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Car Storage for 2 1/2 years?

We own a Volvo V70 station wagon, which we love. However, we’re moving to France in July, and have been told that it’s a nightmare trying to bring an American car there. So, is it possible to “mothball” a car for years on end without causing major damage? What’s involved with it?

The problem with storing a vehicle for that length of time is the gas in the gas tank. Most fuel stabilizers are only effective for 18 months afterwhich the gas begins to break down to form sludge and varnish in the gas tank. It can be expensive to clean the fuel system of this.

You might consider selling the vehicle so you won’t have to confront this problem.


You are probably better off selling it. Getting one like it when you return will be cheaper for the same model year, or you’ll get a newer one for the same money.

Agree with Tester; you can “mothball” a vehicle for any length of time. The US army does it all the time. However, the procedure for that length of time is tedious, involving much, much more than taking the gas out, and the car will in the meantime depreciate more, and you still have to insure it. I agree that selling it would make the most sense and investing the money till the time you get back.

I totally agree with you that the French will have a hayday nitpicking reasons why your yankee car can’t get license plates. You no doubt have seen enough “Inspector Clouseau” (Pink Panther) movies by now.

If you are still determined to mothball it, we can give you the long list of things to do, and NOT to do. I am presently working with a friend to restore a 1952 Chrysler (previously well-maintained) that has not run for 17 years to operating condition. Our budget will likely be $2000 or so.

awwwwww, man! I love this car. But thanks for the quick responses – guess I need to put an ad in the paper! Anyone want a used volvo? Runs great!!!

You can store it if you really want to. But if you do you will need someone to help you who knows a good deal about cars. Drain the gas and the coolant (make sure you have the heater lever in the on position) and put it up on blocks, and remove the wheels and deflate them and store them seperately. Leave the hand brake loose, take out the battery and give it to your friend for helping you. Put a rag tightly in the tail pipe, and one in the air intake, and pull a car cover over the car. Make sure the windows are rolled up tight. If you have power stearing, drain that too. If you have air conditioning, you need a special coolant recovery system to drain it, but you can have that done at a garage first, and you can still drive it home to put it in storage.
this should be adequate for a few years. When you come back, change the transmission and differential fluid or oil, change the engine oil, flush the cooling system and re-fill it with new coolant. Replace the brake fluid and clutch fluid with new, and have the cylinders inspected for break down of the o-rings and boots. Get a new battery, and remember to take the rag out of the tail pipe. Inflate and install the tires. for this period of time, that should be adequate provided you do not get mice or rats or other animals in the engine commpartment where they can nibble on the wires. Make sure you have all the hoses and vacume tubes and wires inspected before you try to start it up again. If any of the top 20 guys such as Tester can add additional advice, please pay attention to them as they are professionals and I am only a shade tree mechanic who has done this kind of thing in the past but this has all worked for me when I stored a 1950 chevy for 10 years.

You will get better results on Craigs list, you can post 4 photos and it is free.

The Volvo will experience significant depreciation over the 2 1/2 yrs. It may also suffer damage from lack of use and need repairs when you want to return it to use. Both of these are financial losses.

Sell it. Take the money and invest it. When you come back to the US you can use the money to buy another car, even another Volvo if you wish. Or, you can use the money if you need to buy a car in France.

Can you store it? Yes. Should you store it? No. Best to store it in a garage, heated is better than not, but a garage is better than outside under a cover. Most garage space will involve a monthly rent fee. Next, you have to stabilize the fuel in the tank and in the motor. Stabilized fuel is not going to last forever with turning to gunk and varnish. After 2 years of storage even stabilized fuel can become a mess. Bad fuel can ruin sensitive fuel injection systems, injectors, pressure valves, and coat the tank, lines, and components with varnish. Varnish is very hard to clean and means replacement of affected parts. Then you should replace all the fluids, coolant, brakes, transmission, differentials, motor oil, with clean fresh fluids. After 3 years of storage to return the car to service you need to change out and refresh all these fluids again. Then hopefully no mice, rats, or other “pests” have taken up residence in the car. Rodents eat wiring and the damage can be extensive. So returning the car to service will take about $600 and putting the car in storage will be about $600 just for the fluid changes. Fixing the other stuff that could happen, a frozen alternator, bound up water pump, rodent damage could costs multiple thousands more.

Your love of this Volvo will cost you about $10 to 15K if you put it in storage for the 2 1/2 years. That is just too high a price to pay in my opinion.

It depends on the year of the car and your storage location…if the cars major depreciation is over, if it’s worth less than $4000, then that’s not an issue…If you have inside storage, then it’s doable.

Drive the fuel tank almost empty. Then add stabilizer and 6 ounces of outboard motor oil. drive the car for another 10 miles to “fog” the engine with the 2-stroke oil. Clean the car inside and out. Remove the battery and set it aside. You will have to replace it when you return. Unless you put the car “up on blocks”, the tires will probably go flat, ruining them. Concrete blocks can be used, with wood between the support points and the car body. Most of the fluids should be changed, engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, so the car hibernates with clean lubricants and fluids.

On return, add 5 gallons of fresh gasoline, a new battery, pump up the tires, you should be good to go…

Its true that I did store that chevy in a garage, and I did not say so. But even if you store a vehicle in a garage you still ought to put a car cover on it to protect the paint. dust will accumualte anywhere, and you can damage the paint by washing away encrusted dust and thus causing micro scratches. And yeah you do have to pay the storage somehow or another which is likly to be the highest cost. coolant out of it, the water pump might fail, but the bearing seal should prevent this, and you can avoid having the fuel system problems of varnish and hose rot if you drain and then run the thing dry. I would say it all depends on how much you really want to keep it, it is a sentimental question rather than a technical one in the final analysis.

awwwwww, man! I love this car.

I understand. When I moved to France for one year I had a Nissan Maxima that I loved and I stored it for a year, and it was OK afterward. But, that was only one year, and the car is now long gone anyway (wrecked a few years after our return). It was, after all, just a car and we should not let inanimate objects “own” us.

2-1/2 years is really too long unless it is a real collector’s item. It will depreciate in value, depending on how new it is that might not be a big deal, but the newer it is the more you will lose by just letting it sit. In plain dollars and cents logic, you just can’t justify keeping it in storage that long. Either the car is not worth enough to bother, or it will lose too much value to bother. Sell it and set the money aside for a replacement when you return.