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Long-term Car Storage

Posted: April 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Preparations | 2 Comments »

We checked a big item off the to-do list over the weekend: placing my car in storage. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to best store ones car. Here’s what we did, including a few California specific legal requirements. For reference, I drive a ’94 BMW 325i (your mileage may vary):

  • Get an oil change. I read from a few sources that recommended getting an oil change before AND after storing.
  • Fill the tank with gas. The moisture in the air of an unfilled tank can condense on the sides, leading to rust.
  • Add a stabilizing agent to the gas, to prevent it from breaking down. I used 6 ounces of STA-BIL ($4.99 at Kragen) for my 15 gallon tank. No funnels were on hand, so we made one from a piece of PVC and the top of a 2-liter soda bottle.
  • Leave the car out of gear (it’s a 5-speed), and emergency brake off. For an automatic you’d put it in Neutral. Gears and brakes can freeze in place if left long enough. We kept the car in place with wedges of firewood acting as chokes on the wheels.
  • Attach a trickle charger to the battery. A battery will naturally go dead after a few months, which I’ve heard is not good for it — reduced amperage maybe? We’re using a solar-powered charger, which plugs directly into the cigarette lighter, keeping the battery topped up from there.
  • Wash the car, let it dry, then cover the car. I picked up a cheap ($29.99) Valucraft car cover from AutoZone. You can spend hundreds on fitted, waterproof covers, but my ultimate goal was to just keep the sun and dirt off for five months. The washing was to get rid of as much grit and dirt, which would act like sandpaper on the paint under the cover.
  • File for “Affidavit of Non-Use” from the DMV. This is a California thing. A car registered in California is required to minimum amount of liability car insurance — a not insignificant monthly cost. To avoid this requirement, one can file an ANU. I’ve heard an insurance company reports when the stop/start coverage of vehicles to the DMV, leading to a possible automatic citation, so to be safe we filed the ANU online prior to terminating the liability coverage.
  • Place the car on a “comprehensive-only” insurance policy, to protect against theft, vandalism, and Acts of God. So, if vandals take my car for a joy ride and are struck by lightning, I’m covered. The policy is much cheaper than liability — about $50 for the duration.

I was advised by my mechanic to NOT have someone come out and turn the engine over every few weeks. Supposedly just running the engine at an idle will not get it up to operating temperatures, and the repeated cold starts will cause more damage than help.

That’s about it. Hopefully in five months I’ll come back to a well-preserved car, ready to drive my unemployed self to all those job interviews.

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2 Comments on “Long-term Car Storage”

  1. 1 Alex said at 9:58 am on April 8th, 2010:

    Wait, how does the solar charger work through the car cover?

  2. 2 Devon said at 10:29 am on April 8th, 2010:

    You’re right, it’s too dark inside the car to be of much use sitting on the dashboard. We’re plugging the charger in, then running its wire out the door (shut, but the wire can squeeze through the seal) and placing the charger outside the car and in its own, transparent protection against the elements.

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