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Bare Minimum A Car Must Be Driven Before Requiring Special Treatment

The 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment is preparing to deploy this summer. I am staying back to mind the store. Several Troopers have asked me to take care of their cars while they’re gone for a year so that they don’t have to deal with the Army nutroll of storing a vehicle upon departure, then retreiving it upon return. Since I’ll be custodian of as many as six cars, I’d prefer it not be a massive time-suck, plus minimize the chance of accident or mishap while driving someone else’s car. What is the minimum a car must be moved, driven, run through the gears, etc? I’m reckoning a once-a-week spin around the base for each; about a five mile trip. Will that be enough? Will the gas and fluids be good after a year after minimal use?

It is best for the car NOT to be driven during the storage period.

For a one year storage I recommend:

  • Removing the battery to a remote location (reduced change of thief, unless the bad guy just happens to have the right battery with him. Ideally the battery should be put on a battery tender to keep a float charge on it.

  • Add a fuel stabilizer according to the instructions to a full tank of fuel.

  • Store vehicle in a safe location.

  • Drop the collision insurance. It will not be driven so you don’t need it and it will mean a far smaller cost of insurance. Keep comprehensive as protects against thief, fire etc.

    One year is not really that long for a car.

  • Don’t park it with the parking brake on. It may rust in that position, rather block the tyres.

    No need to get the tyres off the ground or to take the weight off them. Modern tyres don’t need that. Flat spots if any at all will quickly disappear.

    That said, it is often better to just sell the car and buy a different car on return. That eliminates the bother and the depreciation cost.

    If they insist on having them driven it should be something like five miles after they have fully warmed up and once every two weeks should be fine.

    Good Luck to all of your unit and thanks for serving.

Drive each vehicle once every three or four weeks, but drive it for at least 20-30 minutes, and some highway driving is good. This gets everything fully warmed up, which is what you want.

Starting a vehicle and driving it around the base for five miles is the WORST thing you can do. If you can’t drive 20 minutes don’t even start the engine.

I would add that each car should get an oil and filter change before they go into storage. Coolant too, if due.

Ed B.

Let’s say you have 5 cars to “car sit” for a period of 1 year.

If you don’t have one already buy a “jumper” battery pack. Have the owners get an oil change, fill the gas tanks, and add fuel stabilizer to the fuel before turning the car over to you. If they want the car covered the owner can buy a cover and leave it in the car.

I would then drive 1 car a month for a few days, running errands etc. Shoot for about 40 to 50 miles over 2 to 3 days. Starting the cars weekly or every other week isn’t going to help. They can sit fine for several months at a time. This way the car you are driving gets warmed up sufficently to burn off water in the exhaust system, runs clean fuel from the tank into the injectors, and gets all the fluids warmed up and circulated to all the moving parts. If the car needs a jump to start you are ready for that and the battery can be charged if you have a charger and AC power available. Otherwise driving the car will charge the battery.

Each car will get about 2 “work sessions” over the period and should be good to go when the owner returns. In between workouts you can see if any tires have slow leaks etc. There will be plenty of gas in the tanks with abou 100 to 150 miles put on the cars over the period.

Selling the cars is a good option, and dropping insurance can save money too. If the owner’s drop insurance you can let the cars sit for a year without problems in most cases. For a year of sitting I’d either get a battery tender charger on the battery, or remove the battery and charge it once a month while in storage.

So it sounds like you have 2 options:

  1. Shut 'em down for the year, after putting a healthy dose of Stabil or equivalent in the tank right befor filling them up; or
  2. Use the Stabil, but drive each one periodically (1/month) for 20+ minutes (5 miles is too little, it’ll put water into the oil). You must either drive them long enough to get fully warm, or not at all.

Me, I vote for #1, they get to cancel their insurance for a year, save some big $$, much more than the cost of a new battery at Walmart, if needed, and you save the trouble and risk of driving these six cars around every month or so.

I would take each car, add a double dose of fuel stabilizer, run it for five minutes, shut it off, hook up a trickle charger, and forget about it. There are smart battery chargers that can be connected to multiple batteries, so if you can find one of them, you should only need one. I have mainly seen them at RV dealerships. It would help if the fuel level was low so it won’t take much fuel stabilizer and so the owner could put fresh fuel in immediately upon his/her return.

Regarding the fluids, I would recommend changing the fluids first thing upon return.

The guy is trying to say his buds dont want to store their cars. Cant you guys read? This is not a storage question. He wants to know how often and how far to drive each car periodically for one year till his crew is back, and lets hope they make it back, they are engaged in risky business. So, If you drive each car 50 miles once a month, and park them in a garage or shed out of the weather, that should do it. If no garage, then put on car covers, and do the same. Also, have them set up a parts fund, for things like new belts, a battery charger (good bats will not go dead just sitting there for such short intervals but an old one might.) and tires in case of a flat ect. Also for gas, and oil. Keep a log book and take cars in for service as required. does your insurance cover you no matter what car you drive? It should. so they can cancel insurance for the year too and still save bucks, some of which they should give you for being such a stand up brother.

