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Storing Your Vehicle

Whether you're planning on storing a vehicle for a few weeks, a few months, or even longer, you should take some necessary precautions to keep it in tip top shape. Paint, tires, and internal equipment can all suffer damage if not properly protected. Below are some steps to take in order to protect your vehicle for future use.

Where to Store Your Vehicle

You have a variety of options when it comes to storing your car safely. Some of your options will be dictated by where you live (e.g., suburbs vs. downtown cities) while others may be determined by how long you'll be away from your ride.

Possibilities include:

  • Your garage—If your home has one, storing your vehicle in your garage is the best way to protect it from the elements, pests, or thieves. Just be sure that all entries to your garage are secure, including any windows or other doors.
  • Storage facility—If you live in an urban area or you don't have access to an enclosed space, consider renting space at an indoor storage facility. There are businesses specifically geared toward storing vehicles, and depending on your region's weather, some offer both indoor and outdoor options.
  • Friends or family—If the above options don't work, see if a family member or good friend has space to keep your car for you.

Wash, Vacuum & Seal the Deal

When storing your car, one of the most important things to ensure is that it's thoroughly clean before you walk away from it. Even the smallest amount of the following can do long term damage to your vehicle's paint job:

  • Water drops.
  • Salt from the road or the air.
  • Sand.
  • Bird droppings.

Give your vehicle some TLC by washing it carefully, drying it thoroughly, and waxing it properly before putting it away for a while.

And don't forget the inside. Vacuum up all the crumbs—they can attract insects and rodents who will happily make a nest of your back seat. Some experts even recommend placing a few dryer sheets or mothballs inside your vehicle to deter pests.

Prep Your Tires

Flat spots can occur when a car sits too long, as air gradually releases and the weight of the car presses them down. It's recommended to inflate your tires to the maximum pressure recommendation listed on the sidewalls before you leave your car, to account for this loss of air pressure.

Another recommendation to prevent flat spotting is to place your vehicle on jack stands. If you have a dirt floor in your garage, put the jack stands on wooden squares of even thickness to prevent them from sinking.

Remember to check the air pressure in your tires once you take your vehicle out of storage, to make sure that they're inflated enough to safely drive the car.

Fluids, Gas & Power

The following are ideal steps if you plan on storing your vehicle for an extended period of time.

Clean Your Oil & Filter

The contaminants in used oil can damage your vehicle's engine. Change the oil to make sure it's as clean as possible before long-term storage. It's also a good idea to put in a clean air filter so your car is ready to roll when you start it up.

Top Off Your Coolant

This step is ideal for any climate. Make sure you're using the correct balance of water and coolant for your engine.

Fill the Gas Tank

A full gas tank will prevent moisture from getting trapped inside and putting extra strain on the valves. If you plan to store your vehicle for a few months, adding a fuel stabilizer is a good idea. Do this before filling your tank to prevent corrosion in the fuel line and prevent the fuel from separating.

Remove the Battery

This step is recommended if you plan to store your vehicle for longer than a few months. Batteries lose their charge and can corrode over time if not used. If you do remove it, it's better to keep it in your home or a temperature-controlled area, on a clean dry surface, rather than a cold garage or storage facility to prevent cracking. Or you can just get rid of the battery and replace it when you decide to drive the vehicle again.

Cover Your Vehicle Properly

Even if you're storing your vehicle in a garage, you should cover it. If you're storing it outdoors, definitely consider a weatherproof cover. If you live in a humid climate, you'll want to consider a breathable cover to keep moisture out.

Before covering your vehicle, make sure to:

  • Put your car in park (do not set the parking break).
  • Close all windows and doors.
  • Clean out all valuables.
  • Store insurance, registration, and other paperwork safely in the glove compartment.
  • Remove the antenna (optional).
  • Remove windshield wipers to prevent sticking.
  • Plug the exhaust pipe with a rag to keep out dust and pests.

Depending on the climate and length of time you'll be storing your vehicle, you might also want to consider a car jacket. This layer offers added protection against moisture, dust and pests.

To Start or Not to Start

Some experts claim you should start up your vehicle once in a while. But a properly stored vehicle doesn't need to be started.

If you do decide to start it, be sure to do the following:

  • Completely remove the cover.
  • Replace any parts you removed.
  • Make sure you warm the vehicle up properly before driving it.
  • Never turn a car on in a closed garage.

After you go for a short drive, return to this article to make sure you don't miss any steps to properly store your vehicle.

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