There are many important things to consider when storing any vehicle for more than a few weeks. Older cars, classic and custom cars, require special consideration. Simply parking a car in a garage for a long period of time can cause some issues when you finally go drive the vehicle in the spring or on that nice sunny day in the winter.
First off, cars don't like to sit. Seals tend to dry out, batteries get weak, tires get flat-spotted, fuel gums up when sitting for too long. The #1 best practice is to keep a car in motion as often as possible. When in storage, the way to do this is to start the engine up periodically, check fluids, check tire pressures, move the car around if possible. Ideally these practices should be performed monthly at a minimum.
Moisture and condensation play a large part in long term, slow deterioration of vehicles when they sit. This is true for both vehicle interiors as well as the engine, transmission, radiators, differential(s) and exhaust systems. Condensation has a tendency to build up inside of the engine and the exhaust system when sitting for a long time and if the engine is not run, this can cause long term damage. Even if there are no drive miles on engine oil, the oil can be broken down by moisture build up and condensation that drains down into the oil pan. It's a good idea to have fresh oil run through the engine before storing a car for a while and changing it again when pulling it out of storage. When the exhaust systems get moisture inside of them from condensation, they will rust out from the inside unless the engine is run frequently. Engines should be run for 20 mins or more to heat up enough to dry the moisture from within the exhaust system otherwise moisture will remain.
Keeping vehicles covered and sealed up is important as well. Dust settles on paint and interior over the long term and so can bugs, cob-webs and critter droppings. I can't tell you how many cars we come across that have had the wiring chewed up by mice (they love the insulation) or a food stash or feces inside or under the hood of cars. To reduce the chance of this, cars need to be run frequently, moved around, closed up and covered.
Brakes and tires take a beating when vehicles sit as well. Brake rotors and other parts tend to build up surface rust which easily dissipates if the car is driven often. But sitting for a while, rust on brake rotors can cause pitting or "frozen" brake in extreme cases. Tires can quickly become "flat-spotted" from sitting as well. In only a few months flat spots can develop and can permanently damage tires when left for too long.
Batteries tend to weaken over time when sitting as well. For very long term storage, batteries should be disconnected or removed from the vehicle. Not only do they drain over time, but it's best to remove a battery to prevent the chance of acid drainage onto parts of the vehicle or a short circuit if rodents or moisture ends up in the vehicle somehow. For shorter term storage, keeping a battery connected with a "trickle-charger" (slow charger) or simply disconnecting it is recommended.
To summarize best vehicle storage practices:
- Run engines at least monthly to keep fluids cycled through the engine and cooling system
- Run engine or drive the vehicle at least 20 minutes to ensure the exhaust system gets hot enough to burn all condensation out
- Change engine oil before and after storing vehicles for a long time
- Move/drive cars around at lease monthly to prevent tires from developing flat-spots
- Dust cars off at least monthly to prevent damage to paint
- Cover cars and keep all doors and windows closed to prevent bugs and critters from entering
- Disconnect batteries or use a trickle charger - or remove batteries for very long term storage
Pro-Speed Autoworks offers professionally managed vehicle storage for classic, custom, antique and exotic vehicles. We can store and maintain your vehicle for you in a clean, secure and climate-controlled facility. We specialize in classic cars and are familiar with the nuances of antiques and custom vehicles. Contact us to discuss storage options and let us keep your dream car fresh and ready to drive for years to come. We are happy to discuss all standard and custom options and invite you to tour the storage facility at your convenience.