8 Tips for Putting Your Car in Storage

Jon Fesmire | December 18, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

There are many reasons you might need to put a car in storage. Perhaps you have a vehicle that you use infrequently. Maybe you have a car that you want to store during the snowy months. Maybe you plan to travel, and need to keep your car somewhere safe while you’re gone.

Need help? Read on.

Select Your Storage

We suggest that you store your car indoors, rather than in your driveway, on the street, or in a storage lot. This will protect it from all types of weather.

Search for vehicle self storage in your area. Compare the prices and features of those that have indoor units with climate control for car storage. Keep in mind that some may have a warehouse setup in which you would get a designated space, rather than your own full unit.

Clean Your Car

Your car has a shiny paint job that’s designed not only to look good, but to prevent damage from dust and other debris. That being said, it’s not perfect. Dirt, oil, and even bird droppings that get on your car can eat away at the paint over time. Take it to a hand car wash for a thorough clean, or wash it by hand at home. Get a product specifically for washing the exterior of your car at an auto shop and follow the directions. Add a coat of wax to protect the surface even better.

Clean the inside of your vehicle as well. Wash the seats and clean in between them. Vacuum the interior, especially the floors and in the crevices between seats. Crumbs and other food particles can stink over time. They can also attract pests, which we will cover in more detail in a moment.

Fill the Gas Tank

Here’s something else that may seem counterintuitive. Why fill the gas tank? What does it matter? When there is no gas in the tank, there is air, and moisture can accumulate. Granted, that’s far less likely in a climate controlled unit, but it’s best to be safe. We also suggest you use fuel stabilizer, which will protect the engine tank and keep the gas from degrading for about a year.

Get an Oil Change

Over time as you drive, your car’s oil gets depleted, and what’s there gets contaminated with dirt and the like. To prevent this from damaging the engine while your car is in storage, get an oil change.

Inflate Your Tires

Don’t leave your car in storage for long periods with low pressure in the tires. Over time, and especially in cold weather, this can cause flats. Take your car to a gas station and fill the tires to the recommended tire pressure. If you’re taking your car in to get an oil change anyway, ask if the mechanics can fill your tires for you.

Keep the Battery Charged

Have you ever left a car alone for a few weeks, only to try to start it up and find the battery dead? Over time, without use, your car battery will lose its charge and need a jump start. There are two main ways to prevent your battery from going dead while your car is in storage.

The first is to retrieve your car every two weeks and to drive it around town for 20 minutes or so. This will allow the engine to add charge to the battery, and get the oil moving through the car’s systems. If you are unable to retrieve the vehicle—for example, the reason you have the car in storage is because you’re out of town—have a trusted friend or member of your family do it for you. They’ll need a key to your unit, of course.

Perhaps you don’t have anyone in the area who can take your car for its bi-weekly spin. In that case, you have a couple of options. One is to purchase a trickle charger. These are inexpensive, and should run you between about $12 and $35. Plug it into the wall, and connect it to your battery, with the battery still in the car. It does what the name suggests, trickles in enough electricity to keep the battery charged.

The other option is to disconnect the battery entirely. This will reset the clock and delete things like radio settings, but it works. Place the battery on an dry, elevated surface and hook it up to a float charger. These are also inexpensive, running from about $20 to about $80, depending on what you’re looking for.

Protect Your Brake Pads

Out in the world, when you park on a street, your driveway, or in a parking lot, it’s a good idea to use your parking break. The opposite is true when you put your car in storage. Given enough time, your brake pads can fuse to the rotors. In storage, your vehicle will be on a flat surface, anyway, but to prevent it from rolling at all, get a set of wheel chocks. Prices vary greatly, from about $12 to about $58, but better that than having to replace your brake pads.

Protect Your Car Against Pests

Though self storage facilities do a great job at protecting customer belongings from bugs and rodents, it doesn’t hurt to take extra steps to protect your car. This is especially true during the winter when critters venture into buildings more to avoid the cold.

One good way to keep rodents and bugs out is to put steel wool into the air intake and into the exhaust pipe, to block those means of entry. The scent of peppermint can keep mice away. Use this to your advantage by dipping balls in peppermint oil. Place these around the exterior or the car.

With all these measures in place, your car should do well in storage for up to a year. We suggest checking it every few months, at which time you can refresh the cotton balls around the car and check the battery.

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