What To Do With Your Car When You’re Not Using It

When prepping your car for long term car storage, it’s not as simple as throwing a tarp over it and calling it a day. In fact, without proper care, you’ll likely come back to a dead battery, corroded engine parts, and misshapen tires. And there are plenty of other issues that can arise in a car that’s been stored and forgotten. Here at Spacer, we’ve seen it all before, and we want to help car owners avoid the heartbreak.


So, when you’re ready to say goodbye to your car for a few months, make sure to follow these steps to prepare your car for the long haul in car storage.  


Step One: Find the right car storage options


You want the best for your car, and a sun-drenched dirt lot is just not going to cut it. So, spend some time finding the right garage rental or parking space for your beloved car. Here are a few things to look out for in the ideal long-term parking space:

  • A covered parking space. UV exposure can damage your tires and your paint, so covered or underground parking is ideal. If your car will experience some sun exposure, we’ll talk about the best covers later on.

  • Temperature control. You might be able to find cheap car storage in a parking garage, but be mindful about temperature fluctuations, freezing conditions, and humidity. Ideally, you want your car storage to be on the warmer side (not hot!) and somewhere not too dry and not too humid.


These conditions may seem a bit hard-to-find if you’re looking at parking lots and parking garage rental options. Instead, you’ll have better luck turning towards home car garages, which can be more closely climate controlled. 


If you don’t have your own garage, take a look at the available options in your area on Spacer. Whether you’re looking to get your car out of the intense sunlight of Phoenix or the harsh winter cold of Chicago, you’ll be able to find long-term cheap car storage that checks all your boxes.


Step Two: Clean inside and out


This may seem like a vanity step, but cleaning your car is actually a crucial way to prevent damage to the interior and exterior of your car. As much as you can, clear everything out from the inside, especially heavier items that may put undue pressure on your tires over time. And take your time to ensure that there are no crumbs or other food particles that could attract unwanted pests. 


While you’re cleaning out the interior, double check that the emergency brake is disabled. You do not want to leave that brake on while your car is in long term car storage, as it can result in a fusion of the e-brake to the rotor.


For the exterior, a thorough wash and wax is the best way to protect your car’s paint job. And, make sure to get down low to clean even the wheels and fenders. Don’t put your car in its long term parking space until it’s completely dry.


Step Three: Treat your car to an oil change


It’s widely accepted that an oil change before car storage is a good precaution. That’s because used oil and old oil can damage the engine, so treat your car to some fresh oil before storing for a month or more.

For good measure, you should check the levels of other fluids, too. Fresh antifreeze or coolant should be added so that you have no radiator issues when you drive your car after picking it up from storage. 


Step Four: Deal with your battery


While you’re under the hood, another huge consideration is what to do about your car battery. For drivers who plan on coming back periodically to run the engine, it may not be necessary to unhook the battery.

But, if your car is going to be sitting in car storage for a long period of time, that battery will need a long-term plan. One option is to invest in a battery tender or trickle charger. These devices are meant to maintain your battery’s charge even when the car is not in regular use. That said, these types of battery charging systems need to be plugged into a power source, which might not be available in your parking space or garage rental. 

If that’s the case, the other option you have is to disconnect the battery completely. Make sure to read your owner’s manual or check online to learn how to safely disconnect the car battery before placing your car in long term car storage.


Step Five: Fill up


It may seem counterintuitive to fill the gas tank before putting your car into a long term parking space, but there’s a good reason for it. A full gas tank lowers the risk for rust. So, while you may want to replace the fuel before driving again anyway – especially if your car sits for about a year or longer – filling up the tank is more of a preventative measure.


Something else you might consider is adding a fuel stabilizer. Fuel stabilizers work by preventing evaporation and providing your gas tank with a protective layer to ward off rust. It’s important to run the engine for a little while after adding the fuel stabilizer to ensure that it’s run through the entire system.


Step Six: Consider a lift


When your car sits in one place for too long, the tires start to buckle under the pressure, creating what’s known as “flat spotting.” Some car experts suggest filling up the tires before putting your car in long term car storage, but even that will only take you so far. 


If you’re booking a garage rental for more than a few months, you might want to take the weight off of those tires altogether by lifting your car in storage. This can be done with jacks or tire cradles.


Step Seven: Prevent nesting


The second-to-last step to do before leaving your car for a while is plug up the exhaust pipes. This will prevent little critters from taking up residence in your exhaust pipes while you’re away. You can plug them up with aluminum foil, steel wool, or even a few bunched up socks – but remember to put anything fabric in a baggie so as not to attract pests. 


Pro Tip: attach a brightly colored ribbon or string to your exhaust pipes to remind yourself that you’ve covered them. That way, you won’t try to drive away your beloved car with a blocked exhaust pipe.


Step Eight: Cover up and say goodbye


The only thing left to do is cover your car with a car cover. Here are a few things to look for in a good car cover:

  • If your car storage is indoor, choose an indoor cover. If you’re opting for an outdoor parking space, go with an outdoor cover with UV protection

  • Find the right fit for your car. If you go with a custom cover, you’ll know that it was made specifically for your car. Contour covers can also be a good option, but pay close attention to measurements to ensure that your car will be properly covered

  • Go with a breathable fabric that won’t trap moisture


Your car is ready for long term car storage!


Whether you’re storing your beloved car in an underground parking space or in a cozy garage rental, these steps will ensure that your car is ready for a few months of hibernation. 


And if you’re looking for the perfect place to store your car, remember that Spacer has plenty of great car storage options for all your long term storage needs!