How To Store VehiclesReference Library Index
If you own a classic car you will want to keep in the best shape possible either for your own personal use or for when it comes time to resell, it needs to be stored properly. You need to protect and preserve the interior and exterior from the elements, particularly the sun. Classic cars aren’t cheap and when you invest in a 1960's Ford Mustang or 1970's Cadillac you need to keep the car protected by providing high quality storage solutions.
At the very least the vehicle should be stored in a garage or carport and if the sun can get to it you should protect it further with a durable car cover. Whether you live in Florida or Vermont every state has its share of outdoor hazards and leaving a vintage automobile exposed to the elements and perhaps vandalism is asking for trouble. The ideal garage will be heated at least to the point of preventing freezing and well secured.
If you do not have a protected place to park your antique or classic car you may have to rent one. You can advertise in your local paper with the idea of finding someone who could use a little extra money in exchange for garage space or you can look for commercial storage facilities. The least expensive facilities will be large warehouses that have shared space and if you want better security many storage facilities have individual garages. There are also special state-of-the-art, climate controlled storage facilities that are designed specifically for classic cars and vintage automobiles. You can search for a classic car storage companies in our Business Directory.
If you do choose a company for long-term storage, make sure you understand their policies and regulations so you know your car will be well protected. Chances are that their insurance will not cover the actual replacement cost so you will also want to discuss the location with your insurance agent. For long term care, you might inquire about starting and/or driving services to keep the vehicle road ready.
Once you have a suitable location the next step is to prepare the vehicle. If the vehicle will be driven periodically, at least once a month, no preparation is necessary. However if the purpose is long term storage there is some work to be done.
The first step is to give it a good bath and polish. Leave extra polish on the chrome and extra Amor All on the vinyl or leather upholstery. You might also put a coat of vaseline on any hard surface items that you want to take particular care of before positioning the vehicle in front of the storage facility.
The first task is to consider the engine and fuel system. If you can drive or at least start the engine every month or so there is nothing to do except change the oil and filter once a year to eliminate moisture. You should also run the engine enough to go through at least one tank of gas a year for the same reason. However you can put a moisture absorbing additive in your gas tank to help prevent that. For long term storage there are several things to consider. First, over time the engine oil will gradually work its way to the oil pan leaving the bearings dry. But if you add a can of STP (or other thickening agent) to the engine oil and then run the engine until it reaches operating temperature, the bearing will be protected for a longer period of time. You also need to think about the gasoline. Gasoline will gradually absorb moisture if it exposed to air so for a year or so you could fill the tank as full as possible and put in a moisture absorbing additive. However gasoline also "gets old" and leaves deposits in the tank so for long periods of time it is best to drain the gas tank. This can be difficult given the danger and pollution concerns but worth doing if you play it safe. One way is to use up as much gas as possible and then drain, syphon or use the engine's fuel pump to remove as much of the remainder as possible. Then start the engine and let it run dry to empty the engine's fuel system.
The battery is your next worry. A typical lead-acid vehicle battery will gradually lose it's charge over time and unless you plan on driving the vehicle monthly you should do a couple of things to slow or prevent the process. First disconnect the battery from the vehicle to assure there is no loss from the vehicle's circuits - and always remove the grounded terminal first to avoid sparks. Next, check the fluid levels (if possible) and fill each cell up to the bottom of their filling tubes. You should alway add distilled water and if that is necessary you should also assure it's fully charged. Some people like to put their stored batteries on a trickle charger, which is a good idea for several months. However for long term storage of a year or more it may not be worth the effort. First of all, trickle charging will slowly evaporate the liquid in the cells so you will have to check it at least once a month. Once the liquid gets below the cells they will burn and the battery will be ruined. Also, you should remove the battery from the vehicle and put it in a warm, dry, well ventilated place, sitting on wood. Cold climates and floors will zap a battery's charge and the acidic fumes are lethal - to both you and the metal in your vehicle. Keep in mind that all lead-acid batteries have a shelf life whether you use them or not so long term storage of years simply will not work. If the battery is going to sit your years put it on a block of wood and try to recharge it when the time comes - but be prepared to buy a new one.
The final task is to protect the tires. Tires will crack and deteriorate with age no matter what you do but you can slow down the process. At the very least push the vehicle onto plastic or wooden blocks to slow down the loss of moisture to surfaces like dirt or cement and then assure that they are protected from the sun. For long term storage, push the vehicle into the garage and then put the frame up on jack stands to take the weight off both the tires and suspension. And if you are a real fanatic, you can coat the tires with vaseline to help lock in the moisture.
You can now go enjoy yourself with the knowledge that you have done everything possible to preserve your baby. As with everything it will gradually deteriorate with age so try to visit it annually to assure there are no surprises - like animal nests - and perhaps give it a bath. You should also keep the vinyl and leather protected with a product like Armor All.
When the time comes to bring an antique or classic vehicle out of storage, here is the procedure. First, make sure you have a charged battery - and remember to connect the grounded terminal last to avoid sparks. Then, clean up the tires, take the vehicle off the jack stands (as necessary) and push the vehicle outside. If it's only been a year or two and you put STP in the engine before storing it, the engine is good to go. However if it has been longer you can do some pre-oiling to prevent unnecessary wear on the dry bearings. First remove the spark plugs and valve covers (for which you will need new gaskets), drain the engine oil and replace the oil filter. Then add the new oil by carefully pouring it over the valves - slowly because this can become messy. Then give each cylinder a squirt of engine oil to lubricate the cylinder walls. Then put everything back together and check the oil to assure it is full. And the next step is to refill the gas tank (if necessary) with new gasoline and include a bottle of fuel additive to remove moisture and absorb the deposits in the bottom of the tank. Now start it up. It will take some cranking to get the fuel flowing again which you can minimize by spraying starting fluid into the air cleaner - but be vary careful. Too much fuel can cause a backfire and fire so it would be a good idea to have a fire extinguisher at hand.
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