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How To : Long Term Car Storage

Next up in our tips and tricks series Long Term Car Storage, here’s our top tips.

At some point in our cars life it changes role from the daily reliable work horse, to a more cherished high days and holidays usage item. A show car built for those warm summer months or even a track car, where its sole purpose is going fast 1 or 2 days a month, during the summer. 

But what do we do with them the rest of the time? They need to be stored and ready use without much recommissioning. Here’s our top tips, on long term car storage.  

Clean it 

How To : Long Term Car Storage car wash
  1. Before packing it away give the car a really good clean, behind its ears and between its toes, or in other words under the arches, and around the bits you can’t normally get to with ease. By doing this it’ll stop the rust and corrosion starting to eat it from the inside out. This is especially important if you are packing your car away after first salt of winter has been spread. Spend the time cleaning…you’ll thank yourself later
  2. Give it a full polish and wax, get rid of all the tar and as many other contaminates as possible on the paint and wheels. This is especially important if you are placing a dust cover over the vehicles whilst inside storing, contaminates can snag on the cover.
  3. Clean the inside, wipe down all the surfaces with a dashboard cleaner. This will help stop prevent mould forming.
  4. Do not dress the tyres, it’ll go brown over time, leave this until it’s ready to be driven again.
  5. If you are storing your car inside with a dust cover, do not dress the trim, this will only spread inside the cover and all over the paint work. 

Lubricate Locks and Hinges  

  1. Give the locks and barrels a quick squirt of something: like WD40 or GT85, this helps clean and lubricate. 
  1. The hinges, boot and bonnet catches can also be squirted with a white grease, to help protect the movement. 

It’s good practice to grease these moving parts, as they are going to be left stationary,  with no movement for some length of time. They easily could seize up so every little helps.

Battery

Its going to go flat if left for a long period of time. Retro cars with CAT 1 alarms, are notorious for draining batteries, and even a newer vehicles will shut down to protect the battery. When flat they can be a nightmare to get into, so..

  1. Invest in a trickle charger, like the CTech. These condition the battery and take it through a charging cycle, to help prolong its life.
  2. Invest in a solar charger, these don’t actively condition the battery like a C-Tech does. However, they do maintain its charge level and can be placed on top of the dash or suction cupped to the windscreen.
  3. Fit a kill switch, turn the battery off – these should be fitted to your track / race car. It does potentially leave the vehicle unsecured but you can get some security kill switches which, allow a small current through to power alarms etc. When a starting load is applied, the fuse pops. 
  4. For non-track cars disconnect the battery – same results as a kill switch but with the negative removed. The battery will, however, still go flat over time

Service / Top up Fluids

  1. A quick oil and filter change, will not dent the pocket too much, especially if you’re doing it yourself. Once you have the new oil in, let the car run for a bit to circulate it around the engine. (This is for long term storage, less than a month its fine to leave) 
  2. Laying the car up for winter? Make sure the coolant is mixed to a concentration low enough to avoid freezing, this will prevent damage to the radiator and engine and make sure its on the max.
  3. Do a quick check of the engine bay for coolant leaks, you’ll either see a crusty limescale type deposit around pipes and fittings, or visible coolant runs. Fix these before parking up — you don’t want to return to no coolant.
  4. Screen wash can also freeze in the winter months, so mix that to a strong concentration. This really only matters in winter months as a cracked bottle can be a pain to change sometimes.
  5. Fuel, make sure the car has enough fuel in it – to be started and run from time to time, don’t leave it with the fuel light on.
    1. Fuel does contain water, if your car has a metal tank and you’re parking it for a long time its best to leave it with a full tank and a fuel condition stabiliser. They help the petrol keep its combustive nature and stops it from breaking down. By filling the tank, this also prevents rust forming.

Car on Axle Stands

Bit of an extreme one this, but putting your car / vehicle on four axle stands, can stop the tyres from developing flat spots. Plus you can have a cheeky cleaning session of the inside of the arches and the wheel barrels.

If you’re not confident in using axel stands then I wouldn’t try without help from someone who knows what they’re doing. The risks definitely outweigh the benefits on this one. It you want to stop the flat spots, then roll the car backwards and forwards every few weeks.

Cover it up

How To : Long Term Car Storage Car in Garage

Granted the best place for a car to be stored is in a garage or inside but we don’t all have access to them. A good car port is prefect to protect from rain and snow, and the air passing through can help keep the vehicle dry.

However, if you have neither a garage or car port, then its time to invest in a decent car cover. The single layer ones actually do more harm than good as they are unable to let the car breath and causes it sweat. You need a multi layer breathable waterproof one.

We like this one at Eurowerks. But you still need to have a clean dry car to place under it! We advise you take the cover off once a month, and let the car breath naturally, before placing the cover back on. Give the paint work a quick wipe down with speed wax or quick detailer to remove any dust.

Don’t use the hand brake / Parking Brake.

If you leave the car with the handbrake on for an extended period of time, especially when in long term car storage the mechanisms can get seized, as they’re being left under tension.

Or the brakes rust together and seize up, especially if you’re parking the car up straight after washing it. Leave the car in gear with a block of wood chocking the wheels, and the handbrake/ parking brake off.

Oh and a little tip… leave a little note on the dashboard to alert yourself and other potential vehicle starters that the car is in gear.  My sister especially appreciates this one! 

By Craig Pickerill

Oldskool VW Geek, who loves any form of motorsport. Founded Eurowerks with Neil. He manages the day to day running of the website and the social media accounts, whilst finding time to enjoy taking pictures at shows and events.