Several factors play a role in determining the type and amount of maintenance required when taking your car out of long-term storage. How long it has been stored, the age of the vehicle and the conditions of the storage (inside or outside) all play a role. But also very important is the preventative maintenance that you perform before going into storage.

Important Steps Before Storing Your Car

Cars do not store well without preparation. Here are some tips to ensure that deterioration is kept to a minimum and that restoring your car after storage does not cost a fortune in replacement parts.  There will still be procedures required when you bring the car out again, but the process is made simpler if you have taken the proper steps beforehand.

  1. Have your car completely rust-proofed before going into storage.
  2. Perform all routine maintenance just before storage even if the procedures are not due. This means changing the oil, brake and other fluids and coolant.
  3. Fill the gas tank.
  4. Disconnect the battery. Store it in a warm place.
  5. Overfill the tires, though do not exceed the tire pressure limit.
  6. Store the car on jack stands, if possible, with the wheels removed.
  7. Wash the car.
  8. If the car will be outside, use an all-weather cover.

Taking the Car Out of Storage

  1. Initial Inspection

    Before hopping into the driver’s seat after a long storage period, carefully inspect the exterior and beneath todetermine if there are any obvious warning signs. Do you see signs of rust or corrosion, not just on visible painted surfaces, but on wheel rims, hubs and underneath metal pieces, joints and welds? If rust protection was not applied before storage, humidity and residual road chemicals will begin the oxidation process that can cause significant damage.

  2. Fluids

    Are there pools of fluid underneath? Can you detect the source? You may need to replace gaskets, seals and even hoses if they do not seem to be doing their job anymore. Replace all fluids if the vehicle has been sitting for over six months.

  3. Change the Filters

    To ensure that the car will run in optimal fashion once you restart it, replace the oil and fuel filters immediately. In some cases, it will be advisable to change the spark plug cables also.

  4. Battery

    Reconnect the battery and determine its condition. A charge may be needed. But if the battery has been idle too long, it may need to be replaced. Also make sure the cables are not corroded and that there has been no other visible damage.

  5. Tires

    Check the tire pressure and the general condition of the tires. Ideally the car had been elevated and may only need a little fresh air to return to driving condition. But check for flat spots that occur as a result of bearing the vehicle weight for a long time. It is possible that replacement tires are in order if the flattening is severe and permanent.

  6. Rodent Damage

    Look for rodent damage. When a car is idle for long periods, rodents will tend to tinker with the workings of your vehicle. They seem to love the tight nooks and crannies in the engine compartment and really enjoy chewing on hoses, wires and other soft materials. Are there any signs of nests?
    Check the brake lines. Sometimes the damage is not always visible, so it will be mandatory to start off easy when you do begin to drive.

  7. Air it Out

    Open the doors and windows to allow the air to clear out any unhealthy, musty odors that may have accumulated during storage. Switch on the air conditioner to determine a) if it works, and b) if recharging will be required.

  8. Wash the Car

    It is important that you remove any accumulated dirt from the surface of the car. The inevitable dirt and dust that has gathered on the paint will become more permanent if not removed as soon as possible. Rust proofing also will help to preserve the integrity of your vehicle.

  9. Insurance

    For longer periods of storage, some owners think it wise to cancel the coverage on the vehicle. This can be true, though keep in mind that rates go up and you might be in for a shock when you attempt to re-insure that car.

Summary

If you plan to store your automobile for six months or more, it is necessary to follow these procedures. Don’t simply attempt to start the car by whatever means available, then shift gears, and drive away. There can be some invisible damage to the engine, brakes or transmission that can cause a breakdown or require very extensive repair and replacement.

In any event, don’t go far away for that first drive. And carefully check all the systems when you have returned.

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