How to Prepare a Car for Storage
The global health crisis spurred by a relentless Coronavirus pandemic is forcing car owners, enthusiasts, and fleet owners to store their vehicles for weeks or months on end. However, there’s more to preparing a car for storage than just throwing a cover over it and calling it a day.
If lockdowns persist or if you have a car or two in the garage that you’re saving when things get back to normal, there are a few things worth considering to keep your vehicle in tiptop shape – even while in prolonged storage.
How long can my car sit without being driven?
As a general rule, you should never allow your car to sit for more than two weeks without driving it. Your car is like a world-class athlete – the more you use it, the better it performs. But when an athlete stops training altogether, it won’t take long to get out of shape. Carmakers did not engineer their vehicles to remain dormant. And since the cars we drive are used to being driven each day, prolonged storage could deteriorate the working parts and essential fluids of your car faster than expected.
Preparing a Vehicle for Storage
Here are the most crucial things to remember before leaving your car in storage.
1. Find a suitable parking space.
Not everyone has access to a covered or climate-controlled garage. But if you don’t have a safe, secluded, and secure parking space for your ride, the best you can do is find a parking spot with a concrete or asphalt floor. It is best to avoid parking a stored vehicle over grassy surfaces, gravel, or bare soil to avoid exposure to excess moisture. And as you may well know, moisture leads to rust, and rust is not a good thing to have in a car.
2. Fill up with fluids.
The unseen enemy of a stored vehicle is condensation, and it forms easily on empty spaces in your vehicle’s fluid tanks when left unattended. Condensation can lead to many issues like corrosion, rust, and other nasty things.
Before storing a vehicle for the long term, fill up all essential fluids like engine coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid (when applicable), automatic transmission fluid (ATF), windshield washer fluid, and the fuel tank. Having a full tank of fluids and gasoline prevents condensation from ruining the lifeblood of your car.
3. Use a fuel stabilizer.
Speaking of filling up with gas, you might want to consider pouring a container of fuel stabilizer into the gas tank before storing your vehicle. Depending on environmental conditions, pure gasoline will begin to degrade in around two to six months due to oxidation and evaporation, and ethanol-blend fuels will start losing combustibility in a month or two.
The worst news? The gasoline in your car’s fuel tank will start degrading in less than a month, especially when exposed to Philippine heat and humidity. However, “stabilized” gasoline will remain combustible for one to three years. Keep this in mind if you plan on storing your vehicle for months or years.
4. Change the engine oil.
It’s better to get an oil change before storing your car for the long haul. Changing the oil removes contaminants that could harm your engine during cold starts, particularly when starting the engine for the first time after storage. In addition, fresh engine oil is less prone to oxidation.
5. Drive the vehicle.
After filling up the fluids and changing the oil, drive the car for 30 minutes to one hour, allowing the oil and fluids to heat up sufficiently and lubricate moving parts.
6. Wash and wax the car.
After driving the vehicle, allow it to cool down and give it a nice wash and wax. Frequent washing and waxing are essential in maintaining a glossy paint finish, and the same is true when prepping your vehicle for storage. In addition, getting rid of empty food packets, crumbs, and other garbage in the cabin will deter pests from calling your car their new home, so don’t forget to vacuum the interior after washing.
7. Consider using a dehumidifier.
The Philippines is notorious for its hot and humid weather. Before storing your vehicle, consider using a dehumidifier to prevent or discourage the growth of molds, mildew, and bacteria in the cabin while the car is in storage. And while you’re at it, consider leaving a container or can of dehumidifier in the trunk for maximum effect.
8. Inflate the tires.
Prolonged storage is not suitable for your car’s tires. When left stationary, the tires will deflate over time and create flat spots on the tread surface, rendering them unsuitable for duty when lockdowns end. Did you know it only takes a month of storage (on average) for flat spots to start appearing on an underinflated tire?
The easiest way to prevent flat spots is to inflate the tires to the maximum recommended pressure before storing the vehicle. Whereas the normal tire pressure is between 30 to 32 psi, vehicles in storage should have tires inflated to around 40 to 45 psi, depending on tire size. Overinflating the tires is a terrible idea if your car is on the road, but it’s okay to do that when prepping a vehicle for storage.
9. Connect a battery tinder.
You can remove the battery from the car and connect a battery tinder, or you can connect the tinder without removing it. The car battery will lose its charge if your vehicle is not started or driven for a while. The battery tinder will keep the battery optimally charged while your car is in storage, so you don't have to deal with a dead battery when it's time to start the car.
10. Raise the wiper blades.
When storing a vehicle, the wiper blades deserve attention, too. If you aren’t using a car cover, you can raise or prop up the wiper blades while your vehicle is in storage. This simple task ensures the rubber blades are not directly exposed to excess heat and UV rays reflecting on the glass, most especially if your vehicle will be sitting in an uncovered parking space for weeks or months on end.
But if you plan on covering the vehicle, here’s a neat trick: Grab a dry piece of cloth, slightly raise the wiper, and prop the fabric between the wiper arm and the glass, effectively lifting the wiper somewhat from the surface.
11. Cover it up.
If you have a garage, it’s better to cover up your car while in storage to protect the exterior from excess dust, bumps, and moisture. However, make sure you are using a high-quality car cover made from synthetic or breathable materials. And whatever you do, try resisting the urge to cover your vehicle with a tarp, please. Tarpaulins are for signages and not for covering cars.