With the unprecedented effect of the coronavirus growing larger every day, those who are able have been encouraged to work from home. Maintaining distance from one another is the key to slowing the spread of the , and that has thus far involved social distancing and sheltering in place.
For those who are now working from home, though, there’s an unexpected complication — maintaining the condition of your vehicle if you’re not using it for an extended period of time. A car can’t sit unused for weeks or months in a parking space the same way it can overnight, so it’s important to take proper care in storing it.
As a rule of thumb, you can typically store a vehicle for as long as you like, but you’ll need to take certain precautions if the car storage period will extend past 30 days. “Gasoline will typically last in a car for six months,” says Steven Greenspan, instructor and education manager at Universal Technical Institute. “However, the key to making gasoline last this long is to make sure the owner has a full tank of gas, which will help reduce condensation due to weather fluctuations.”
It should be noted that the six-month span only applies to standard gasoline. According to Greenspan, diesel fuel has a longer life (six months to a year), while E85 fuel typically degrades in less than six months.
Like gas, oil is also good for about six months if you’re not driving the vehicle. “If a car is sitting and not being driven regularly, the oil will deteriorate due to temperature fluctuations,” says Greenspan. “If a driver does not hit their mileage recommendation for their regular oil change, the driver should change their oil every six months.” Likewise, anything made of rubber — such as engine belts — will also last for about six months of car storage, provided the rubber is in good condition to start.
Tire pressure is also a concern during car storage, so some resources recommend jacking your vehicle up if it’s going to go unused for a while. That way, the weight is taken off the tires, which slows them from leaking and can help prevent flat spots and tears during storage. If you don’t jack up your car, Greenspan recommends checking the tire pressure regularly and filling the tires with nitrogen, which leaks less than oxygen.
When it comes to your battery, you may have to take extra precautions before it sits in one of your parking spaces for extended periods of time. “Today’s high-tech vehicles often have multiple computers that are always on and monitoring the car’s systems,” says Greenspan. “These computers do absorb energy, and if a car is sitting and not recharging, the battery can die within two weeks.”
Greenspan recommends taking your car for a short drive every two weeks in order to preserve the battery. If you don’t want to do that, it may actually be better for your vehicle to take the battery out and store it separately.
Finally, there’s the issue of car insurance — if you won’t be driving your vehicle, do you still need insurance for it? Some insurers, like Allstate, will allow you to suspend liability and collision coverage and only keep comprehensive coverage, though many insurance companies don’t offer that option. Still, as Greenspan advises a 5- to 10-minute drive every two weeks for overall car health, the safest option is to keep your insurance unchanged during secure storage.
Essentially, keeping a vehicle in good and safe condition during this time isn’t altogether different from winter car storage–it’s just that there’s no telling right now how long this storage period will last.
Five things to know about preparing a daily driver, classic car or collector car for storage
1. The place where you store your car should be dry, indoors and preferable be climate-controlled storage, as moisture can be harmful. Additionally, a concrete floor is best for tire and car health during car storage.
2. All fluids — gas, oil, brake fluid, etc. — should be filled up prior to auto storage in order to prevent condensation from forming inside the tanks.
3. If you can’t take your car out of indoor storage for a short drive every two weeks, you should remove your battery prior to parking it in storage. The battery is in use even when the ignition is off, so it can quickly drain simply sitting in your car garage or self-storage unit.
4. If you don’t have the option of jacking your car up to protect the tires, it’s important to check their pressure regularly. Filling the tires up with nitrogen (as opposed to air) will result in less leakage.
5. Some insurance companies will let you simplify or reduce your policies while your vehicle is in storage. That said, it’s better for your car’s condition if you take it for brief drives on occasion, so it might be safer to keep the insurance as is.
Here are some products that may also help preserve your vehicle while it’s in storage, whether it’s in one of your parking spaces at home or in other storage options such as vehicle storage units available for rent at a self-storage facility or dedicated automobile storage facility:
Adding fuel stabilizer to your car’s gas tank increases the lifespan of the gasoline during car storage, which means you won’t have to drain your fuel if your car is in storage for more than six months. Sta-Bil’s fuel stabilizer can keep a tank of gas fresh for up to two years, and the 32-ounce bottle is large enough to preserve up to 80 gallons. For maximum effect, Sta-Bil recommends adding the stabilizer to the tank as soon as you fill up with gas.
Not every car is brand new, and no matter how well you prepare, it’s tough to anticipate everything that could happen while your vehicle is in a garage or indoor car storage facility. If you’re worried about leakage from anywhere on your vehicle, it pays to have a car mat that protects your garage’s floor from staining. The Park Smart can absorb gallons of liquid, meaning that even if the worst happens, you’ll be covered — just like your floor. Park Smart also makes a smaller model that can fit under your engine block.
When parking a car for a long period of time without being moved, the parts of the tires that are touching the ground weaken. With this set of four tire savers, also from Park Smart, the pressure is taken off the bottom of the tires and redistributed in a way that protects the rubber during long-term storage. The tire savers are made of solid PVC and accommodate vehicles of all sizes — from cars and trucks to recreational vehicles and motor homes.
No matter what you do to protect your tires, they’ll still slowly lose air — and it will add up after a few months. An air compressor that functions as a tire inflator can ensure that your vehicle is ready to drive whenever you take it out of storage. Simply plug it in, hook it up, and let it do what it does, and your tires will be ready to roll out of the garage or storage unit.
Even in a garage, your vehicle can incur damage, whether from moisture, other cars or people. If you want to preserve the exterior of your car and you’ve got money to spend, the CarCapsule indoor bubble car cover is worth a look. It literally encases your car in a PVC bubble and provides a vinyl base mat upon which the car rests. Inflating the bubble takes between 5 and 10 minutes, so you can still take your vehicle for a spin every couple of weeks as recommended.
If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to put a bubble into your car storage arsenal, a standard cloth cover like this one from Budge Lite provides coverage that’s nearly as comprehensive. It’s also a lot easier to remove when it comes time to take your car out for a ride. It should be noted that car covers may cause light scratching to your vehicle’s exterior when you’re ready to move it from its parking spot, which is not a concern with car bubbles.
If you have access to an electrical outlet near where your car will be stored, you actually have another storage solution when it comes to preserving the battery. With the Battery Tender Jr. (or a similar battery charger), you can run power from a grounded outlet to an AGM, gel cell, or lead-acid car battery. Doing this regularly will keep your battery charged regardless of whether you use your car or not, and it will also keep you from having to disconnect the battery out for fear of it being drained.
If you forget to get your oil changed before, well, everything, it’s not too late. You can change the oil on your own, as long as you have the right equipment. A pair of RhinoRamps will allow you to elevate your vehicle while you work on it, while the FloTool 15-Quart Drain Container will hold the oil you remove.
It’s not exactly pleasant to think about, but if you’re storing your vehicle in a garage for months, it’s possible that rodents will try and take shelter inside. That means they’ll be chewing up whatever they can, from wiring to upholstery. To avoid that, you can treat your car with a pest repellent spray, like this all-natural one, which won’t damage any of your car’s workings.
Written by Scott Fried for Roadshow.
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