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Long Time Car Storage Tips

camydogcamydog Posts: 64
edited October 2014 in General
Please send advice for storage to include engine and chassis preservation. I will be storing my car for a little over three years and need to know the latest techniques on how to keep it in the best condition, inside and out.

I have heard of a foam preservative to spray down into the cylinders through the plug holes and valves. Once the foam is in place the procedure is to turn the engine over to coat the inside of the cylinders.

When the car is brought out of storage, the foam will burn out and the internal engine components, to include rings, gaskets, and seals are still good.

I need the product name, as well as help from experienced people on the storage of a vehicle.

All help is appreciated. Thanks.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Three years storage is a long time, but shouldn't be a problem for a car like yours.

    First, I'd lift the suspension up...not enough to get the tires off the ground, but enough to take the weight off the tires...and then block it.

    Then I'd put a drying agent in the car's interior, like they use in boats.

    I'd drain the coolant, and plug up the air cleaner and the tailpipe (mice, insects)

    I'd disconnect the battery and store it in a warm place

    I'd unscrew the plugs and squirt some light oil in the cylinders, to lay on the tops of the pistons...AFT or Marvel Mystery Oil or some other 10W or lighter oil......even light machine oil. And then put the plugs back in, hand tight.

    I'd drain the gas tank and run the car until the carburator bowl was empty

    I'd wax the car and then cover it with a breathable cover, and even crack the window just a touch.

    I'd release the emergency brake.


    When you're ready to start the car, you do all the common sense things like put in fresh gas, unplug all the holes you plugged up, install the battery. I'd squirt some more oil in each cylinder (we are only talking about a few teaspoons here, don't POUR it in!) and crank the motor on the starter but with the coil disconnected. After a few 15 second bursts, connect and tighten everything and you're ready to start it.

    You may want to bleed the brakes and add fresh fluid.

    That should take care of anything.....once she's all warmed up, you can change the oil and filters and exercise it.....it may feel a bit lumpy for a few miles, but it should be okay!
  • I am leaving the country for 2 years and storing my cars. I am wondering if there is more than just draining the fluids, disconnecting the battery and putting it on jacks.
    Flushing any systems?
    Disconnecting hoses?

    Any tips?
  • kinleykinley Posts: 854
  • kw_carmankw_carman Posts: 114
    What types of cars?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Oh, that's a long time to put a car up, but certainly possible. No big deal.

    If you aren't going to drain the fuel (which is best), you will need a fuel stabilizer for sure. Antifreeze and brake fluid and oils won't go "bad" but fuel definitely will.

    Mostly you should be concerned about how you re-start the cars, since all the oil will have drained off the cylinder walls. I've started cars that haven't run for as long as ten years. All I did was crank the engine with the starter for a while with the ignition disabled, to get up some oil pressure. On modern cars, this might not be so easy to do. You should ask at the dealer or your repair shop on how to safely crank the engine with the ignition system deactivated.(on some systems, leaving the ignition wires flapping in the breeze is not a good idea).

    Also, some of your gaskets and seals will dry out, and there may be leak problems. But you could also get lucky, especially if the cars are relatively new.

    As for flushing systems, I'd do that after you restart the car and get everything warmed up so you can take a good look at it. If the coolant seems dirty for instance, or the oil dipstick shows any moisture, then sure, dump it out and start fresh.

    So all in all, I'd worry more about inspecting and replacing things after you re-start the cars.

    You don't have to jack up the car until the wheels are off the ground--just enough to get pressure off the suspension and tires is fine. And the battery should be taken out of the car and stored in a warm place.

    Oh, what about rodent protection? Is this an issue in your storage facility?
  • Thanks for the replies, especially yours Mr. Shiftright.

    The cars will be garaged where there isn't a rodent problem. One car is a 1993 Infiniti Q45, the other is a 2000 Ford Windstar.

    I will get the fuel drained as well.
  • kinleykinley Posts: 854
    preparing to store,

    2 years of storage rent,

    depreciation of two vehicles over next 2 years.

    What are the advantages of keeping the cars?
  • Kinley,
    I appreciate your interest. There is more to the "Why" store question than I can share here.

    I need help with "How" to do it though.

    Thanks for your question.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Posts: 872
    I do this yearly for my classic car, but it still applies to your car and van.

    1-Change the oil and filter, the old oil has a high acid content that will etch things in the motor that is in contact with. That is the kind of thing that can cause you to have big problems down the road, like rod knocks and such.

