How does one store a car for a long period of time?
First of all, the old practice of putting the car up on blocks no longer applies. Allowing the suspension to hang with no weight on the tires used to be essential in the days of bias ply tires, when such tires would take a definite “set” over the winter and produce a flat spot on the tire that never really went away. Actually, exposing the shiny silver rods inside the shock absorbers, by fully extending them, leaves them susceptible to rust. Rust build up on these sliding rods will destroy the shock absorber seals as soon as the car is let down to normal ride height.
Absolutely do not store a car outside, even if it has a cover over it. Dampness will gather from below and infiltrate every nook and cranny of the car. The brakes will be a solid lump of rust and even the brackets behind the dash board will have a light coating of rust on them. On the other hand, a warm storage garage is not really necessary, provided the garage or storage space is dry inside.
Inflating the tires to the safe limit as shown on the sidewall, usually about 36 p.s.i., is a good practice, as is a thorough cleaning of the interior and the removal of dead leaves and seeds from the air intake area.
A change of oil is usually a good idea, although if the oil is a top grade synthetic and not too old, this may not be necessary. If you are using regular oil in your engine, then an oil change is a very good idea, in order to eliminate any acidic residues from the oil pan. Fill up your gas tank and add a full bottle of gasoline conditioner, to prevent the lighter fractions of the fuel from evaporating and causing sludge to form. After applying the conditioner, it is essential to run the engine for five minutes, to make sure that the chemical has penetrated all parts of the fuel system.
Now, with the car parked in its resting place, the battery needs to be disconnected. If you have a radio that needs a special code to be reactivated, make sure you know what it is. The battery can be stored on a piece of plywood in the basement, or the battery can be left in the car, disconnected, but hooked up to one of those very small and inexpensive one amp trickle chargers.
Having done all this, don’t be tempted to go down and start the car occasionally, unless you plan to drive it for at least half an hour. A start/stop environment does far more harm than good.
When you are ready to drive the car again, reconnect the battery and wait one minute for the computer to re boot. Meanwhile, pull out the fuse for the fuel pump, so that the injectors can’t spray raw fuel into the block and crank the engine over until oil pressure JUST starts to show on the gauge. Then put the back in and your engine should start on the first stroke.
Storing your car for a long period of time.
Find a good clean, dry, secure location to store your car. Funny thing about mankind is that we have developed highly sophisticated car-caves - better known as garages. A garage with a concrete pad is ideal. Ideally, the garage will have electrical service and be easy to access.
Once your car is ready to be put into storage, you must prepare the storage environment. First step will be to sweep the floor and clean/dust the walls around. A clean environment is ideal! Once the garage/storage area is clean, lay down your plastic drop-sheet where you will be leaving the car. Before purchasing the plastic vapor barrier, ensure it is large enough to envelop the lower half of your vehicle.
First step is to change all "standard" fluids - this covers almost all fluids. When I prepare a car for storage, I change the following fluids:
Be sure to fill your gas tank all the way to the top. This will save your fuel system from oxidation and will also displace any water that may currently be in the system. Be sure to add the fuel system stabilizer at the same time - following the directions (which usually includes driving the car for 20 min. after)
Once the storage area is prepared and standard vehicle maintenance is completed, you will now focus on preparing the car for the storage environment. Start by cleaning out the interior of the car - leave nothing behind. Vacuum, dust, clean ... the more spotless your car is, the better it will handle storage.
This is essential to preventing mold, mildew and critters from overcoming your precious interior. And let's face it, when you pull the car out of storage, you don't want to be greeted by a mess! Once the interior is spotless, you should now focus your attention on the exterior of the car. Start by washing the car from top to bottom - everywhere! This is a very daunting task ... though it will preserve the car.
After washing + drying the car, give it one of the best wax jobs of its life! Don't skip areas such as the door-jambs, and under the hood. Leave no painted surface untouched. This is to protect the paint from the environment. Also be sure to polish any chrome surfaces to help preserve the gorgeous luster.
When all maintenance + cleaning items have been covered, you are now ready to position the car for storage.
Start by parking the car on the plastic drop sheet. The reason you should have a waterproof drop sheet is to prevent fluid transfers in both directions (i.e. prevent water vapor from rising from below the car, and prevent vehicle fluids from staining the cement [or other] storage pad). The plastic sheet will also help prevent rodents from finding a nice winter nest.
Prepare the vehicle drive-train for storage. Start by relieving the pressure from your fuel system. This can be done by starting the car and then disconnecting the fuel-pump wiring harness. Consult your factory manual for the location of said harness. When you disconnect the fuel pump, the car should sputter and die. This indicates that there is no longer pressure in the fuel line.
Next step will be to plug the tail-pipe(s) with steel wool. This will prevent rodents and other critters from using your exhaust system as a winter home. Depending on your vehicle's intake system, you should also plug any remaining orifices with steel wool.
Do not engage the parking brake as the brake pads may become fused to the rear brakes over the winter. The vehicle should also be left in neutral in the case of a manual transmission. Be sure to place blocks in front of and behind the wheels so the car cannot roll.
Next step will be to remove the vehicle's battery. Most batteries do not winter well at all. All batteries discharge over time so you must ensure that your battery does not discharge too much, otherwise, it will age prematurely. The best solution to this problem is a special type of battery charger ... called a battery tender. These battery saving devices "float" a battery charge at a specific voltage and do not constantly charge the battery (which can ruin it).
At this stage, you are almost done! Next step will be to tuck the plastic drop sheet up and around the bottom half of your vehicle. This once again prevents moisture from diffusing from underneath the car.
Last step will be to cover the car with your car cover. The ideal car cover for garage storage will be permeable (material that breathes, i.e. not a tarp) and somewhat thick. There are a large number of aftermarket car covers available - don't go cheap ... it will protect your car!