Wrong, he said they didn’t want to “deal with the Army nutroll of storing a vehicle upon departure, then retreiving it upon return”. If he has room to park 6 cars, it then comes down to which is BETTER, driving them periodically, or shutting them down. These guys stand to save several thousand dollars in insurance by shutting them down (I don’t know that you can drive around uninsured cars without a problem. I’d doubt it). Lighten up!

The OP is in a Lose-Lose situation…Anything happens to the cars, he will be blamed for it, no matter what. Baby-sitting 6 cars for a year will turn into a full-time job…FORGET driving the cars around the base…

This is not a storage question. He wants to know how often and how far to drive each car periodically for one year till his crew is back…

…and my answer is 0 miles. Driving these cars should be completely unnecessary.

Yes, I can read. However, the amount of work you are proposing is unreasonable, especially if the OP has other obligations to worry about. It’s one thing to support your brothers in arms, but it is another thing entirely to spend all of your free time maintaining their cars for a year or more. Get real.

I sure am glad you guys are not on my crew.

??? You insult us, then expect a nice response?

me, Mr. Ignoramus expect a nice response from anyone in texas? You gotta be kidding.

Fellas, fellas, let’s not get too personal about this. It’s mostly a matter of convenience for our guys going downrange. Here’s why these Troopers don’t want to store the cars;

  1. They unlock the storage yard once. Everybody in. Then they lock it up again until they get back. Days or weeks may pass after they store their cars until they leave. They want to use their cars up until the day before they deploy. Then when they get back, they want to drop their bags, grab the keys and not wait weeks until they coordinate for everyone to get their cars out of the yard all at once. Anything the Army does requires a stack of forms and two weeks of planning. These Troopers want to drive for those two weeks.
  2. The cars will be secured behind a fence, but unattended. It’s no secret; here’s a yard full of cars belonging to guys who are all gone for a year. It’s not at all unusual for someone to hop the fence with a slim jim and/or a crowbar, pop a few locks, break a few windows, and go shopping. Then, rain followed by mold and critters move in through broken glass and opened doors. Sure, they can file claims, but that’s also a hassle.
  3. With reference to insurance, if the car is financed, then you usually have to continue to pay full coverage whether the car is in storage or not.
  4. These Troopers plan on coming back for mid-tour leave. I plan on picking them up at the airport in their car and then dropping them off when their vacations are over in their car. They won’t unlock the yard for Troopers in ones and twos and besides, all the cars are packed into the lot so tightly that there’s no getting them out in ones and twos. That’s why they have to have everyone in and out at once. There’s no space between cars. That’s also why they’re so easily robbed; it’s easy to hide between tightly packed cars.
  5. Trickle charger is not an option. There aren’t enough outlets at the storage lot. Even if there were, they’re not going to let Troopers plug them in for fear of fire. A fire amid tightly packed cars would be a catastrophe.
  6. Space is not at all an issue. We have a big parking lot behind the office.
  7. Selling American-spec cars here in Europe is a poor option. They don’t sell well, even to other Americans. Most Soldiers like to hang on to their cars. Besides, sell it to whom? The Regiment is LEAVING. It’s a bonus to us that the car has a mile-free (or in this case a low-mileage) year. That’s partially why my 12 year old Jeep has 60,000 miles on it. I’m never home to drive it.
  8. Having had someone watch my car for my own deployments, I know from personal experience. Getting back into your car after being gone is almost as much pleasure as hugging your family. Soldiers have as much emotional stock in our vehicles as anyone, sometimes more. Given our transient lifestyle, at least we can keep our cars throughout our military career. We move from post to post, wives and/or sweethearts come and go, but we can keep our cars forever.
    By the way, what does ‘OP’ mean? I’m thinking Observation Post, but then, I’m a lifer.

OP simply means “original poster”.

A year is really not that long and the main issues, if any, would be aged gasoline and weakened batteries.
Some Sta-Bil in the fuel tank and maybe drive them once a month is about all I would do with them.
If it were 2 or 3 years I think there could be more serious issues.

(And hats off to you and your fellow soldiers for your service. It is sincerely appreciated.)

Thank you for your support. We carry on with our mission proudly knowing that Great Americans like you are behind us. Quiet whispers of thanks ring louder to us than shrill shouts of protest.

The more I know, the more I stand by my original answer.

I would take each car, add a double dose of fuel stabilizer, run it for five minutes, shut it off, hook up a trickle charger, and forget about it.

Is a trickle charger an option in the parking lot behind the office? If not, I would try to drive each car once every two weeks, but I would drive it for at least 20-30 minutes to make sure it reaches full operating temperature.

I also thank you and your buds for serving.

Thanks for the detailed explanation, it sounds like it’s a major priority to have these cars available for occaisional use by the Troopers. Putting in the Stabil would be step one. You’re saying they’ll be in the lot behind your office, and not in the storage lot, right? Are trickle chargers not an option in the lot behind the office? If not, then a 30 minute drive once every other month should be enough.

And thanks for helping them out!

Reference item 3, insurance. When I was in the Navy, if it was on base, it had to be insured. I figured the Army would be the same.

To all the advice, I would also remind them to make sure the base pass is up to date.