There are many reasons to need long-term car storage: maybe you're going on an extended business trip, are storing a car for winter, or need car storage for military deployment. So, can you park your car in a storage unit? As long as you have a drive-up unit, the answer is yes, although you'll typically have other options, such as covered outdoor spaces, available to you as well.
No matter where you're storing your car, you'll need to do a bit more than simply cover it and leave it. Properly preparing your car for storage can prevent common issues such as ruined tires and damaged parts. Here are a few long-term car storage tips to help you keep your car in good shape.
1. Clean the Car Inside and Out
The first step in how to prep your car for long-term storage is simply to clean it. Water stains, bird droppings, and other substances can damage paint when left for a long time, so it's important to thoroughly clean and wax it before car storage. Make sure the wheels, fenders, and hubcaps are also cleaned and waxed.
Once the outside is clean, it's time to clean the inside. You should vacuum up any crumbs and dirt, of course, but what we really mean is to take care of the engine and fluids. If you're leaving the car for more than a month, change the oil and oil filters to prevent contaminants and sludge from damaging your engine. Fill the tank with gas and add a fuel stabilizer that will keep the fuel from breaking down.
2. Prepare Your Battery and Tires
Ideally, you should have someone start and drive the car for about fifteen minutes every two weeks. This will keep the battery charged and also prevent damage to tires. If this is not possible, disconnect the car battery for storage or buy a battery tender. A battery tender will deliver small amounts of charge so the battery is ready to go when you can drive the car again.
Don't forget about your tires. Having the full weight of the car on the tires without moving them can cause permanent flat spots. If you're leaving the car for more than a month and won't be able to drive it occasionally, consider removing the tires and placing the vehicle on blocks or jack stands. If you must leave the tires on the car, make sure they are inflated to the correct pressure. Use a chock or tire stopper instead of the parking brake, which could also be damaged if you leave it on for a long time.
3. Protect the Car From the Elements
Wind, moisture, sunlight, and rain can be extremely destructive to a vehicle. In addition, a vehicle left outside may become a home to small animals, which can be very destructive to the engine and the interior. Indoor car storage is the best option to protect your auto from the elements. You can get weatherproof covers, but these will not protect your car as well.
Rodents can live as happily in a garage as in the outdoors, although walls and a floor do provide some protection. Make sure your long-term car storage facility is clean and bright, so it won't be as appealing to mice and other rodents.
4. Keep the Car Insured
It's important to maintain auto insurance, even when you're storing a car in a storage unit. Dropping insurance can be an expensive mistake, especially if you plan to have someone drive it every month as recommended. When a car has been uninsured, many insurance companies will assume that you have been driving it without insurance and raise your rates accordingly. Call your insurance company to decide the best and cheapest option for you.
5. Perform Checks When You Are Ready to Drive Again
When you are ready to get your car out of vehicle storage and back on the road, make sure you perform the following steps:
- Check under the hood for evidence of rodent damage, especially chewed wires or belts.
- Look at fluid levels to ensure they are the recommended levels.
- Check both your brakes and your windshield wipers to be sure those materials have not deteriorated.
- Reconnect your battery if it was disconnected and check that the terminals are clean.
- Put the tires back on the car and inflate them to the recommended pressure.
- Wash the car to remove dust and dirt build-up.
Once these are complete, your car will be ready to get back on the road after its long vacation. And if you go away again, you'll be an expert in long-term car storage!