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Preparing your car for storage is necessary when you need to transport it, clear space on a property, or set it aside for safekeeping. Before storing your car, it’s important to take a few easy but necessary maintenance steps to ensure its long-term functionality and protection. Simply follow these eight essential car storage tips, and it’ll be good to go.

8 steps to prepare your car for storage

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Several of Jay Leno’s cars in storage inside an air-conditioned warehouse | Paul Harris/Getty Images

1. Add fuel stabilizer

A fuel stabilizer will keep your car’s gas from oxidizing and thickening, which wreaks havoc on fuel systems. The lifespan of conventional gasoline is only about three to five months of non-use. According to Erie Insurance, it begins breaking down after only 30 days. The best fuel stabilizers can extend that time by as much as two years.

2. Add fresh fluids

Like fuel, car fluids also aren’t meant to sit stagnant for extended periods. Topping off the fluids also prevents your vehicle’s seals from drying out and prevents moisture from accumulating. Before putting your car in storage, fill the following fluids to their max levels:

  • Power steering
  • Brake fluid
  • Oil
  • Coolant
  • Transmission fluid

3. Charge your car battery

Without periodically running the alternator, your battery won’t go through the cyclical charging it was designed for, and it will slowly discharge over time. Fully charging your battery before storage will ensure it has the most juice possible before going into hibernation. Varta explains that the correct charge for most car batteries is between 12.7 volts and 12.8 volts.

For particularly long car storage, it’s even better to remove the battery and store it safely in your home or a climate-controlled garage (place it on a board or piece of plywood).

4. Wash your car

Dirt and grime can corrode paint and turn into rust. So wash and wax your car before storage for maximum protection. Especially in the context of the next step, be sure to clean your vehicle’s exterior before you store the car.

5. Keep it covered

Once your car is spotless and free from corrosive substances, a properly fitting cover will protect it from accumulating more grime while also preventing rust if the storage environment becomes moist. Invest in a cover with a soft underside, or use a separate, softer cover before installing a heavy-duty one.

6. Put your car on blocks

Putting your car on blocks or jack stands will keep your tires from sustaining flat spots, which occurs when the same part of the tire bears the full weight of the car for extended periods. Be sure to place the blocks on the frame of the car rather than the axle tubes; otherwise, you risk affecting the suspension.

7. Don’t engage the parking brake

Keeping the parking brake engaged for long periods is not a good idea. It contributes to rusting while causing the brake pads to stick to the rotors or the brake shoes to distort the drums. Those are costly issues, and there are virtually no benefits to leaving your car’s parking brake engaged. Use wheel chocks as an alternative, and for manual transmissions, place the vehicle in reverse gear.

8. Mouse-proof your car before storage

Especially during cold weather, rodents will try to nest in anything that’s insulated, and they also might chew your car’s wires. Be sure the storage facility is mouse-proof, and thoroughly clean the interior to remove as much residual food as possible, even if it takes a steam cleaning. If food is there, mice and rats will find it.

Last, temporarily seal any openings, such as the steering column and the entry points for cables and pedal shafts. For the ultimate protection, use a zipper bag to seal the entire car.

Car storage done properly

With those eight car storage tips, your wheels should be as ready to roll as when you left them. Though it can be tempting to cut corners, you owe it to yourself to ensure your car is as well-protected as possible — even when it’s just sitting in storage.


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