Preparing Your Car for Long-Term Storage: A Step-by-Step Guide

You are going on an extended trip abroad and do not want to leave your car exposed to harsh winter conditions and reckless drivers. You recently purchased a car at a good price but do not need it yet. You primarily use your bicycle for transportation and only need your car when leaving the city. Alternatively, your classic car has broken down and you want to preserve it for future repairs, or you are going to college and do not want to deal with the hassle of finding parking on campus.

Whether it is to protect the car from harsh weather conditions, to save money on insurance and maintenance, or to allow for more convenient transportation options, storing a car can be a practical and smart decision.

Problems if You Don’t Prepare Your Car for Storage

Not driving a car can be extremely detrimental to its condition. When I was younger, I made the mistake of simply parking a few cars instead of properly storing them. Every spring when I tried to start them up again, I encountered problems such as a seized A/C compressor, a seized brake master cylinder, and non-functioning power windows. Additionally, mice were able to get into the car and cause further damage. These experiences taught me the importance of properly storing a car, even if it seems like a hassle. Trust me, it is worth it in the long run to ensure the car remains in good condition.

Insurance and Registration

Before putting your car into storage, it is important to consider your insurance and registration. If you use GEICO as your insurance provider, you may be able to get a refund on your prepaid amount if you let them know that you will be storing the car. GEICO also offers a storage plan, but this may not be necessary if you are storing the car in a new, secure facility. In some states, such as Nebraska, you may not be able to get a refund on your registration fees. It is important to keep in mind the expiration date of your registration and plan accordingly if you will be storing the car.

Guide To Store Your Car For Long Time

Step1: Give your car a good wash and wax

The first thing you need to do is wash and wax your car. Take your time. It is important to ensure that there is no accumulation of dirt anywhere on the car, as this might lead to corrosion. You also don’t want dead bugs, tree sap, and other substances to have the opportunity to eat away at your paint over an extended period of time.

Step 2: Fill up your gas tank

Filling up the gas tank of a car before storing it for an extended period of time can help prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel system. When a car’s fuel tank is low or empty, air can enter the system, which can lead to the formation of condensation. This moisture can lead to corrosion and other issues within the fuel system.

By filling up the gas tank, you are reducing the amount of air that can enter the system and thus decreasing the chances of moisture buildup. Additionally, a full gas tank can help prevent the fuel system from drying out, which can also lead to problems.

Step 3: Add a fuel stabilizer such as STA-BIL

After adding the correct quantity into your tank, start your engine and let it run for five minutes to ensure that the stabilizer is distributed evenly throughout your car’s fuel system. This will not only help you conserve fuel, but it will also ensure that the entirety of your fuel system is cleaned thoroughly.

After sixty days, gas begins to degrade. And by the time it arrives at your gas station, it has been sitting there for a full month. I would still complete this step even if I were only going to be putting the car away for one month.

Step 4: Change your oil and oil filter

It is generally a good idea to change the oil and oil filter of a car before storing it for an extended period of time. Old oil can break down and become contaminated over time, which can lead to engine problems when the car is started again after storage.

By changing the oil and oil filter before storing the car, you are ensuring that the engine is protected and will be less likely to experience issues when it is used again. Additionally, fresh oil can help prevent the formation of sludge and other contaminants within the engine, which can also cause problems.

Step 5: Top off all your fluids

When the car is parked during the winter months, make sure that the antifreeze is filled correctly and that you have the right mixture so that the radiator, hoses, etc. don’t freeze, crack and make a big mess that you then have to clean up.

Step 6: Take out your spark plugs and spray some fogging oil down your cylinders

This will keep them from rusting. When you put your plugs back in after you do this, put some anti-seize on them so they will be easier to take back out.

Step 7: Unplug your battery or put your battery on an automatic battery float charger

To prevent your battery from being drained by the car’s electronics while it is in storage, it is advisable to use a float charger. This device can be connected to the battery and will maintain its charge as it slowly drains. Using a float charger can help extend the life of your battery and make starting the car easier after it has been in storage.
A float charger is an inexpensive investment. It is worth spending a few extra dollars on electricity to keep the battery charged and avoid having to purchase a new one.

Step 8: Spray WD-40 on any exposed metal such as your brake rotors

Spraying WD-40 on exposed metal surfaces, such as brake rotors, before storing a car can help protect these parts from corrosion. WD-40 is a lubricant and water displacing spray that can help prevent moisture from accumulating on metal surfaces and causing rust and other types of corrosion.
By applying WD-40 to exposed metal parts before storing a car, you are creating a barrier that can help protect these parts from the damaging effects of moisture. This can help extend the lifespan of these components and ensure that the car is in good condition when it is taken out of storage.

Step 9: Don’t set your emergency brake

Leaving the emergency brake engaged can put unnecessary strain on the brake system and may cause the brake pads to become stuck to the rotors. This can lead to additional wear and tear on the brake system and may require costly repairs when the car is taken out of storage. Instead of setting the emergency brake, use wheel chocks or other methods to keep the car securely in place while it is being stored. This can help prevent the car from rolling or shifting during storage and minimize the risk of damage to the brake system.

Step 10 (optional): Put a tarp or vinyl sheet down over your garage floor

Once again, rust prevention is why you need to do this. If you don’t, the moisture coming up from the floor will be stuck between the floor and the car and cause rust.

Step 11: If your tarp does not cover your wheel base, then put pieces of cardboard and put them under your wheels

This can help protect the tires from flat spotting, which can occur when a car is left in one position for an extended period of time. Flat spotting occurs when the weight of the car presses down on certain areas of the tire, causing them to become misshapen. This can lead to uneven wear and poor handling when the car is driven again.

By placing cardboard or other materials under the wheels, you are distributing the weight of the car more evenly across the tires and helping to prevent flat spotting. This can help extend the lifespan of the tires and ensure that the car is ready to drive when it is taken out of storage.

Step 12: Over inflate your tires by 10psi

Overinflating the tires of a car being stored by about 10 psi can help protect them from flat spotting and other types of damage. When a car is left in one position for an extended period of time, the weight of the vehicle can cause the tires to become misshapen, leading to flat spotting. By overinflating the tires, you are increasing their rigidity and helping to prevent them from becoming deformed under the weight of the car. You don’t need to worry about this step unless your car will be in storage over 3 months.

Step 13: Put some more Damp Rid in the interior. This will help prevent mold and a musty smell. You can also put in a nice air freshener if you like.
Step 14: Plug your tailpipe(s) with steel wool, or cover the pipes with a thick rubber or plastic so mice don’t crawl in and make nests.

Step 15: Put pieces of plastic or paper in between your wiper blades and your glass. This will keep your blades from sticking to the glass and leaving marks.

Step 16: Clean out the interior of the car. Don’t leave any trash or clothing or anything. This stuff traps smells.

Step 17: Roll down the windows a couple of inches to allow new air to enter. This helps keep mold from growing.

Step 18 (optional): Get a good quality indoor car cover. Put it over the car to protect the paint.

Step 19: Put mouse bait around the car just in case you have a mice problem. I prefer this over moth balls because moth balls smell so bad.


And here is how to store the car properly. If you prefer, you can also put the car on stands. This will avoid having to overinflate the tires, but if you do, be sure to place the racks under the four corners of the suspension. This way, the pole will still have the weight of the car on it. Otherwise, they will stress during storage and could have serious consequences for the safety of your car when you put it back on the road.

If you are lazy (and it makes sense) and only do one thing to store a car, that is the fuel treatment. Don’t skip this step! Now you can travel, go to college, do whatever you want, knowing that when you get back on the road it will be ready.

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