Working out of state for a few months? Leaving town for a lengthy trip overseas? Putting your classic car into hibernation for the long, cold winter? Whatever your reason, if you’re thinking about taking your ride off the road for an extended period of time, follow these measures to ensure you return to a car that’s ready to roll.

1. Clean it

Dirt, dust, grease, road salt, bird poop  you name it  all do a job on a car’s exterior. Take care to wash your car, including tires and undercarriage, before storage. Extra points for giving the interior a thorough once-over too. While extensive detailing isn’t necessary, making sure you haven’t left an old coffee cup or half-eaten cookie under the back seat is good general practice and will help keep insects and rodents at bay.

2. Fill the tank and change the oil

A good general rule of thumb: if you’re storing your car for more than 30 days, top off your gas tank and do an oil change. A full gas tank keeps your seals moist and helps prevent moisture from corroding your tank. Fuel stabilizers may also be helpful in keeping your gas from deteriorating over longer periods of time.

3. Garage it

Whenever it’s an option, garaging an idle vehicle is the hands-down first choice. Not only will a garage protect your car from the elements, but it also minimizes the risk of theft and vandalism. If a home or public garage isn’t an option for you, consider investing in a waterproof car cover, which can also help keep your wheels clean and dry.

4. Tend to the battery

Battery drain is an inevitable part of long-term car storage. If possible, have someone you trust (who’s also insured) start and drive the car for at least 15 minutes every 2 weeks or so. This should help keep your battery charged. Other options for battery preservation include disconnecting the negative battery cable or purchasing a battery tender, which delivers a small amount of electricity to the battery to keep it functioning.

5. Inflate your tires

Avoid flat spots during long-term storage by making sure your tires are inflated to the right tire pressure.

6. Don’t set the parking brake

You never want your brake pads to sit against the rotors for too long, which could lead to fusion. Purchase a tire stopper instead of engaging your parking brake. 

7. Maintain insurance coverage

Tempted to cancel your auto insurance policy while your car is in storage? Beware: a lapse in coverage could lead to higher rates down the line because many insurers see a lack of continuous coverage as a higher financial risk.

Safe and smart | Car safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.