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8 Easy Tips for Storing Your Car Long Term

Not going to need your car for a while? Follow these steps to prepare it for long-term storage

In the summer of 2020, as the first Covid lockdown ended, I left the UK for (what I thought would be) a short summer break back home. That being 2020, I didn’t make it back for a full five months, a period during which my Vauxhall Corsa (a.k.a. Oliver) was parked on the side of the road, fully exposed to the elements.

Let’s just say that Oliver had erm… visibly aged when we next saw him. Although there was no visible damage, he had grown a healthy amount of moss along the window sills, while the wing mirrors had provided a home for more than one spider. Pigeons had also taken advantage of Oliver’s strategic placement under a tree, and we could see the footprints of at least one fox being chased by a cat on the bonet. 

All of that was a minor inconvenience compared to the fact the battery was completely flat, which we discovered when we were in a rush to help a friend move house. Having successfully charged the battery 48 hours later, we discovered all the air con gas had leaked (luckily it was winter), and the windshield washer nozzle and motor weren’t working (less lucky).

The moral of the story: whether you’re leaving for a long work trip, going off to university or storing your classic car, take better care of it if you plan on leaving it for a long time (and expect it to work when you return!). 

We’ve compiled a list of 8 tips on how to prepare your car for long-term storage, which will extend its life and save you a considerable expense when you’re ready to drive it again.

Our long-term storage tips:

  1. Clean the car inside and out
  2. Top up the fuel and other fluids
  3. Cover the vehicle
  4. Keep the battery charged
  5. Critter-proof it
  6. Save money by declaring SORN for your car
  7. Make sure it won’t roll
  8. Store it somewhere secure

 

“I think the oil may need checking.” (Credit: starfive | Flickr)

1. Clean the car inside and out

OK, this may seem unnecessary given that you won’t be driving the car for a while. However, dirt, grit and bird droppings can cause rust and damage the paintwork if left untreated. It’s better to go for a hand wash than an automated one as the latter can leave scratches on the paint and is more likely to miss parts of the car.

Make sure you vacuum-clean the interior and wipe all surfaces with a microfibre cloth. Getting rid of any food leftovers is especially important if you want to avoid nasty smells building up. Plus, food may attract unwanted visitors (more on that later).
 
💡 Pro tip: Consider adding a sun screen on the windshield if you’ll be parking the car outdoors as that will prevent discolouration of the internal surfaces.

2. Top up the fuel and other fluids

This one may also sound counterintuitive, so let me explain. A half-empty fuel tank leaves room for moisture to enter, which can cause rust, potentially damaging your tank and fuel system. This is more relevant for older vehicles than newer ones, particularly if you’re not planning on driving the car for longer than a few months.

Getting your other fluids changed (oil, brake fluid and power steering fluid) is also recommended if you won’t be driving for several months. Used fluids contain contaminants which can damage the engine and brake systems over time.
 
💡 Pro tip: Due to some complex chemistry we don’t really understand, fuel degrades over time, making it less likely to ignite properly in the engine. Adding fuel stabiliser in your tank will prolong the life of your fuel for up to 2 years, which makes it ideal for long-term car storage.

 

Not the kind of cover we had in mind. (Credit: Unsplash)

3. Cover the vehicle

Storing your car indoors is the best way to keep it protected from harsh weather conditions, angry birds, reckless drivers or thieves. However, if you have no alternative but to store it outside, then getting a car cover is a must.

A good car cover will keep moisture and dirt away, and there are plenty of affordable options available online. If you wanted to splash out, you could even buy a Porsche branded cover. It will certainly make the neighbours jealous, and no one needs to know your Corsa is hiding underneath.

Whatever you do, just make sure you buy something that’s waterproof and breathable to prevent moisture from entering and getting trapped underneath.

4. Keep the battery charged

As I found out the hard way, a car’s battery will go flat if left unused for a long time. When your car is being driven, the battery is charged by the alternator, which is why it doesn’t go flat if you drive regularly.

Even when your car is not running, the battery supplies current to certain things like the clock, security system, and the car computer. If you have any chargers plugged in, they’ll also draw down on the battery even if no device is connected to them. Another thing that will impact the battery level is extreme heat or cold.

While it may last longer than your phone, it will certainly get depleted if left for 2-3 months or longer. The thing is if your battery goes flat, that could degrade its performance and ultimately reduce its lifespan. 

One way of preventing a dead battery is to connect it to a trickle charger while it’s not being used. As the name suggests, it sends a slow but constant stream of electricity to the battery, ensuring it remains topped up. Getting hold of one is pretty easy, and a decent one will set you back as little as £40.

If you don’t have access to a power outlet where you’re storing the car, you can also disconnect the battery altogether. It’s enough to just disconnect the negative terminal.
 