    2-Disconnect the battery and get a battery tender hooked up to it to maintain the batteries in good shape for your return, otherwise the likely hood of you having to buy 2 new batteries after 2 years of sitting are pretty good, but if the batteries are original you may want to replace them when you get back any way.

    3-Check the protection level of the coolant, just to play it safe. The '93 should probably be changed because its the old green stuff, and that can go "sour" eating up the radiators, new coolant can still do this, but not in just 2 years of sitting. Cheap insurance when you look at buying a new radiator.

    4-Put the cars on jack stands to keep from getting flat spots in the tires, and get a good protectant to prevent tire dry rot. Do your research because some of the protectants actually degrade the tires.

    5-Drain the gas out and replace the in line fuel filter. If you disconnect the in line filter and hook it up to a rubber hose you can jump the fuel pump relay and use it to drain the gas out of the tank.
    Install the new fuel filter, hook up the fuel lines. Pre mix the fuel stabilizer and ONE gallon of gas, dump it into the tank. This will treat the left over fuel in the tank and keep it from varnishing up.

    6-Lock up the storage unit and go on your trip.

    7-When you return to start the cars, bring 2-5 gallon cans of PREMIUM, mixed with gum out injector cleaner, one for each car, dump it in the tank, check the air pressure in the tires, add air if needed, remove the jack stands. Install the batteries, disconnect the ignition system turn the motor over for about 20-30 seconds to get the oil back up into the motor-if the car has an oil pressure gauge, watch it and when it gets to around normal stop cranking and reconnect the ignition. Now when you hit the key there is oil on the critical parts of the motor and fuel to the injectors, flushing any old fuel out, and vroom it should fire right up.

    Hope this helps out
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    I haven't done any long-term storage, but around here it's strongly recommended you pull the plugs and mist some aerosol fogging oil into your cylinders to keep the bores from turning into a rusty mess. all that rust has to be scraped by the rings and expelled through the valves and exhaust.

    for 2 years of being gone, I'd definitely fog the cylinders.
  • I have an 87 toyota corrolla that has been sitting for 2 yrs and a half. I never drained the transmission fluid. the engine is gone though, that's why it was sitting. would you recommend draining transmission fluid too?
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    if the engine is gone, and it's an 87, shoot, sell it for parts. it's obviously not done you any good in two-plus years, why keep it around as a winter home for mice? the existing ATF is not rotting, and it's the only thing keeping the tranny from turning into a rusted block of ugly.
  • cmack4cmack4 Posts: 302
    does wonders at wicking away moisture and even cleaning up rusty parts. According to the bottle, it's safe to use as oil additive or gasoline additive. Diesel guys swear by it, as do motorcycle buffs (winter storage)... might want to put a few drops in each of the cylinders through the spark plug holes. Only downside is that it might foul your plugs when you go to restart.
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    This subject has come up again, so I'm digging this out of the archives - cough, cough, sure is dusty!! :)

    There are some excellent tips here.
  • lucas8lucas8 Posts: 15
    Thanks for reopening this thread, Pat. I'm new to this edmunds.com forum.

    I'm looking at a new Mazda3, and a dealer near enough to me (although not as close as my first choice) is offering $2750 off MSRP for the 2007. Will the car's having sat on the lot - probably without even being started - for many months (if not over a year) warrant considerations or does its being a brand new car with under ten miles preclude any worrying whatsoever?

    Also, is revving the engine to redline while it's still brand new and cold a serious no-no, or okay a few times? Salesmen always seem to want to do that to showcase the power. (I've test driven two of these Mazda3s already and a few other cars, and it's always the same...and these are 4 bangers!)

    Thanks in advance for your replies, and feel free to offer any advice about this car you may have.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    If the car has never been sold, then the warranty starts when you buy it (date of service).

    I don't think sitting around has hurt the car. They really don't sit around on a dealer's lot as much as you think. They are always being started and moved around. And if it only has 10 miles on it, that means it wasn't used as a demo and so wasn't subject to abuse.

