Driver's Guide

13 Steps to Prepare a Car for Long-Term Storage [Full Guide]

If you’re going to store your car for a long time, it’s important to do the right things to make sure it’s not damaged or has other problems when you want to use it again. Whether you’re putting your car away for the winter, going on a long trip, or just want to keep a classic car in good shape, taking the time to prepare it can save you a lot of trouble and money in the future. This article will show you a step-by-step guide on how to prepare a car for long-term storage.

You should take a few key steps to get your car ready for long-term storage. These include ensuring the car is clean inside and out, filling up the fluids, protecting the tires, turning off the battery, and putting the car in a safe place. By doing these things, you can help keep your car in good shape and make sure it’s ready to go when you need it.

In this article, we’ll look at each of these steps in detail and advise on how to prepare a car for long-term storage properly. Whether you are a car fanatic with a collection of classic cars or just want to make sure your daily driver is in good shape when you get back from a long trip, our guide to getting your car ready for long-term storage can help.

It even helps decrease car mileage so you can gain from your car when selling. While you are travelling, it is advisable to practice the best measures for storing your car.

How to Prepare a Car for Long-Term Storage

prepare a car for long-term storage

In this section, I will teach you the measures to take before storing your car for the long term.

Below are the steps regarding how to prepare your car for long-term storage:

  1. Park in a Shade

To prepare a car for long-term storage, you would want to park under a shade. Many things go wrong when you expose the car to the sun and rainfall. Regarding the sun, the ultraviolet radiation coupled with heat will likely cause the car to melt.

The interior of your car can reach 140 degrees on a hot day of 90 degrees which is pretty dangerous. Rainfall, on the other hand, exposes your vehicle paint to pollutants that cause rust. Occasionally, raindrops may reach the gas tank and other delicate car parts.

Without artificially built shades, do not park under a tree. It lands on your vehicle when it cracks, creaks, and falls. If the tree does not fall today, it may fall tomorrow. That aside, even the branch of a tree can destroy your car.

  1. Take Off the Wheels

It is advisable to take off the wheels regarding how to prepare a car for long-term storage. It is incredibly cool when you are parking your car for more than 30 days, which is quite long.

It may cost more of your time, but the result is deserving. While you have the wheels off, inflate them properly and pack them in suitable cases. Do not abandon the wheels on the ground surface unless you are willing to purchase a new set of wheels.

  1. Replace the Oil

According to Ford, a prominent vehicle manufacturer, contaminants in used oil can damage the engine.

You must replace the oil; it is an ethic regarding how to prepare your car for long-term storage. However, if your oil is fresh in the engine and you will be departing for a week or two, it is needless.

But, if the engine oil is old and dirty, pour it out entirely and replace it with new oil. In essence, more extended departures demand that you replace the oil.

  1. Fill Up the Gas Tank

The next step to prepare your car for long-term storage is to top off the gas tank. You may think emptying the tank while arranging your car for storage is proper. But, it is wrong not to fill up the gas tank while preparing the vehicle for long-term storage.

Since you leave the car for up to 4 weeks, you do not want moisture to accumulate inside your gas tank. Furthermore, this measure will ensure that seals do not dry out while the car is in storage for the long term. For extensive vehicle preservation, consider using a fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL.

STA-BIL prevents fuel from deteriorating for 24 months. Thus, it protects against ethanol buildup, varnish, gum up, and rust in the internals of your car engine.

  1. Keep the Battery Powered

Before you depart, it is intelligent to map a way to keep the engine powered occasionally. When the car remains in storage for a long while, the battery will discharge, which is unhealthy.

You should ask someone – a family, professional, or agency, to power the car at least once a week. Driving around for a couple of minutes is even better for keeping the vehicle components engaged.

Alternatively, disconnect the negative battery cable, although it is not preferable. Do note that this will reset most of the electrical settings of your vehicle. Consider using a trickle charger to retain the scenes and keep the battery from discharging while away.

