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How to Store a Vehicle the Right Way – Storage Checklist

If you own a vintage or luxury car, you’re probably all too aware of the additional care needed to maintain, transport and store those vehicles. Priority number one is to protect it from the elements and theft. But if you don’t always have an enclosed space in which to store your vehicle, you still have options. One of our best pieces of advice is to locate a reliable self-storage unit. That said, our friends at SpareFoot put together a helpful checklist for successful auto storage.

Vehicle Storage Checklist by John Donegan at SpareFoot

After using a self-storage finder to locate a great facility for your vehicle, there are some important steps to take. As any vintage car owner will tell you, failure to follow these steps can result in irreversible damage to your vehicle.

  • Clean Your Vehicle and Change Fluids

To begin with, you should thoroughly clean your car – inside and out. Many people fail to clean the interior, and this is a huge mistake.  An immaculate interior helps to prevent mold, mildew, and mice. After the car is spotless, fill up the gas tank with fresh gasoline. Fresh gas will last at least a year, as long as the car is kept at a stable temperature below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. For example, if you’re keeping your car indoors at a Florida self-storage facility, you should be in good shape. Also be sure to change all of the vehicle’s fluids – antifreeze, power steering fluid, brake fluid and oil. Change the oil filter as well.

When placing your car in storage, you will have several options (Uncovered outdoor parking; Covered outdoor parking; Regular Storage Unit; Climate Controlled Storage Unit). Depending on the value of your car and how long you plan on storing it, you may want to go the climate controlled route; however, this will be exponentially more expensive than outdoor parking or a unit without climate control. If you go the cheapest route and decide to store your car outdoors, do NOT place a weatherproof cover on your vehicle. You only want to cover your automobile if you’re storing it in indoors because even the best car covers can trap moisture and ruin a paint job over time.

  • Inflate Your Tires

Check the inside door panel or driver’s manual to ensure that you have your tires inflated to the appropriate pressure.

  • Take Precautions Against Rodents

If you rent a climate-controlled unit, you most likely will not have to worry about rodents; however, it never hurts to take safeguards.  By leaving moth balls on the storage locker floor OUTSIDE your vehicle, you can effectively ward off critters.  You definitely don’t want to put moth balls inside your car though, as they leave an intensely noxious odor. Bait traps can also be an effective deterrent. Seal your tailpipe and any other open spaces as well, but be sure to remember this when you retrieve your car from storage. In fact, after you seal the tailpipe, you may want to leave yourself a note on the dashboard as a reminder.

  • Disconnect the Car Battery

Car batteries are filled with corrosive acid, so be extremely careful when disconnecting it. Be sure to wear safety goggles and a rubber gloves for protection. If you see any green or white substances around the positive and negative terminals, you should remove them by pouring a mixture of baking soda and water directly on the substances. After cleaning up the mess you have made, be sure to unscrew the nut on the negative terminal before you unscrew the nut on the positive terminal.

  • Lock the Doors

This is especially important if you leave your car in an outdoor location.

  • Disengage the Parking Brake

If your car has a manual transmission, put it in neutral when storing it.

  • Drive It Whenever Possible

If possible, you should start your vehicle while it’s in storage – be sure to hit the brakes, and if it’s a standard, hit the clutch as well.  If you the storage facility will let you take it out for a spin, be sure to do so; however, it’s best to go on a long drive. If you’ve been storing your car for a long period of time, taking it out on a short drive can actually do more harm than good.  A 30-mile drive every 90 days is optimal.

Most storage facilities mandate that your car must be registered, insured, and in drivable condition. If you don’t plan on operating your vehicle for an extended period of time, be sure to file an affidavit of non-use with your state’s department of motor vehicles.

Also, when retrieving your car from storage, be sure to fill up the tank with a stabilizer, and depending on how long you’ve stored it, you may want to get an oil and coolant change as well.

John Donegan is a writer at SpareFoot, the online marketplace where you can find and reserve a self-storage unit with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals. John lives in Austin, TX and occasionally directs videos for rap artists.