Outdoor Car Protection - Prep Your car for StorageWritten By: John Linden
There are multiple reasons why someone would opt to store their car for a long period of time. Perhaps the vehicle is seasonal, such as a convertible or Jeep and is best driven only during the summer months. Perhaps the owner is going away on an extended vacation. Perhaps they've been called away on active duty in the military!
Whatever the case, you'll need to store your vehicle properly if you expect it to be in working condition when you return. This is especially true if you intend on storing it outdoors. Letting your vehicle sit out unprotected on the street for months on end is an excellent way to kill your battery, ruin your paint job, damage your engine, and provide a home for the family of cats that live down the street!
Let's look at the essential steps you need to take to ensure you're prepping your vehicle for outdoor storage the right way.
Wash your car
Why would you be washing your vehicle if you plan on storing it away for months on end? That's because sap residue, water droplets, and bird droppings can damage your paint if you let it sit for long enough. As you're cleaning your vehicle, don't forget to clean the underside of the fenders and the tires. These areas are easy to forget, but they're also susceptible to damage due to the accumulation of grease, tar, and mud. Throw on a coat of wax if you really want to make sure your vehicle is fully protected.
Change the oil
This step is only relevant if you intend on storing your vehicle for 30 days or more. Due to the contaminants found in car oil allowing it to sit for long periods of time can potentially damage the engine.
Fill your tank
This is yet another long-term car storage tip that you should employ if you intend on allowing your vehicle to sit for 30 days or more. Not topping off your tank may allow moisture to gather inside of the fuel tank and possibly dry out the seals. For extra protection purchase fuel stabilizer to prevent the buildup of ethanol and protect the engine from rust and tarnish for the next 12 months.
Don't engage the parking brake
In most situations, you would want to use your parking brake. However, allowing your rotors to stay in contact with your brake pads for long periods of time may fuse them together. As an alternative solution, employ a chock AKA a tire stopper to keep your vehicle perfectly in place.
Keep your battery charged
If you let your battery sit for long enough, it will eventually die. If you can manage it find someone who can start your vehicle at least once every two weeks and drive it for at least 15 minutes. This will give the alternator time to sufficiently recharge the battery. Starting your vehicle periodically will also keep the engine and other vital components properly lubricated. Don't forget to run the air conditioning to ensure that the air quality remains fresh!
If you're not able to find someone who can start the vehicle you have two options. First, you can disconnect the negative battery cable. However, doing so will likely reset the time, radio presets and other settings within your vehicle. If you would prefer to keep those settings, you can use a battery tender. Also known as a trickle charger, this device connects to your battery on one end and into a wall charger on the other, delivering a small charge to prevent your battery from discharging.
Prevent flat spots
Before storing away your vehicle make sure your tire pressure is at the recommended levels. This is important to do because you'll want to avoid your tires developing flat spots. Flat spots occur when the weight of the vehicle presses down onto the tire causing certain areas to lose air pressure. Flat spots tend to occur more often when the temperature is colder.
If the flat spot isn't too bad you may be able to drive it for a while and get rid of the issue. However, there may be instances where the flat spot has caused permanent damage to your tire in which you will have no choice but to replace it.
Ideally, if you intend on storing your vehicle for more than 30 days you should place the car on jack stands on all four corners and take the wheels off. This might seem excessive to some, but it definitely beats having to replace all four tires when you return. Furthermore, your vehicle will fare much better if the weight of the car isn't constantly weighing them down for long periods of time without moving.
Keep your vehicle covered
The most cost effective option for protecting your vehicle against the elements are weatherproof car covers. Car covers fit snugly over your vehicle ensuring sap, rain, snow, leaves and everything else stays off of your paint job. Car covers are affordable and easy to use making them one of the best solutions for storing your vehicle outdoors.
Keep out bugs and animals
Stationary cars are the perfect place for rodents and critters of all shapes and sizes to burrow inside and cause all sorts of damage. To battle this issue, try to cover up all the small gaps a rodent could use to access your vehicle such as the air intake or the exhaust pipe. Steel wool tends to work well for this type of job.
Laying out mouse traps is also an option, but this of course depends on exactly where you're storing your vehicle. Laying out mousetraps in your driveway should be fine as long as you have a neighbor come to sweep up the casualties every once and a while. However, if you're storing your vehicle out on the street your best bet is to cover your vehicle as best you can so that mice and other critters can't find their way inside.
Maintain your insurance
Initially, it might not seem like it makes much sense to pay car insurance on a vehicle you have no intention of driving for an extended period of time. However, there's a possibility that when you go to reinstate your service, you may end up paying even more due to the gap in coverage.
If this happens, you'll likely end up paying more in the long term than you saved in the short term by canceling your insurance. Of course, this all depends on who your provider is, so make sure to give your insurance company a call to learn about what options are available to you.
Storing your vehicle the right way
Storing your car outdoors can be challenging. It may seem like a lot of work, but if you disregard these steps, there's a very real possibility you could return to a vehicle that no longer runs. Ultimately, the time you spend properly prepping your vehicle for storage could potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars down the line.