How to prepare your car for storage
Storing a car for a long period is an exercise that needs careful attention to detail. With many cars stored from around the Birmingham and Midlands areas, including classic and high value supercars, Majestic Car Storage offers some basic guidance on how to prepare your car for long term car storage.
Car storage is a thing that sounds deceptively simple, yet ensuring your vehicle is stored properly over time can mean a marked difference in the car’s performance. From salt corrosion and tyre stress to handbrake strain and engine fluids, there are a few key pointers you should be aware of to get the best care for your car when it’s put into long term storage.
At Majestic Car Storage, we have years of experience with all manner of vehicles: from average family cars and motorbikes to high end supercars and classic cars, our storage experience means we know we can get the best for your vehicle over time.
Below, we hope to dispel some myths about what you should and shouldn’t do when you prepare to store your car and anticipate a long period of inactivity.
Car storage preparation: Exterior care
The exterior clean prior to car storage:
The first thing to do is to clean the car’s exterior, ensuring that any salt is removed before the car goes into storage for a long period of time. Whilst it is not so much an issue in the Midlands, this is particularly important if you live near a coastal area, where salt levels are higher than inland. It is also necessary to clean beneath the car as well, getting to those spots that, to borrow a quote, “other cleans don’t.” This will ensure that dried mud is removed from tyre arches as well. Followed by a dry, this should mean that there is less likelihood of any rusting and corrosion occurring whilst the car is in storage.
Tyre pressure and why it matters when storing your car:
If your car is to be stored for some months, then we would always recommend that the tyres are inflated to exactly the manufacturer’s recommended pressures. Some people advise to reduce pressure - however, in our experience, this puts unnecessary stress on the tyre sidewalls which can lead to fatigue and cracking. Over time, a car resting without movement can lead to flat areas developing on the tyre, causing an imbalance and vibration when driving. Therefore, as part of our Gold and Platinum Packages we will regularly roll a car backwards and forwards so that the tyres are not resting in the same place for months at a time. If we take a car in for an extended storage period then on request we will raise the vehicle and support it on jacks.
Windscreen wipers and long term car storage:
On cleaning the vehicle the windscreen wipers will be checked to ensure that they are clean and dry where their surface meets the glass of the front window screen. If not, any moisture present against the glass for a long period of time could form mould and rot the blade (and even stick the blade to the glass). If any small pieces of grit are still present, then the glass can be at risk of scratches if the grit has settled over the storage period. Wipers are easy to remove and clean and it is advisable to do so before the car goes into storage for the long term.
Car storage preparation: Interior care
The interior clean before the vehicle is stored:
It is wise to take this opportunity to have the car valeted before it goes into long term storage. The benefits here are mainly that it is simply more pleasant when the car comes out of storage and you know it is clean from the outset. Many of our cars are stored by their owners who use them only occasionally, such as taking a classic car out for a week of fine weather touring the Midlands. Having to clean the interior when you take it out is an unnecessary burden when it will only be in use for a short period.
Furthermore, that rogue chip or half eaten chocolate bar that slipped under the seat, if left for a long period can be come mouldy, potentially damaging trim and carpets, not to mention noxious aromas! Finally, forgotten about left overs can attract unwanted insect infestation or even vermin. Moths, maggots and even rats can make light work and have devastating impact on a vehicle's interior!
On top of that, having it valeted also gives you peace of mind about the state of the furnishings before it goes into storage. Any issues, such as a worn steering wheel cover or any tears in fabrics will be highlighted and can be dealt with.
As a cautionary tale, on a valet we carried out for a car being put into storage, we found the carpet fitting in the driver’s well was loose and was getting jammed up under the brake pedal. The owner had complained of a ‘stiff’ brake before we took possession of the vehicle, and we were glad to be able to solve the problem and perhaps prevent any serious damage or accidents in the future.
Car storage preparation: Engine and mechanical care
If you are going to leave your car in storage, even for just a few weeks, then we would always recommend leaving it in gear with the parking brake left off Too much inactivity and the brakes might very well fuse, leading to a costly repair job and loss of time when you come to take your car out of storage. We advise the use of chocks, placed behind the tyres, to keep the car immobile. For longer stays of six months or more, it might be worth using stands and jacks as this will keep the weight off the wheels and avoid damaging the tyres.
If the car is to be stored longer than a month then there will be implications for the battery. Ideally disconnect the battery and use a trickle charger (standard practice on our Gold and Platinum Packages). A battery will naturally discharge over time, and immobilisers, alarms, and anything else that draws power from it will accelerate the drain. A battery left flat for any length of time, particularly if it's cold, will become unserviceable. A trickle charger keeps the battery topped up and therefore in tip top condition.
Check and clean under the bonnet:
Before the car goes into storage it is advisable to treat it as an opportunity for a ‘deep inspection.’ A visual check of all the connections under the car bonnet is necessary to pick up any potential damage, and a quick clean to remove dried leaves and general debris is a good idea. Any fluid residues on the engine or undercarriage from components should be cleaned off. This will help ensure any future leaks will be easier to spot and to trace.
Some people advise leaving a fuel tank fully topped up before leaving the car in long term storage. This stops any condensation occurring in the tank itself which can cause corrosion problems and, in the case of Diesel engines, even lead to bacteria and fungal contamination. However, not only does this pose a considerable fire risk, petrol especially degrades over time, which will lead to problems starting and loss of performance. Also, modern fuels are getting increased ethanol levels which actually rots the rubber components of the fuel system. We therefore recommend leaving the fuel level relatively low. If the vehicle has been left for some time and there is a risk of the fuel going off, then the tank can be filled, diluting the sub par fuel. Also, if any maintenance is required due to rotted hoses this can be completed much easier and safer.
All other fluid levels, oil, coolant, brake fluid, should all be topped up to their recommended levels. If the level has dropped when the vehicle comes out of storage then you know there must be a leak somewhere which may require attention. If a car has been stored for some time then it will be a good precautionary measure to replace the various fluids and filters on returning the vehicle to the road.
Car storage preparation: Ensure your documentation is all in place
The legal requirements for having a car do not change just because it is in a long term car storage facility. You should ensure that your insurance is valid and will cover the period that the car is in storage. If you plan on using the car or the car is covered by our Platinum Package then you should also make sure it is taxed and has a full MOT as well. At Majestic we can carry out an MOT for your vehicle if necessary, but some of our services, such as giving the car a monthly drive to check everything is in working order, will obviously require the previous two forms of documentation to be in place. If the car is to be kept off the roads entirely for the period in which it is to be stored, then it might be worth informing the tax office and sending in a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) to get a refund on the car tax. Some older vehicles are now MOT exempt, however, at Majestic Motors, regardless of age, we would always recommend you take your vehicle for an MOT every year. This provides you and more importantly your insurance company with proof that the vehicle has been inspected by an independent third party to be in a roadworthy condition. Even though you may maintain your pride and joy to the highest standards, sometimes a fresh pair of eyes might see something you have missed. Also, if the worst happened and you were involved in an accident, you have proof that your vehicle was in a roadworthy condition, insurance companies don’t need any more excuses to refuse a payout! At the end of the day the MOT is a safety check, it is not designed to stop you using your car. If the car is as good as you think it is then what have you got to lose by having it tested?
If you have any questions at all about preparing your car for long term storage, then please give me a call and I will be happy to talk through them with you. After all, that's the Majestic touch!