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A Smart Owner's Guide to Car Storage


Want to store your car? You're not alone. There are plenty of good reasons why someone might place their vehicle in storage temporarily or for extended periods. Maybe you're waiting for that perfect buyer to come along and make an offer, or perhaps it's a vanity vehicle that could use a break from all of that ice, snow and road salt during a cold winter. 

No matter why you want to store a vehicle, it's important to do it the right way. Here's everything that motorists should know about keeping their cars in good hands. 
 

Get the Paperwork in Order First


Motorists typically don't require much documentation to place vehicles into storage. What trips many people up, however, is the fact that they might unexpectedly need paperwork after getting their vehicles back. Countless drivers have removed their cars from storage only to discover that they didn't think ahead properly, and such oversights can be pretty costly. 

Imagine that a driver puts their vehicle into storage while they go jaunting across Europe on an eight-month backpacking trip. When they return, they drive away from the storage lot only to be pulled over by the cops for an expired emissions sticker. This kind of thing can easily spiral way out of control, but it's easy to handle with a bit of foresight: 

  • Reach out to the insurance company to make sure that the vehicle is currently covered and will still be when it comes out of storage.

  • Renew the registration before leaving. Planning ahead is usually easier than trying to do things over the phone at the last minute from some remote location.

  • If the emissions tag will expire during the storage period, find an inspection station close to the storage facility: Make it your first stop after retrieving the vehicle.

Get the Vehicle Ready for Storage


Cars are made for going places, not for sitting around. Although vehicles often remain on sale lots doing nothing for weeks or months, this only happens after a few key steps have taken place. Before storing a vehicle, it's critical to prepare it so that it doesn't break down or fail to start later. Always follow these smart service pointers: 
 

Engine Care and Cleaning


Engine fluids, such as oil lubricants, transmission fluid, brake fluid and coolants, can all break down over time. It's always a good idea to change these fluids before placing a vehicle into storage, especially since they can corrode key engine parts if they're full of dirt. Remember, most facilities prohibit owners from working on their vehicles while they're in storage, so book a service appointment beforehand. 
 

Cleaning


Clean the engine as much as possible. Belts, hoses and other soft components can get crusted with grime that stops them from starting up and running smoothly after being idle, so take the time to clean or replace them along with any dirty filters. 
 

Fueling


Finally, remember that filling the gas tank is a must. Minimizing empty space in the fuel reservoir limits the amount of humid air that can bring in ice or condensation that might lead to internal rusting. 
Topping off also helps preserve the engine seals so that they don't dry out. Gas can break down over time, so remember to add fuel stabilizer to the tank when filling up. 
 

Battery Care


It's best to charge car batteries fully before storage so that the car actually starts when it needs to, but it's often unwise to leave them sitting around connected. Batteries can slowly discharge even when they aren't in use, and if a vehicle isn't running, there's no way to recharge them. Charge up before heading to the storage unit, and disconnect the battery's negative cable to break the circuit so that it doesn't bleed out. 

Some drivers also use trickle chargers to keep the battery topped off while they're gone, but this requires a storage unit with access to an electrical outlet. With newer vehicles that include engine computers, drivers may need to hook up a smart charger and leave the battery installed instead of removing it. 
 

Interior and Exterior Care


It's smart to clean your vehicle thoroughly before putting it into storage, but not just because it will look nicer when it comes out. As with engines, components like door hinges can get gunked up and stuck in place over time. Upholstery that's full of dirt and food crumbs might attract pests that end up destroying the vehicle. Keeping things as clean as possible is always a smart idea. 

Some components deserve special attention: 

  • Tires should be rotated and slightly underinflated so that they don't develop flat spots, especially in colder climates. Driving the vehicle for about 15 minutes per week while it's in storage can help, but if this isn't possible, then jacking it up and removing the wheels also works.

  • Wipers should be removed so that they don't start sticking to the windshield as their rubber blades break down.

  • Tailpipes and other open entry points should be plugged to keep small animals out. Some storage units feature inflatable bubbles that safely isolate the entire car.

  • Parking brakes should be released to prevent their pads from binding to the rotors. In storage situations where the car moving might be a concern, use chocks to keep the wheels from rolling.

  • Paint, window seals and other external components should be detailed, waxed and repaired if they're scratched or gouged. These steps are especially important for outdoor storage.

  • When storing a car outdoors, guard it with an appropriately sized, breathable cover specifically designed for the purpose. Covers can stop the sun from degrading cars and also prevent weather damage caused by debris, wind and water.

Choosing an Appropriate Storage Option


Which storage provider is right for you? Consider these essentials: 
 

Size


Vehicle storage facilities offer a range of sizing options. When choosing one that fits, remember that storage bays are typically designed to save space, so they're a pretty tight squeeze. Drivers who want to stash extra stuff in their units may need to upgrade from the sizes recommended by their storage facility providers. 
 

Storing Vehicles Indoors vs. Outdoors


In moderate climates, outdoor storage facilities are a good choice for saving money. During harsh winters and summers, however, it may be wise to stick to indoor options that include climate control. As we covered earlier, vehicles stored outdoors can benefit from extra precautions, such as covers, detailing and underbody waxing. 
 

Security


Worried about theft? No matter whether you choose indoor or outdoor storage, make sure that the facility uses appropriate security measures, such as site monitoring and access control. Always read prior customers' reviews to find out how well different facilities protect their vehicles, and don't make the car an easy theft target. Remove all valuables, and ensure that the doors and trunk are locked. 
 

Budget: How Much Will You Pay?


Most storage charges reflect a few critical factors, including the size of the unit in question and the duration of the storage period. Availability is also important: Drivers might end up paying more during certain times of the year, so planning things out in advance is definitely a good move.