- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

The following are tips on the proper way to store a car for the long term — six months or more.

A car is always better off stored indoors, preferably in a cool, dark, dry environment. Ideally, the temperature should never drop below freezing.

The battery should be removed. If you’re going away for a few years, give it to a friend — unless it has a lifetime guarantee.

Drain the fuel system. Any gasoline left in the bottom of the tank should be siphoned out.

After the tank is drained, the engine should be run until all the gas in the fuel lines, carburetor, fuel pump, injectors and other system parts is used up. If the car uses leaded gas, run it with a gallon or so of unleaded before draining and drying the system. Unleaded gas left in the fuel system is less likely to form deposits when it evaporates.

Now the engine. Have the oil and filter changed as close as possible to the time of mothballing. Don’t store a car with old oil in it. The contaminants in that nasty stuff will wreak havoc while you are gone.

Ideally a can of molybdenum disulfide should be added when you change the oil. The car should run with the new oil and engine treatment for about two hours, if possible, before the final shutdown. The molybdenum disulfide will coat the engine parts and make them almost impervious to moisture.

Pull the spark plugs and pour about a teaspoon of fresh engine oil into each cylinder. Then replace the plugs. This helps coat the cylinders with protective oil.

All engine openings, particularly the air cleaner and oil-breather cap, should be packed with absorbent cloth. The same applies to the exhaust pipe, but wait until it has cooled. Cotton towels will work.

With the exception of packing the exhaust pipe, these engine procedures should be done when the engine is warm, not cold, because you will be sealing in moisture instead of keeping it out.

Ideally the engine should be started once or twice a year and run for at least 30 minutes. If this isn’t possible, the above procedures offer maximum protection.

Release the tension on all the drive belts in the engine. Top off the transmission and rear-axle fluids. If your automatic-transmission fluid hasn’t been changed in the last 30,000 miles, it would be a good idea to replace it.

Radiator coolant should not be drained. The cooling system should be left wet to help preserve the various seals and gaskets inside. If the coolant is more than 2 years old, now would be a good time to replace it.

But here’s an exception to the radiator rule: If any part of the engine is aluminum, drain the cooling system. The electrolysis set up by the aluminum and coolant combination can corrode and ruin an engine.

Brake systems should also be left wet. If the fluid is old, change it. Old brake fluid will corrode and pit metal brake-system parts, given enough time.

If the car will be in storage for a year or more, put it on blocks or jack stands. This takes the pressure off the wheel bearings, shock absorbers and other suspension parts.

Remove the tires if they are in good condition. Leave them mounted on the wheels with the air pressure slightly reduced and store them on their sides out of the sunlight.

If the car can’t be put up on blocks, add another 10 to 15 pounds of air to the tires.

If the car is stored indoors, it is best left uncovered. If stored outside a good-quality car cover is recommended. A frame should hold it above the finish so it won’t rub the paint.

The car should be washed and waxed, and you should rub silicone preservative on all rubber door gaskets and other rubber parts. The interior should be cleaned and the vinyl coated with a vinyl protectant.

If the car is stored outside, cover the dash, rear deck and upholstery with clean white sheets or towels. Cover all the windows so the sunlight doesn’t penetrate, but leave one of them open just a bit.

Keep a list of the things you have done and place it in the car. When you return you’ll know exactly what to do to get the car moving again — retighten belts, take out the engine packing and so on.

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