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Best tips for putting my car into storage

So, you're going away for an extended period and can't bring yourself to part with your car; instead you want to put it into storage until you return.

Before you take that leap there is a raft of things you need to consider to protect it while you're away.

Is my car worth storing?

If the car you want to place in storage is a much loved and hard to replace classic the answer is easy. You'd almost certainly put into storage to enjoy when you return.

But if it's just an ordinary everyday driver you should think long and hard about storing it, particularly if you're going to be away for a long time.

There's no escaping depreciation and the value of most cars will tumble while they're in storage. It might be better to sell it and buy another car when you return rather than suffer the loss.

Definitely do not store it outside, or at the mercy of the elements and wildlife.

Where should I store my car?

The best place to store your car is in a well-ventilated, dry garage. Definitely do not store it outside, or at the mercy of the elements and wildlife.

Consider professional storage

There are companies specialising in car storage and they will look after your car for you.

Sure, it costs, but you can rest assured you will get your car back in good condition and ready for the road when you return.

Short-term storage

There are a few simple things to do if you are only planning to store your car for a month or two.

• Clean it inside and out. Remove any food scraps you find, and empty and clean the ashtray.

Wash it, and chamois dry it.

• Drive it around the block to make sure it's dry. While doing that apply the brakes regularly to make sure they're dry as well.

• Leave the hand brake off and chock the wheels to prevent the car from moving.

• If it's an auto put the transmission in Park; if it's a manual put it in gear.

• Lightly lubricate the door and boot seals to prevent them from sticking.

• Leave the windows partially open for ventilation.

• Place a cover over it. Use one made from a natural material that breathes. Do not use a plastic cover as this can damage the paint.

• The cover should fully enclose the car to prevent rats and the like using it for a home while you're away.

Long-term storage

If you plan to leave your car for a longer period, say years, you need take extra precautions above and beyond those needed for short-term storage.

• Replace the oil and coolant with fresh fluids.

• Remove the spark plugs and squirt a small amount of engine oil into each cylinder through the spark plug hole. Crank the engine over a few times before replacing the spark plugs.

• Block the air intake and exhaust tail pipe with rags.

• If you plan to leave the car for more than a month or so disconnect and remove the battery from the car. Store it in a clean, dry and cool place, and if possible have it slow charged periodically.

• Before disconnecting the battery refer to your owner's manual for any recommended precautions.

Should I pump up the tyres?

• Tyres naturally lose pressure over time. If you're only leaving your car for a month or two pump the tyres up to 35-40 psi (240-275 kpa) to compensate for the anticipated loss of pressure while it's parked.

• If you plan the leave your car for a longer period it's best to jack it up off the ground and place it on stands. If you don't you'll find the tyres will be flat on the ground when you get back and they'll have flat spots that can't be removed.

• Even better, remove the wheels and store them flat in a cool, dark place.

Should I drain the fuel in my tank?

• Fuel will generally last for a few months without causing any harm, so if you only plan to leave your car for a month or two don't worry about it.

• If you plan to leave your car for an extended period fill the tank with premium fuel. Do not use an ethanol blend. That way you'll minimise the chances of condensation forming in the tank, which can lead to rust.

• Gum can form in the fuel over time. Adding a fuel stabiliser can minimise it.

Notify your insurance company that your car is being left in storage

• Tell you insurance company what you are planning to do and make sure that your car is covered while it's in storage.

• Depending on your insurer, you may be eligible for cheaper insurance while your vehicle is being stored. 

Do you have any other tips for someone looking to put a car in storage? Let us know in the comments below.

Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist
With a passion for cars dating back to his childhood and having a qualification in mechanical engineering, Graham couldn’t believe his good fortune when he was offered a job in the Engineering Department at General Motors-Holden’s in the late-1960s when the Kingswood was king and Toyota was an upstart newcomer. It was a dream come true. Over the next 20 years Graham worked in a range of test and development roles within GMH’s Experimental Engineering Department, at the Lang Lang Proving Ground, and the Engine Development Group where he predominantly worked on the six-cylinder and V8 engines. If working for Holden wasn’t exciting enough he also spent two years studying General Motors Institute in America, with work stints with the Chassis Engineering section at Pontiac, and later took up the post of Holden’s liaison engineer at Opel in Germany. But the lure of working in the media saw him become a fulltime motorsport reporter and photographer in the late-1980s following the Grand Prix trail around the world and covering major world motor racing events from bases first in Germany and then London. After returning home to Australia in the late-1980s Graham worked on numerous motoring magazines and newspapers writing about new and used cars, and issues concerning car owners. These days, Graham is CarsGuide's longest standing contributor.
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