Whether you are storing your current car for a few weeks while going on holiday or if you are a serious car collector, here are a few pointers about storage which we picked up over the years:
- Fuel goes bad
This was news to us, too. Turns out that when a car stands for many months or years, the fuel starts going “vrot” and can damage the engine! Other potential dangers include the fuel tank rusting, fuel lines corroding or the pump seizing while giving off harmful materials which may damage a car’s engine. You could avoid this happening by filling the fuel tank completely (or adding a stabilizing additive) before storage. If your car’s been standing for a few years, drain the tank and give it some fresh fuel. While you’re at it…
- Drain fluids and lubricants
If you plan on storing your vehicle for a lengthy period of time, it’s best to drain all fluids and lubricants. Engine oil, gearbox oil, coolant, brake fluid and other liquids don’t get better with age – quite the opposite – and you would do well to replace them when the car is put back into service. It’s not an expensive exercise and could save you thousands in unwanted repairs!
- Don’t leave it under a tree
If you have to leave it outside or under a tree, cover it up with a weather-proof car cover! You may think that the shade from a tree will protect a car’s paintwork but most trees give off harmful substances like gum, resin, sticky leaves, branches or bird droppings. A decent “afdak” (pergola / shade net) is a better storage solution and obviously a garage is the best place! In both cases, consider using a car cover as well.
- Rats hate light (and noise)
Rats and other rodents love cars because they can nest in them while nibbling on expensive wires, hoses, carpets, trim pieces and upholstery. Rat traps can help but most car collectors advise that you invest in a noisy rodent deterrent and leave the hood / bonnet open. Rats don’t like light and this also leaves them exposed to the (hopefully) vicious neighbourhood cat. If there isn’t a cat nearby, get one!
- Jack it up
Unless you enjoy square tyres? If you know that a car will stand for a long time, rather jack it up with small axle stands or even bricks – carefully! This prevents the tyres from developing a “standing spot” and prevents them from further damage if any of them should lose pressure.
Other handy hints
We’re not quite done yet. Here are a few more car storage tips:
- Invest in a decent “trickle charger” to keep the battery healthy during short-term storage. Alternatively, you could drive the car for a few kilometres every two weeks or disconnect the battery when the vehicle is not in use. In that case, be mindful of radio codes or other electronic resetting procedures and check the battery water upon reconnection!
- Remove your car’s battery altogether if it will stand for many months or years. A battery will just lose charge and be damaged by being pap for so long, rather use it in another vehicle or sell it.
- Unless the car is worthless, remember to tell your insurance about its storage condition and location.
- If possible, don’t use the parking brake as it could jam on after a long time. Reconsider point five.
- Give the car a decent wash or even a full valet before storing it – any residue dirt or grime may cause paint damage or even rust.
- Keep the car locked and all windows / sunroofs closed. You may be tempted to leave a small opening for fresh air but that just invites rodents, insects, water, dirt, kids or burglars into your car. If you want to air the cabin out from time to time, we suggest setting reminders on your computer or mobile phone to regularly check on the car and let some fresh air in.
- Don’t start it after many years! Even if you followed all (or most) of our advice, resist the urge to get behind the wheel and turn that key after many years. Be sure to check all fluids, lubricants, pipes, wires, hoses, radiator/s and electric systems before bringing the vehicle back to life.
- Before driving off, give the brakes and gearbox a thorough check or test!