I originally published this article in May 2020, when people were not driving their vehicles because COVID kept them working at home.
Many people are still working from home, so their cars get limited use. Cars like to be driven. This keeps fluids pumping and bearings spinning. Take action now to protect various components from extended down time.
Three (3) systems on your car are affected by the inactivity of a vehicle in storage:
- Battery life
- Fuel stability
- Tire pressure
Whether is is short term or long term storage, take proper steps to guarantee a safe reanimation.
Short Term Storage (less than 6 months)
Vehicles can be stored for a short term without much prep to these systems. Shorter term storage should involve you starting your car at least once every two weeks. This keeps the battery charged and the fuel flowing through your intake system.
- Take your car for a 15 minute ride to make sure the engine gets to operating temperature. This helps charge the battery and heat up the exhaust system to burn off any moisture (which can cause rust).
- Check your tire pressure (the recommended pressures are noted in the door jamb visible when the driver’s door is open). Tires can lose a small amount of air due to inactivity and with temperature changes. Tire pressure changes by 1 psi for every 10 degrees of temperature change (temperature decrease lowers tire pressure and temperature increases raises pressure).
- Keep your fuel tank full to prevent condensation from forming in the tank.
Long Term/Winter Storage (more than 6 months)
If you plan to keep your vehicle stored or inactive for 6 months or more, you should follow a normal “winter storage” regime that car collectors use.
- Add a fuel stabilizer (StaBil or similar) to your tank and fill the tank with fuel. Drive the vehicle for 10 minutes to be sure the fuel stabilizer flows through the fuel system. This will remove moisture in the fuel and prevent fuel breakdown (which can clog your fuel system).
- Inflate your tires to the recommended pressures. My friend, Rodney, added this tip: “I have been parking on 1″ rigid foam insulation. Just a small pad under each tire to get it off the concrete but big enough to allow for rolling back and forth on occasion. I also over inflate with an additional 5 PSI. Never had a flat spot.”
- Give your car a good bath, and cover it with a quality car cover (if storage is outdoors) or a soft blanket/sheet if indoors.
- Connect a “trickle charger” to your battery to keep your battery charged. The typical one is Battery Tender. Less expensive ones can be bought for less than $30. I use a Schumacher model bought from Tractor Supply. It has served me well.
- If your vehicle is stored in a rural area prone to rodents infestation, consider this tip from my friend Rodney:
- “My motorcycle and car are stored in a detached garage out here in the country, so I am concerned about mice or chipmunks nesting. I’ve been using dryer sheets in the interior, trunk and engine bay. Spread them out generously. It keeps the mice out and the car smells great come Spring. Call me paranoid but I also tape up my exhaust to keep critters out. So far so good.”
The above steps will help make sure your car starts right up when you need it, and prevents unnecessary repairs.
I hope you find this information useful. Please share any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.