    So I don't think you have anything to worry about here.
  • lucas8lucas8 Posts: 15
    Speculating that the cars are driven the same way when they're moved around the lot, does that pose any problem long term, or am I just looking for a reason not to buy this car?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    You mean the 10 miles? Isn't that what you said was on the odometer?
  • lucas8lucas8 Posts: 15
    I actually don't know the two candidate cars' exact mileage; I just guessed logically for a new car. In my euphoria, I decided not to consider that they are probably demo cars owing to the 2007 and 2008 being exactly the same car (I believe). Being a pessimist when it comes to large purchases, I want something as pristine as possible, although such a generous rebate obviously sways my decision making. I called the dealership offering this deal and am awaiting a call back regarding the exact mileages. The result will not influence my decision greatly; in fact, I should be able to get an even better deal should the car be a demo.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    new car engines are pretty sturdy so unless some lunatic lot boy drove it there's not much to harm. I guess you could check for tire burnouts by examining the inside of the wheel wells or looking for soda cans and cigarette butts, but I doubt you'll find very much. You know, as long as it has full warranty, hasn't been hit and repainted and doesn't have too many miles on it--what's not to like if there's a fat rebate coming?
  • roy22roy22 Posts: 1
    I've been unemployed for the last 4 months and haven't been driving my care more than once every week. This morning the car wouldn't start! It's an 04 350z with almost 60k in miles. I haven't gotten the car serviced so I'm hoping it's just the spark plugs or something but to be honest...I don't know what the heck I'm am doing. The starter is working and it almost catches. Now I can't even get to an interview and I'm screwed! Anyone have any ideas?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Hard to know without reading the computer for a trouble code.

    However, if it "almost catches" maybe you just flooded it. Have you tried starting it with the gas pedal floored (and keep it there). If no go, maybe something like a crankshaft positioning sensor has gone south. Maybe an extra hot boost from AAA would help get it running.

    With modern cars, there's not much you can do on a no-start except flatbed it in.
  • robian1robian1 Posts: 2
    I've seen many tips on winter auto storage but I was hoping someone could advise on summer storage. I'll be living in AZ next year but I'll be away from home for around 6 to 8 weeks in the summer. By then, I'll be hoping to own a new BMW or Infinity.

    The car will be in a garage but it will probably be very warm. Are there any special provisions I should make for summer storage besides cleaning, topping off fuel and adding stabilizer and a fresh oil change? Does the battery need to be removed or maybe rubber seals greased? Should I over inflate tires? Is there anything else that should be done?
    Thanks for any suggestions.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    8 weeks? Nah, I don't see this as being a problem. I suppose, if it wasn't too much trouble, that it might be good to disconnect the battery and store it in a cooler place but even that seems a bit fastidious given the short time frame. Howevere, removing the battery might prevent total discharge.

    I trust you have a "radio code" handy if your battery runs down, presuming you have that type of radio.
  • robian1robian1 Posts: 2
    Thanks, it's good to know that an 8 week storage shouldn't be a problem. Confessing ignorance here, but what is a "radio code"?
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    Some manufacturers, have a radio that if it looses power, when it powers up it is locked with an 'error'. You have to unlock it with the radio code. That is to thwart thieves who would want to steal your radios and sell them, makes them kind of useless.

    The security code is set by the manufacturer, and when you buy the car you get the code.

    8 weeks is really nothing, as long as the car is in good maintenance with a decent battery. I've had situations where we were moving, and I've left vehicles for months on end a couple of occassions. I have a vehicle now which sits usually about a month at a time. I usually start up and drive around once a month.
  • Ok, my brother parked his 91' firebird - give or take - some five years ago. It was driven into the car port and shut off - no extra measures taken. He has finally decided to give it to me, I know the rear tranny seal needs to be replaced, but my first question is how do I make sure that I don't mess anything up when I first crank it up after this long - will the oil level show true if there is even any left in it? Does oil dry up after that long? I have no idea here . . . . My first agenda is to get it cranked and make sure the motor will be ok before I send it to the shop. Once at the shop, I know I need to have that seal replaced and plan to have a full tune up done, down to gaskets and hoses and fluids.
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    I'm no expert on this, but I'll be surprised if it will start. Your battery will be discharged to nothing and probably bad, and the fuel will be a mess...and probably your biggest problem and hardest to correct.

    - I think I'd do an oil change before trying to start, and then assume you get the vehicle started at some point.....change it again shortly thereafter.
    - I wouldn't even mess with the old battery, I'd just replace it or put in a known good battery from another vehicle.
    - I'd think serously about dropping the gas tank, getting all the old gas out, flushing it out, then putting it back in and flushing the fuel lines via the fuel pump.
    - I'd take the plugs out, and try turning the engine over by hand (or with the starter), to get a couple revolutions on it and make sure it isn't frozen.

    Good luck with your 'gift' :D
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Great advice from kiawah...I'd even up the ante and REQUIRE that you do most of what he says.

    Do NOT attempt to jump start an old dead battery. It could blow up in your face (literally).

