Preparing your car for storage

Parking your car in storage without any preparation is a bad idea no matter what type of storage you're renting. Doing so will almost certainly cause issues with the vehicle that will be expensive to repair down the line. Following these steps will help ensure your car comes out of storage in the same condition it was when you left it.

1. Change the oil, filter, brake fluid and coolant. Engine oil contains contaminants that, if not changed frequently enough, can damage the engine. The rest of these chemicals can cause the parts that use them to corrode or oxidize.

2. Fill your gas tank. Gasoline will absorb the moisture in your tank that would otherwise accumulate and cause the tank to rust. It will also prevent the tank's seals from drying out. If you're storing your car for several months or longer, use a fuel stabilizer. Fuel stabilizers prevent gas from deteriorating and are effective for about one year.

3. Disconnect the battery. Cars drain their battery even when the engine is off, and you don't want to have to replace the battery once you retrieve your car from storage. If possible, try to drive the car for 15 minutes every two weeks, which will help maintain the battery and keep your car's components lubricated. If you're unable to do so, disconnect the battery. You won't need to entirely remove the battery from the vehicle, just disconnect the negative battery cable. If you do want to keep the car battery charged in your absence for a long period of time and you've rented a storage unit with electrical access, use a trickle charger. This will connect your car battery to an electrical outlet and send a trickle of energy through to the battery--just enough to keep it charged.

4. Take care of your tires. If your car sits on its tires in the same position over a long period of time, your tires will develop flat spots and require replacement. This is particularly an issue if the storage location experiences cold temperatures. Once again, if you're able to drive the vehicle for about 15 minutes every few weeks, this is less of a worry.

The most basic precaution you can take to prevent flat spots from developing is getting your tires rotated and over-inflated. However, over the long term this won't do for protection. In long-term cases, it's a good idea to raise your car up on jack stands, removing the wheels if possible.

5. Remove your windshield wipers. The rubber on your windshield wipers can start to stick to your windshield, leaving hard-to-remove residue. One way to prevent this is by placing a plastic cover between the windshield and wipers. But the ideal is to remove the wipers entirely.

6. Prevent dust, dirt, and unwanted guests from getting inside. Dust and dirt can muck up your car's components, while pests like rodents and insects can wreak havoc inside. The best way to prevent the outside from getting inside your car is to use a car cover. At the very least, you should try to plug any openings, particularly your tailpipe. If you're particularly concerned with keeping your car in top condition and are renting an interior car storage unit with electrical access, consider a car storage bubble. These devices use a small electric fan to inflate a clear plastic capsule that envelopes the car, offering unparalleled protection for your vehicle, and are commonly used for the storage of exotic and collector cars.

7. Release your parking brake. If you leave your parking brake pads on for too long, they can fuse with the rotors. While it may sound like a good idea to engage your parking brake while storing the vehicle for a long period of time, the threat of fusion outweighs any added safety. Stick chocks under the wheels (if you left the wheels on) instead—these prevent movement better than the parking brake does.