Getting your vehicle ready for long term storage involves more than just finding somewhere handy to keep the key. Carrying out some simple prep could be the difference between turning the ignition over and driving out at the end of the storage, and a costly repair bill to get the car back on the road.
The good news is it's not rocket science, and most of it you can do yourself.
What to do to get your car ready for storage
Thoroughly clean the inside of the car taking special care to remove all food scraps and rubbish. Give it a good vacuum as anything stuck in the carpet or down the seat cracks will be well and truly attached in a few months time. Treat any leather or vinyl surfaces to protect. Leave the windows or doors open for a bit after cleaning to ensure it dries out properly.
Invest in a decent car wash and clean the outside ensuring you remove all organic matter such as bird poo, tree sap and squashed insects as they can damage the paint if left on for long periods. Don't forget to clean the wiper blades, under the car, wheel arches and wheels, especially if you live near the sea. Give the car a wax finish for extra protection and allow to dry well in the sun.
Ensure the car's rustproofing is up to date.
The best position to keep a car for long periods is on flat, level ground, to protect the tyres and suspension, and out of the weather to prevent fading and ageing. A garage, self storage unit or covered car storage area is ideal but this is not achievable, safeguard the vehicle with a good quality car cover.
Bump up your tyre pressure at the beginning of storage to compensate for natural air loss, the NRMA recommends 35 to 40 psi.
Under the hood
The experts recommend changing the engine oil and oil filter if you are storing a vehicle for more than:
- 6 months with a petrol engine or
- more than 3 months for diesel motors.
This is because old, dirty oil can become thick over time, making starting the car difficult once you take it out of long term storage. If you have time, booking your car in for a service before placing it in storage will ensure everything is running well.
Once the car is in position leave it in park (or in gear for manual vehicles) with the handbrake off. Leaving the handbrake off stops the brake pads fusing to the disc over long periods. Chock the wheels to make sure it stays in place.
Block the air intake and exhaust pipe with a rag, steel wool or aluminium foil to keep out insects (if stored outside), rodents and moisture.
Only disconnect the battery if storing the car for 4 weeks or more. Doing so can cause the car computer to reset but will help prevent the battery from going totally flat. Consult your mechanic and car manufacturers manual for battery disconnection instructions.
Draining the fuel tank is not recommended prior to long term car storage and can lead to costly repairs when it comes to getting the car back on the road. Car specialists advise that you fill up before storage to prevent condensation build-up in the tank and prevent the seals from drying out. Adding a fuel stabiliser will help to extend the fuel life in older cars. If your vehicle runs on gas turn off the valve to the LPG cylinder.
Keep the car insurance up to date even while in storage.
Cars hate being left for a long time without use. Organising someone to take the car out for a short drive every month will keep the car in good running condition. If this is not practical just turning the engine over for 20 mins or so monthly helps keep everything moving.
References - http://www.mynrma.com.au/motoring-services/safety-advice/car-care/storing.htm