The Correct Way for Long-Term Car Storage

Unrestored classics like my 58 Impala didn’t survive to win national championships by being stored improperly.  I learned lots of my tips below from people that also owned and kept old cars in excellent condition, I salute them for sharing their knowledge and letting me see their cars!

Long-term storage to my way of thinking is anything over a month to years.  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.

How to store a car for long-term?

Without getting into boring detail, here are the basics of good long-term storage:

Choose the Type of Storage

If you must store, store indoors where the wind can’t get to your car.

Car Covers

Car covers should be used for indoors &outdoor use out of the wind!

Budge UB-1 Lite Indoor Dustproof UV Resistant Cover

Budge UV Resistant Cover

Let a car sit for months than 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.

Clean the Exterior

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

303 Protectant - Automotive Interior And Exterior - Ultimate UV Protection
303 Protectant Interior & Exterior Cleaner

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.

Lexol Leather Conditioner, Use on Car Leather

Lexol Leather Conditioner

Avoid Bad Odors

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. Or use car air freshener and cleaner to eliminate bad odors before store your car.

VZee Odor Eliminator for Strong Odor

VZee Odor Eliminator

Read more:

How To Get Rid Of Gas Smell in Car

How To Get Rid Of Weed Smell in Car

Empty Car Trash

Remove important papers from the car/glove box. Try to leave the HVAC system in OFF mode to help keep critters out.

Warm engine up

Give the car a good run and get it fully warmed up right before storage.

Change oil & filter

Fresh fluids at this point are a good idea. Oil and filter, Anti-freeze 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.

READ MORE: How to Clean & Re-Oil K&N Air Filter?

Remove the Battery

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.

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.

Put mouse bait/traps out in any garage. 

Tomcat Press 'N Set Mouse Trap, 2 Traps

Tomcat Press ‘N Set Mouse Trap

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.

Read more: How To Get Rid of Mice in Cars?

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.

FAQs

Where can I store my car long term?

Of course garage is the best place to store your car. If your garage has no available place you can consider other options below:

– A storage from your neighbor, some one will have an available outdoor or indoor storage and you may have to pay a mount of money.

– Another option is storage unit. However, it’s never cheap.

– Friend or Family might be a good option

How much does it cost to put a car in storage?

The cost will depend on the size of your car and additional services and it changes day by day. In my place, it is between $50-$500/month.

How to disconnect a car battery for long-term storage?

Preparation:

– A socket wrench

– A socket wrench extender

Step by step guide:

Step 1:

Find the negative terminal on the top of the battery

It’s usually covered with a black cap, but if not you should be able to find a small minus sign near it or on the top of the connector.

The positive terminal usually has a red cap.

Step 2:

Figure out what socket size you need to loosen the nut on the negative connector in order to disconnect the battery.

Step 3:

Put the correct sized socket on the socket wrench.

Step 4:

Loosen the nut on the negative terminal by placing the socket onto the nut and turning the nut counter-clockwise.

Step 5:

Disconnect the negative connector once the nut is loosened by pulling it off.

Step 6:

Loosen the nut on the positive terminal and disconnect it from the battery.

Step 7:

Remove the battery and be careful not to let the positive terminal touch any metal part of the car.

You done.

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