    And draining the gas is essential. It has changed chemically and will screw everything up.

    Yes, a nasty job but way less expensive than cleaning out your entire fuel system 5 times.

    And after you get it running, you'll need to drain the flush the brake system, change the oil and filter and tune it up, also new air and fuel filter.

    The various seals might leak, but they might also swell up again and stop leaking. You'll have to assess this after running the car around for a while.

    I presume the tires are toast as well.

    Work slowly, be safe. Remember, you only mess up a job when you don't give yourself enough time. It's sat for years, so if you don't get it going in a day, wait another day, or as long as you need.
  • here is a list of car storage facilities from around the world. most are located in the U.S. and GB.

    If anyone has any good articles or tips to post please let me know.


  • The car has 88000 original miles on it. I need to start this car and am not sure how to go about it. It was parked in Florida (east coast 15 miles inland from the ocean) since Sept of 08...just had it hauled to central Illinois. The battery was disconnected but that's all that was done when it was parked, I'm sure that it had less than a quarter tank of gas in it. What do I need to do before starting the car? I am not really mechanically inclined but can do simple things like changing oil etc. Was told it would be ok if I added fuel treatment and fresh gas and just tried to start it. I don't wanna hurt the car by doing something wrong. I don't have any one nearby to help me.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Er....no...bad advice to start up a car with 15 month old gasoline in it, especially a Jaguar V-12. That gas will have to be drained out.

    Then you will need a new battery. Charging a battery that dead is DANGEROUS.

    I'd also consider removing the spark plugs, squirting a little oil (just a teaspoon) into each cylinder and then, depending on how the plugs look, re-using them or installing new ones.

    I would start cranking the engine with the ignition coil grounded but you may wish to check with a Jaguar expert to see if this is safe for the ignition system. You don't want to fry one of those V-12 black boxes! I'm suggesting this so that the engine can build up some oil pressure before it starts.

    Howver, with all the gas drained out, it's probably not going to start right up anyway, so maybe you're okay there.

    Once the engine starts, don't RACE it--just let it idle for 15 minutes or so, then drain out the old oil, and install fresh oil and filter.

    Once it it running okay and you have clean oil in there, you can check the tires for cracks and flat spots, and carefully check the brakes to make sure there is no seizure of the calipers or the emergency brakes.

    For a test drive, I suggest the 1-5-50 rule, which is:

    drive 1 mile, stop and check for leaks top and bottom

    drive 5 miles, do the same

    drive 50 miles---if she runs well, doesn't leak, pull, steam, scream, buck or protest----you are good to go.

    Other optional items, depending on a visual inspection would be to flush the coolant and the brake fluid.

    ALSO ---these engine are PRONE TO FIRES-----so when you begin the resuscitation process, have a fire extinguisher handy and be on careful watch for fuel line leaks in the engine compartment.
  • Thank you for the advice... pretty sure I can handle most of that by myself. Will probably have to find someone to check the brakes but hopefully that won't be too difficult. I do have a different battery for the car as I figured after sitting all that time the old one wouldn't be much good.
    I will check with Jaguar about the ignition coil...not sure where it's at anyway.
    I know that the tires are good...no cracks or flat spots...the friend that hauled it here for me checked them out.
    The car isn't much but it has a great history and I don't wanna do any damage to it so thanks for the advice about the fire extinguisher.
  • aztec04aztec04 Posts: 1
    I have to store my toyota camry for a little over two months. Can it go that long without being driven? Also, is it true rats can move into the engine if it is left undriven in a garage for that long?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    For only two months, there's really nothing you have to do. I don't think I'd leave a battery tender attached to any car if no one is going to look in on it---if someone is going to look in, then hook up a battery tender and start the car once in a while. Some might suggest a fuel stabilizer, which is okay, but again, for two months probably over-kill. But it's cheap and easy.

    As for rodents, that really depends on your local situation. I think it's better to protect the garage in general with poison or traps than try to protect the car itself.
  • capriracercapriracer Somewhere in the USPosts: 898
    If you can, overinflate your tires - up to 50 psi. That will slow down the flat spot that will be created.

    Better yet, put it up on jack stands.
  • wpatterswpatters Posts: 54
    I have an old Audi 100 with v6 that overheated and when finally go it home I put a cover over it and has not been touched for the past year...finances bad to work on it. I know it needs a radiator and maybe a new headgasket...but it started when I last drove it.
    What should I do before trying to fire it up? Drain the gas? Pull the plugs and oil the pistons etc.. Is there anything than can be added to the gas versus draining the tank? That seems like a big problem. I can do the plugs and even replace the radiator. Just do not want to have to pull the tank. Any advice on that would be great.
    Also what is the best way to tell if a head gasket got tweaked?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    You probably have to drain the gas...it's not gasoline anymore.

