You Herd It Here

What You Should Consider When Storing a Vehicle

By Tyranni Rineer, Certified Self Storage Manager

The weather is changing from warm to cold. Now you need somewhere safe to store your convertible so it won’t be exposed to the elements; or that motorcycle which is not practical to drive over ice. Here are some tips on what you should consider when placing your vehicle in storage for a few months or even longer.

First thing you need to do is to make sure the vehicle is cleaned. Be sure to get the tires, fenders and the underside as well. Things like pollen, salt, animal droppings, bug spatters and paint can damage the vehicle’s surface over time. If you want to go the extra mile, you can coat with wax to add an extra layer of protection.

Fixing Car

The next item is something that has been debated whether it needs to be done or not. But like I tell everyone, you can never take too many precautions when storing something valuable. And that is to change the oil and filters when planning to store for more than 30 days. The contaminates that are in used oil could actually damage the vehicle if left sitting for long periods of time. By changing or draining the oil before storage, you are protecting your vehicle and ensuring it is ready to go when the time comes to take it back out on the road. And if you choose to leave fresh oil sit in the vehicle, some people even suggest to change the oil again when removing it from storage for the best performance.

Top off any fluids that the vehicle would need. If storing through the winter, make sure to add antifreeze or any other fluids that would help winterize the vehicle. You can refer to your owner’s manual for what is recommended. Also, ensure that the gas tank is filled and topped off. By topping of the tank before placing in storage, it helps prevent excess moisture from building up which can put strain on the engine when you go to start it up again. If you are planning for extended storage of three or more months, it is also recommended to add in a gas stabilizer to prevent corrosion and separation of the gas.

The battery can also be an issue. I have found it is best to check your owner’s manual or the manufacturer for what best suits your vehicle. But there are some standard recommendations to take into account. The first is to remove the battery completely and keep it in a dry temperature regulated space. This allows you to occasionally check the charge or hook it up to a battery tender. A battery tender basically trickles in power just to keep it active. The second option is to hook a battery tender to the battery without removing it from the vehicle. This is more common for newer vehicles, which are now so heavily computerized that removing the battery for a prolonged amount of time can cause issues with some of the programs and settings. Because of the heavy computer systems, it is not recommenced to remove the battery at all. You can also periodically take the vehicle out for a drive to keep it charged. If you choose to follow this method, make sure you drive it around for at least 15 mins. It is also suggested to have the windows open and air conditioning on during these driving intervals. I know in the winter this would not be the most pleasant thought, but it will help circulate clean air throughout the vehicle and prolong the life of your vehicle while in storage for long periods of time.

Don’t forget to prep the inside of the vehicle as well. Completely vacuum out the interior, making sure to get under the seats, in between the cracks of the seats and the floors. To be more thorough, you can take it in to get detailed by a professional. Be sure to check for any crumbs or any other food that could be lurking in the hidden areas. You don’t want that crumb in your back seat to attract pests. You can also buy a box of dryer sheets and place a few throughout the car because the smell of these has a tendency to ward off any unwanted visitors.

You’ll also want to check and prep the tires. Check each tire for any damage like cracks, nails or slow leaks. Ensure the tires are inflated to their proper PSI, which is listed on the tires or inside the door. Be careful not over-inflate. Filling the tires to max pressure will help prevent the tires forming flat spots and also help compensate for loss of pressure during storage, especially during cold months.

Close all doors and windows securely. If you are storing during hot months, leaving a small crack in the window can help with ventilation. You can remove the wiper blades from the vehicle to help them from drying out, cracking or sticking. I have also read that you can wrap them with a clean cloth. Plug up the exhaust pipe with a clean cloth or rag to help dust or unwanted things from getting in. Also, put a post on the steering wheel to help remind yourself of anything you need to do before taking the vehicle back out; such as replacing the wipers or battery, or changing the oil. The addition of a desiccant pack can also help absorb any extra moisture, which will protect your vehicle from possible damage.

Whether storing the vehicle indoors or outdoors, it is good to invest in a quality vehicle cover. Look for one that is breathable and made for your model and year. Check that the vehicle is in park and the parking brake is NOT engaged before you put the cover on. Cold weather can cause the parking break to get stuck; so block off the tires instead to be safe.

Make sure to keep all insurance and registration up-to-date on the vehicle. It may be tempting to let them go, but this could cause issues with lapses in coverage. You can also check with your provider to see what they recommend. Also, keeping your insurance and registration current will help if anything unexpected should happen while in storage. The last thing you want is for damage to occur and you aren’t protected. One thing to note as part of our rental agreement, if you store your vehicle in one of our storage units or in a parking space on the property, you must keep your vehicle’s insurance and registration current and valid.

When it is time to get your vehicle out of storage and back on the road, you need to follow a few steps. Check for any damage, unblock any pipes (mufflers, exhaust), replace or remove cover on wipers, check tire pressure, check breaks or rotors for any signs of rust (sometimes this will come off while driving), replace the battery if removed and give the car a wash inside and out to remove any accumulated dust or debris. Also, if it was stored for a prolonged period of time, consider doing that oil change.

If you have any questions about storing your vehicle, you can contact us or talk with our knowledgeable property managers. And, if you are ready to start using self storage for your vehicle, you can rent a storage unit online 24/7.