⚠️ Warning: If you disconnect your battery, especially in a modern car, you will lose any personal settings you may have saved. It may also compromise the alarm system of the vehicle, so only do this if you’re storing somewhere secure.

Unwanted car squatters. (Credit: giphy.com)

5. Critter-proof it

Covering your vehicle may well keep vicious foxes and cats from damaging the paint, but it may not be enough to prevent other animals from turning your cherished ride into their crib. If you’re storing in a garage, you may be especially vulnerable to a family of mice setting up shop under your bonnet. Not only that, but they’ll have a field day chewing through all the tasty rubber belts, hoses, seals, the upholstery or any leftover food.

Luckily, there are things you can do to discourage them:
  • Clean the interior thoroughly before putting your car in storage
  • Make sure all windows and doors are fully closed
  • Try to plug any gaps through which a curious critter could enter, such as the exhaust pipe or any air intakes
  • Apparently, cotton pads dipped in peppermint oil can be effective at repelling rodents, but the effect is only temporary as the oil will evaporate with time  
💡 Pro tip: If you want to go all out, you can also leave an ultrasonic pest repeller. Some people might even go for mouse traps, but we do not recommend those as they are cruel to the animals and unlikely to be very effective.

6. Save money by declaring SORN for your car

Depending on where and how long you’re planning to store your car, it may make sense to declare it off the road with a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification). Doing this means that you don’t need to tax or insure the car, which can save you some money if you’ll be away for an extended period.

However, bear in mind that if you SORN your car, you cannot park it on a public road. You are allowed to park it in a garage, on private land or in a private driveway. So, if you’ve got access to such a spot, a SORN could be a great option.

You can make a SORN by phone, post or online at the .gov website. The SORN will take effect immediately if you use your V5C and apply online. If you’re not the registered keeper of the vehicle, you will need to apply by post and use a different V890 form.

You’ll get an automatic refund of any outstanding road tax for the year as soon as your SORN is in place. Whether you choose to cancel your insurance is up to you, but bear in mind that your car will not be protected against theft or damage if you do.
 
💡 Pro tip: The SORN doesn’t have an end date, so you don’t need to renew it. Just make sure that your vehicle is taxed and insured before you drive it again. If you don’t do that, you could get a fine of up to £2,500.

How not to use a hydraulic car jack. (Credit: giphy.com)

7. Make sure it won’t roll

This one is especially relevant if you’re parked outdoors or in a parking lot with other cars. There’s nothing worse than your car accidentally rolling and hurting someone or damaging another vehicle.

The obvious choice is to always apply your handbrake, right? Not quite. If your handbrake is left engaged for a long time (several months), it may get stuck. That’s because the parking brake shoe may fuse with the inside of the brake drum that it connects with, meaning you can’t disengage it when you try to drive again. That’s more likely to happen if you’re storing in a damp location since humidity can cause rust, which in turn causes the above-mentioned “fusing”.

Instead, you could use tyre chocks, which are sturdy wedges that prevent the wheels from moving. A block of wood or even a heavy stone would work just as well.
 
💡 Pro tip: Your tyres could develop what’s known as flat spots when the vehicle isn’t driven. That’s because the entire weight of the car rests on the same part of the tyre for a long time.

It’s typically a temporary problem that fixes itself as you start driving again, but it could also require a tyre replacement in extreme cases. You can prevent that by putting the car on jack stands or having someone periodically take the car out for a spin while you’re away.

You having found the perfect garage. (Credit: giphy.com)

8. Store it somewhere secure

Finding somewhere dry and safe to store your car could prevent theft or damage, potentially saving you unnecessary cost and headache. Not to mention the peace of mind of knowing that your cherished ride is in good hands.
 
💡 Pro tip: Leaving your car on a public road for a long time (over 28 days) could lead to it being declared as an abandoned vehicle and disposed of, especially if it has a flat tyre, or is mouldy or in a poor state of repair. Storing it off-road avoids that risk.

Using a friend or family member’s garage, driveway or underground parking spot is a cheap and easy solution. If you don’t know anyone who’s got space available, you could look into renting a garage from your council. You will need to apply via your respective council’s website, but there is likely to be a waiting list, so that may not be suitable if you’re in a hurry.

Then there are various online platforms where you can find and rent a garage or parking space. Some options to consider include Gumtree, YourParkingSpace, JustPark and Parklet. The booking process is relatively straightforward, and pricing varies depending on the location and the length you’re planning to use it for.
 
💡 Pro tip: Did you know that Stashbee has thousands of secure garages and parking spaces suitable for both long and short-term storage? And the best thing is that each of them is owned by one of our vetted Hosts, who live in your area and are eager to look after your vehicle.

Finding a suitable option is as easy as browsing our search map and putting down a payment. You can also message the owner in case of any questions before booking the space. And if it isn’t right, you can cancel and get a full refund up to the day before the booking starts.
 

Additional resources:


Svetlin

26th Oct 2022




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