As we brush off the (hopefully) last snowfall of the season, it’s typically the time we start thinking about vehicles—like RVs, sports cars and vintage autos—that have been hibernating in the garage or driveway all winter. But this year is a bit different. We might not be driving as much as usual, as we stay home to try to fight the spread of COVID-19. You may even find your day-to-day vehicle sitting idle for, well, days and days. The thing is, idle automobiles need a little extra attention, whether they’re being stored for a few weeks or several months. Check out AMA’s top vehicle storage tips to ensure you can get your motor running again.
STORE FOR LESS THAN 45 DAYS
Use a battery tender. The device sends a steady charge to your battery, so it’s ready to go when you want to drive. Keep it connected to the vehicle while its being stored. (If you don’t use a battery tender, drive your vehicle 20 minutes each week.)
Check battery terminals. They should be clean, tight and free of corrosion. Your local AMA Approved Auto Repair Services facility can make any necessary repairs.
MORE TO READ
Ways to conserve your car battery
Don’t use the parking brake. Depending on the vehicle and where your store it, the brake could freeze, brake pads might rust, and brake shoes could distort the drums. For automatic transmissions, simply put the vehicle in park. For manual transmissions, place it in first or reverse gear, and use wheel chocks to help hold the vehicle in place.
Check tire pressure. Add an additional 10 psi to prevent flat spots, which occur when the rubber becomes rigid from sitting in one position for an extended period. You can also use special storage pads to support the tire over a wider area. If possible, it’s a good idea to periodically move the vehicle as well.
Keep it insured. Insurance protects the vehicle against claims due to unforeseen circumstances and can also prevent increases in premiums if there is a lapse in coverage.
Check the oil. Get it changed if you’re due, in order to remove harmful acids and contaminants.
Keep a list. Make a record of all your prep steps, so you can properly address or “undo” them when you’re ready to drive the vehicle again. Keep the list in your glovebox so it’s close at hand.
STORE FOR MORE THAN 45 DAYS
Check brake fluid and coolant. If the car is due for a change, get it done before storing—deteriorated fluids can lead to rust and corrosion.
Clean, inside and out. Wash and wax the vehicle exterior; clean and vacuum clean the interior. Make sure the vehicle is completely dry before putting it into storage.
MORE TO READ
Advice for giving your vehicle a good spring cleaning
Go inside. Store the vehicle indoors in a cool, dark and dry location. If this isn’t possible, consider a portable parking structure or “car bag.” At the very least, use a quality multi-layer car cover that’ll breathe and not trap moisture
Fight moisture. Place desiccant packs, usually filled with silica gel, inside your car to soak up moisture and keep everything dry. The packs are typically sold at retailers such as Home Depot.
Keep pests at bay. If there’s a likelihood of mice where you store the car, seal off its tail pipe, engine air filter inlet and any other readily accessible openings where rodents might enter and take up residence. Steel wool will work, but copper wool is even better because rodents dislike its taste. Just remember to remove the wool before you use the car again.