaporate out of the carbs within a week anyway. On fuel injected cars, there is no bowl as such so don't worry about it.
- Do NOT put your car on jack stands or blocks under the frame. This lets the suspension droop and puts the springs and bushings in an unnatural state. If you want to prevent flat spots on tires (not a problem with modern radials anyway) support the car at the outermost points of the suspension so the springs and shocks/struts are in a natural state. Be sure to keep tires (remember the spare) at the correct air pressure and try to keep them away from electric motors or high heat.
UPDATE: Bill Wright, a reader of these pages offers this from his experience: (NOTE: I have never had the dry rot that Bill mentions, when storing on a dry floor, but DRY is the key there. A good way to insulate a concrete or even dirt/gravel floor for better storage is to put down one or two layers of thick plastic sheeting under a layer of old carpet. The carpet won't blow around if the wind gets in when the door is open, and the plastic keeps moisture from coming up and rusting the underside of your vehicle, still, read what Bill has to say:
- It's a good idea to put mouse bait/traps out in any garage. If you don't they will get under your car cover or sheets and make nests (usually near the base of the windshield), you will see their little pee spots on your hood! Left to run amok, mice can build nests in air intakes (seal them off with bags if you can get to them, and check airboxes/air cleaners before first starting), and even in the glove box or inside the seats.
- When starting the vehicle back up after storage, remove all your covers, bags over pipes, intakes, pans of charcoal, put the freshly charged battery back in and check all fluid levels. If possible disable the ignition (or just don't set the choke on carb equipped cars) and let the engine crank to build oil pressure. I like the idea of a few cranks at slow speed with no oil pressure rather than the first few cranks at 3000 rpm with no oil pressure! Try to get the engine to a slow idle as soon as possible till things warm up. Of course on modern computer cars, you have no control over this. Make the first mile or so at slow speed and keep the rev's low till things warm up. Test the brakes before you get on the highway. Drums and disks WILL rust some unless you store your car in one of those sealed bags (not a bad idea, but I have found it unnecessary if you have a good garage) but that will go away after the first few stops.
That covers most of the major items, I may have missed something, if you have suggestions, or questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me... Don@DCCarCare.com