  1. Wash the Car Thoroughly

“Why wash the car when I am departing already?”  It is the obvious question you are asking yourself now. In truth, it gives the car more advantage to wash it to prepare the car for storage.

Beginning from the interiors, scrub off every taint. Otherwise, taint in the interiors will eventually become too sticky to erase. Wipe off the dusty surfaces and leave no space untouched.

After closing the door, clean the fenders’ undersides and the wheels to remove mud. You may coat the car with wax for additional protection of the skin.

  1. Clean the Undercarriage

It is ethical, regarding how to prepare a car for long-term storage, to clean the undercarriage properly. Lots of mud, tar, and grease get stuck in there, and you risk returning to meet a rusty undercarriage with various degrees of damage.

Preferably, you may use the mechanic hole to wipe the undercarriage. Dip a brush in petrol and brush off greasy parts of the undercarriage. You may ask a mechanic with the cleaning responsibility for a more excellent result.

  1. Close All Openings

You are yet to adequately prepare your car for long-term storage if openings are leading inside the car. If the gas cap is bad, get a replacement. Seal all spaces in the cargo room and lock the cargo room properly.

If possible, temporarily seal the openings leading to the engine room. Inspect the headlights and tail lights to be sure there are no openings in any light.

All of these measures are necessary to prevent insects and rodents from finding their way into the car. You may use absorbent cotton cloth or any alternative material to seal the openings until you return.

  1. Use Chock to Brake the Car

how to prep your car for storage

Do not use the parking brake to properly prepare your car for long-term storage or short term. It should be an option if you allow the tires in place.

While the brake pad remains in contact with the rotors, it may eventually fuse due to rust.

Upon your return, you may have to replace the rotors or pay still pay the engineer for some work.

  1. Inflate All Tires

Inflate the tires to a recommended pressure before storing the car. While the car remains in one position for a long while, it may develop flat spots, which may require tires replacement.

Advise the caretaker to keep the vehicle rolling once in a while you are away. Otherwise, you will likely spend extra cash upon returning from a journey that already costs you some money.

Properly inflating the vehicle tires is proper conduct regarding how to prepare a car for storage you should not ignore. Moreover, do not inflate the tires beyond or beneath the recommended pressure before storing the car for the long term.

  1. Place Antioxidants

After a day or two, insects and rodents will joggle their way into the garage. With no repellent, these wild living things may nest around the corner and eventually begin life in your car.

You can place antioxidants such as mothballs, garlic, and camphor in the garage to repel insects like roaches. Line up some repellents along the entrance and put some in the car.

Antioxidants in a car are not a long-term storage measure. After some days, repellents lose their acidity and become less effective. The caretaker should replace the repellents every seven days for optimal effectiveness.

  1. Cover the Car

You need a waterproof cover whether you park the car in a garage, shade, or open. This is the most essential aspect when you prepare a car for long-term storage.

It should protect the paintwork and keep the car from insect droppings, which may affect the paintwork over time. Endeavour to use a clean and smooth waterproof cover to avoid tainting the vehicle.

  1. Contact Your Insurance Company

When you want to prepare a car for long-term storage because you will be away for a while, contacting your insurance company is crucial. You feel like it is worthless to keep the insurance running. In truth, you still need insurance. However, if you depart for a year, it is okay to cancel the insurance to save costs.

Do well to contact your insurance company and find out whether they have the plan to adjust your expenses while you are away.

Pro Tip:

The car’s doors should remain open a couple of hours once a week. You do not want your vehicle to produce a foul smell that may take months to go off when you return to use the car.

Final Thought

In this article, we discovered how to prepare a car for long-term storage. It is quite possible to store your car and return to find it in good condition—the outlined measures for preparing a car for storage answers your question.

You should endeavour to seal the openings in the car with an absorbent cotton cloth to keep insects and rodents further away.

When you return from the journey, do not rush to start your car after a long time. Follow the measures in this article to regain 100% functionality of the vehicle.


Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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