Bringing a car out of storage

I have had my car in storage for 4 years. I thought I would only be gone one year so I had it serviced and detailed and then put it in a storage unit and jacked it off the ground putting jack stands under the frame. When I go home I will want to recommission the vehicle and want to know how best to bring it back in operation without damaging the engine or other important components. Also the battery was removed from the car before storing. I have checked on the car and it seems fine no mice or anything just dusty.

You did not mention the type of car, but I presume it is a fairly nice car or you would not have gone to so much trouble when you thought it would only be there a year. What you would do with a vintage race car is much different from what you would do for some old sedan.

Even if you added StaBil, it is probably a good idea to drain the gas tank and lines and put in fresh fuel.

I would spray a bit of light oil in each cylinder. Marvel Mystery oil would be my first choice. While the plugs were out, I would disable the ignition and spin it a few times to pump oil through the mains and up to the cam without putting any stress on anything. That will also tell you if the belt-run accessories all spin properly. Then I would put in the plugs, fire it up, and go. Don’t be too surprised if you develop some oil leaks. Park it on a drip pan. They may or may not settle down with time.

If the tires were several years old when you parked it, they may be getting to the end of their safe lifespan now, even if they still look good. I would run them regardless of age if I were the only driver, but I would consider age if my wife were driving.

The coolant and brake fluid are due for replacement. I would do those within the first week or two after getting it running again.

Was it damp where this was parked? After starting it, check the engine oil for milky appearance suggesting condensation. If you have moisture in the engine oil, consider replacing the tranny/differential oil as well.

Don’t be surprised if the A/C is low on refrigerant.

The biggest problem is likely to be the fuel system. Gasoline has a short shelf life, and begins to turn to varnish if a stabilizer has not been added. Even with a stabilizer four years is a long time. I’d consider having the tank drained and refilled before attempting to start the engine, especially if the stuff in the tank smells bad.

Squirting a small amount of oil into each cylinder and turning the engine by hand would be a good idea. This will lubricate the cylinder walls and piston rings. You don’t need much oil for this.

Rubber components (tires, belts, hoses, etc) should be carefully inspected.

The brakes will be rusty. I’d use them carefully until you’re sure they work correctly. I hope the parking brake was not applied when you parked the vehicle.

Four years is a long time, except with proper preservation. The US army mothballs vehicles all the time, but it’s an elaborate process.

Agree with other that the fuel should be removed; then I’d fill the tank with hight test to dilute what’s left as much as possible.

Spraying oil in the cylinders is a good precaution as well.

My mechanic restores a lot of classics and he is extra careful not to run these vehicles fast initially, since that might destroy the seals. Take it very easy first.

I would also change the coolant, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. Although not immediately.

Good luck!

Before you drive the car, hold the brake pedal down HARD for 15 seconds to make sure the brakes are able to hold pressure…

If you DID NOT stabilize the fuel, then the entire fuel system should be drained and the lines flushed out BEFORE YOU TRY AND START IT…

Thanks for your help in this. The car is a 30,000 mile 03 Lincoln Navigator. If/when I get back to Colorado it should be about the last one left with low milage!

But the storage charges make this a VERY expensive vehicle to own…Colorado has a new rip-off where they are going to charge you back-rent and taxes for those years you did not register it!! OUCH!!

If it was mine I would do a preemptive shot of fogging oil and let that set for a couple of days. Since rusted pistons and breaking rings is a possibility. The next thing I would do is purge all the fuel from the system and do a carb or FI cleaning. The next thing would be an oil change. Then it is a matter of getting it started, probably some starter fluid will be needed, waiting for other ideas.

Storage is being taken care of by the South Korean Government so that is not a problem. Nice to know that Co will try to put the screws to me. We really have no intention of moving there again but we will be going to Florida. Now we have incentive to get it shipped to our new home when ever that will happen. Who knows we may be here in Seoul another 5 years. Bought the car for the wife but would I be telling my age if I said I appreciate the airconditioned seats. It was not always this way I actually had a Fiat Spyder 124 like Tommy’s. Traded a buddy a 73 Roadrunner with minor damage. Wish I had kept the roadrunner and glad I got rid of the Fiat! Thanks Guys

As mentioned, do not use the starter motor to turn over the engine for the first time. The rings can rust to the cylinder bores and the starter motor has a lot of torque. This can crack the rings and result in expensive damage. BTDTBTTS. Take the plugs out, apply some oil into the cylinders and turn it over by hand. It’s well worth the trouble to eliminate the risk…

Removing the plugs to squirt oil in is a lot of work and is probably not needed. If the engine turns over easily by hand, it’s good to go…

Colorado will probably sell you a 60 day permit without paying the back fees and taxes so you can drive the car to Florida. Give them the old military/foreign service mumbo-jumbo…