    If you pull the dipstick and its got a milky white residue, then your engine bearings have been lying in coolant for a year, and that's *real* bad.

    But, to your main question:

    Best way to test the head gasket is to get the engine running for a while, at least until it heats up, then shut 'er down, pressurize the cooling system with a pump, then pull the spark plugs and see if there is coolant on them (keep the system pressurized)---you may also use a bore-scope to inspect the tops of the pistons for signs of coolant. Of course, in some cases (but not all) you will see coolant in the oil, which turns the oil a milky gray on the dipstick.
  • wpatterswpatters Posts: 54
    Thanks for the advice...so there is nothing on the market to fix the gas....I would think they would have something invented for just that problem.

  • capriracercapriracer Somewhere in the USPosts: 898
    Unfortunately, you can't repeal the Laws of Physics! (or in this case, the Laws of Chemistry!)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Nope. You can buy a gas STABILIZER to keep good gas being good gas, but there's nothing to change rotten gas back to good gas. Sorry.
  • I'm a newbie to this and hoping I can get some good advice re. winter storage. I recently bought an 08 Porsche Cayman S (still grinning!). In another month the snow flies here so I want to store it in my heated garage for 6 months. This is what I think I need to do:

    1. Fuel stabilizer and run it through for a bit to get it in the injectors.
    2. Disconnect battery and attach a battery tender
    3. Apply a tire protectant to the tires to prevent cracking
    4. Jack it up on stands
    5. Put a cover on it.


    Also, if I get a good clean day or two during the winter I wonder if I should take it out and drive it or is it better to leave it??

    Thanks all............Chuckie
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Definitely drive it on clean days and no, you don't have to put it on jackstands and probably shouldn't---hanging off the suspension isn't such a great idea.

    And tire protectant won't do any good either.

    Your *best* protection are a) your heated garage b) driving the car now and then and c) using the battery tender and d) the gas stabilizer.

    Also, if your garage is concrete, get a small fan and have it blow under the car, and crack the windows a tiny bit if you can do that.

    A light dust cover is okay, too.
  • ok thanks a bunch.

    just so I understand about the stands, why do I read so much about getting the tires off the ground? is it just to prevent flat spots? and if so does rolling it back or forth once a week address that issue?

    in terms of a cover, just a light one or should I get one of the heavier duty weather resistent one?

    also, do you think an oil change related to storage is required or do I wait until spring and get one then (maintenance is only every 50K).

    thanks again
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    No, you want a light breathable cover for indoors not a weatherproof one.

    I don't think modern tires are prone to flat-spotting anymore, especially in a heated garage. If you are concerned, be sure they are properly inflated or put 4-5 extra pounds in there.

    I'd do the oil change when the car is put back into regular service, especially if you've just been starting it up or driving it short distances. But really if you want to let that go for a while, I don't see the harm.
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    You don't need to disconnect the battery. Just put a battery tender on it to keep it charged.

    I don't know where you live, but I'd be taking it out for a spin on a nice sunny day when the roads are dry. You didn't buy it to store in garage, you bought it to drive it!
  • so if I start it once a week I don;t need to disconnect battery? Just put a tender on it.

    I will drive it when I can but the issue is that the roads where i live are salted in the winter so even on a sunny day with no snow, there will be salt on the roads that gets up in the car.
  • kiawahkiawah Posts: 3,666
    If you are going to start it once a week, you won't even need a battery tender
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Don't disconnect your battery if you don't have to. That can create problems in the car's behavior, as the car's computers have adaptive memory stored in there. I don't think totally dry salt "dust" is going to hurt anything.

    Remember this---Porsches are not like some of those french poodle sports cars out there---Porsches are very tough automobiles.
  • Alright, good advice. So in summary if I start it once a week, roll it forward or back a bit, and drive it once in a while even of around the block, I don't really have to do much. A good wash and wax, a light breathable dust cover, a few extra pounds in the tires, fill the tank and add some fuel stabilizer and that seems to be it. Then in the spring an oil and filter change.

    Thanks again!

    ps. I hope it a tough car, nearest Porsche dealership is 4 hours away so I'm hoping no issues and that normal service can be done by a private garage whose owner has been servicing porsches for many years.
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