You wouldn’t leave your child with a suspect babysitter or drop your dog off at a subpar doggie daycare, would you? Don’t do the equivalent with your car. Whether you’re buying a classic car that needs constant protection or you’re simply heading out of town for a long stretch and want to ensure your ride is cared for, how you store your car is just as important as where. Any time your car will be sitting more than two weeks, there are best practices to follow and make sure it’s safeguarded.
And if you don’t? You might be signing up for a lot of mechanical issues. Start by getting a filter and oil change—specifically, make sure additive-free oils are used. Caustic detergents are often fine when you’re driving a car, but can be damaging if it’s just sitting there. Next, fill up the tank. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but filling it with premium fuel prevents condensation in the tank. To play it extra safe, add some gas stabilizers (often sold for lawnmowers) and seek out premium fuel without ethanol if possible.
Have your mechanic check all fluids and oils in the car, including the coolant levels. Also, take a look at the tires—how is the pressure? Was there a patched leak that could really do with a tire replacement? This is especially crucial for those in regions with rough winters. A slight overinflation can be helpful, and remember to thump tires every ten miles once a car is taken out of storage.
Next, wash and wax your car even if you know it’ll collect dust. Clean thoroughly under the hood and in the wheel wells. The interior also requires some TLC, especially when cleaning up food scraps which can lure in pests. However, steer clear of any products with water (such as Armor All) since it can trap moisture.
Some people put a piece of plastic beneath the car’s floor just in case there are leaps or buildup of vapor. If you’re storing your car indoors (as you should when possible), crack the windows slightly. Convertibles should have tops up with a rag in the air intake/exhaust to keep animals out. Metal screens are also useful for all types of cars. It’s also a good idea to pick up a battery maintainer so you don’t need to hunt down someone to jump your car when taken out of storage.
Along with that plastic used under the car, put a sheet between the windshield and wiper blades to prevent sticking (another option is just taking the blades off). Removing the spark plugs yourself (if you’re comfortable) is a good idea to stop rusting. You can also jack it up on axle stands in order to prevent flat tires. However, the less mechanically inclined owners can simply release parking brakes so pads don’t cling to the rotors.
Finally, leave a note on the driver’s seat with everything you’ve done so you know where you stand when you return. Lock the doors, and remember that a car cover is only appropriate for cars stored outdoors.