How to Store a Car Long Term

Jessica Shea Choksey | Dec 02, 2020

Various circumstances can call for long-term storage of a vehicle. In some cases, owners want to store their cars during the winter months until better driving weather returns in the spring. For others, it may be due to an extended vacation, a temporary relocation for a work assignment, or even a military deployment. Whatever the reason, storing a vehicle for ample time requires specific preparations to keep it safe and protected while it hibernates. Here are some essential storage tips and considerations to keep in mind.

store a car long term

Fill Up the Tank

When a gas tank is left empty, it can rust due to moisture. The best way to combat this is to completely fill the tank with fuel. Topping it off allows no room for air and water to enter the tank and corrode it from the inside. Adding a fuel stabilizer will also help prevent rust and corrosion. Keep in mind fuel will not be useable after several months, so plan on draining it once you are ready to drive the car again.

Change the Oil

When oil sits for too long, it can damage the engine’s components. If the vehicle will be in storage for several months or longer, first changing the oil so that it is fresh and clean makes sense. But like the fuel, plan to change the oil again when taking the car out of storage, unless you elect to use synthetic oil .

Protect the Engine Cylinders

To prevent rust in the engine block, remove the spark plugs and spray some oil into the cylinders. Then replace the plugs. If this task is beyond your ability, a mechanic can do this for you when you take the vehicle in for its pre-storage oil change.

Maintain the Battery

If a vehicle sits without being driven for some time, the battery can drain and die. To prevent this from happening, connect the battery to a battery maintainer, a specialized device that intermittently charges the battery over time and keeps it fresh. When it is time to drive the vehicle again, the battery should be ready to operate at near-full strength. Otherwise, you may need to recondition the battery after storage.

Wrap the Wiper Blades

The rubber strip from wiper blades can get stuck to the windshield glass after remaining in the same position for a long time. Placing a strip of plastic wrap under each blade is a simple step that will prevent adhesion from occurring. Two alternatives to this method are to remove the blades altogether or pull the blades away from the windshield in the “out” position.

Plug the Exhaust Outlet

Closing up the tailpipe prevents rodents, spiders, and other pests from climbing in and making homes. Stuffing a rag into the exhaust or sealing it off with aluminum foil will do the trick. The same goes for other openings, such as air intakes. But remember to unplug these entry points before re-starting and driving the car.

Elevate the Vehicle

When a car does not move for an extended period, it puts constant weight on the same part of the tires. This situation can cause permanent flat spots and require the purchase of new tires before you drive it again. To prevent this from happening, consider elevating the vehicle off the ground with jack stands. The owner’s manual may contain more information on this topic for your specific model.

Clean the Interior

Wipe, vacuum, and dust the cabin thoroughly. If the vehicle has leather seats, use a protectant to help prevent cracking due to temperature changes. Empty the glove box, console, and compartments of anything perishable. And cover the vents so that no critters can find their way into the vehicle.

Clean the Exterior

Storing a vehicle without removing dirt and debris can be harmful to its paint job. Particles and grease on the surface can leave marks, become embedded, or speed up corrosion. Wash the vehicle thoroughly before storing it. Waxing the body of the car gives it an additional layer of protection.

No Parking Brake

When you engage a parking brake for a long time, the braking surface can fuse with the wheel and become stuck in place. Instead, chock the wheels. This will prevent the vehicle from rolling.

Park on a Tarp

A tarp will protect the floor from vehicle leaks that may occur. It will also protect the tires from oils and elements that can seep up from the ground.

Use a Car Cover

Put a breathable cover over your car. Do not use a sheet or a plastic tarp. A soft fiber cover will adequately protect the paint and metal from the elements and moisture.

Preparing a vehicle for long-term storage requires some effort and mindfulness. But taking proper steps will help ensure that the car will require minimal rejuvenation when it is time to get back on the road again.

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