Whether you’re going on vacation, taking public transportation more frequently, or simply driving less, you might want to know how to store your car long-term.
If you don’t plan on driving for an extended period, you might want to consider long-term car storage. Before you put your car away, you might want to consider these tips to help make sure your vehicle stays in good shape. After all, you don’t want to be stuck with a dead car battery or an engine issue the next time you want to take your car for a spin.
Where should you store your low-mileage vehicle?
The best place to keep your car for a long time is typically in a covered or indoor garage. Storing your vehicle in a garage can prevent car theft and protect it against the elements, such as the blazing summer sun or a torrential downpour of rain.
If you don’t have access to a garage, you can look into a car storage service. Most major storage companies offer car storage.
If your most viable option is keeping it outside, you might want to consider purchasing a waterproof car cover to keep your vehicle clean.
How to store a car long-term?
If you don’t plan on using your car for a month or more, consider these best practices to keep your stored car in good condition.
1. Keep your car clean and covered
Dirt and residue can eat away at your car’s exterior if left on for a long time. It may feel odd to get your car nice and spiffy just to keep it locked away, but a clean car can help prevent other issues later.
Keeping your vehicle covered in a garage or wrapped in a weatherproof car cover can help keep your car clean and safe.
2. Fill up your gas tank before you go
While you won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, it is a good idea to fill up your gas tank before you go. A full gas tank can prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel tank.
Excess condensation in your fuel tank can lead to acceleration problems. It can also cause a fuel line freeze in the winter, which can cause issues when you want to run your car engine.
If you plan to store your car for a very long time, you may want to purchase a fuel stabilizer to prevent your gasoline from becoming gummy.
An added benefit of a full gas tank? You’ll thank yourself when you get back and need to drive again.
3. Evaluate your oil situation regularly
Oil changes are a part of keeping your car well maintained. If you’re looking into long-term car storage for 30 days or more, you may also want to change your oil.
Old oil may damage your car engine. Before you store your car, make sure to drive it around a bit so that the new oil gets circulated in the engine.
4. Keep your car battery topped up
All vehicles typically experience a tiny amount of battery drain, even while turned off.
Mechanic Matt suggests purchasing a battery tender, a small charger that keeps your battery topped off every day.
Alternatively, you can also have a trusted friend turn on the engine every couple of weeks to help maintain your car battery.
5. Don’t engage the parking brake
Though you might be tempted to engage your parking brake, you’ll want to avoid it if you’re storing your car for months. Brake pads could get stuck or fuse with the rotors after a long time.
To avoid issues with your parking brake, look into wheel chocks that can act as a tire stopper instead.
6. Get some air in your tires
Another must-do for your car maintenance checklist is the air level in your tires.
If the tires are under-inflated, head to the gas station to add some air to your tires. Flat spots can develop as the vehicle’s weight presses down on the tires, even while idle.
It could also help to have an air compressor on hand to quickly inflate a flat if you can’t make it to a gas station.
7. Protect your car from animals
Believe it or not: Animals, including cats and rodents, may make your car home when idled or stored. These animals could chew parts of your car, hide in exhaust pipes, or cause other types of wear or maintenance issues.
The key to protecting your car from animals is to cover parts, such as the exhaust pipe and other areas with free space to prevent them from entering when you’re away.
8. Get pay-per-mile auto insurance for your car
Don’t forego your car insurance during long-term car storage.
Consider pay-per-mile auto insurance if you don’t frequently drive, as you’ll want to keep your car protected, even while it’s in storage. Because you won’t be driving your car while it’s stored, pay-per-mile coverage could help you save considerable amounts of money while it’s stored.
Taking your car out of long-term storage
Once you’re ready to take your car out of long-term storage, do a quick inspection before starting the engine. You’ll want to make sure your vehicle is safe to operate before driving.
Check the windshield wipers, tire pressure, fluid levels, brakes, and under the hood to see if anything looks off. Then, make any necessary maintenance or repairs to get your vehicle in good condition.
If you’re often leaving your car unused and don’t drive that much, consider switching to Metromile pay-per-mile insurance to pay for how much you drive. Drivers could save 47% a year on average, according to a 2018 survey of new Metromile customers who saved.
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.