How to rejuvenate car sitting for 3 years?

Have 2001 Saturn Wagon that has not been driven in 3 years and sitting outdoors in So.California . Was in perfect driving condition before my husband became ill. Only has 30,000 miles on it. What needs to be done before driving it again?

The gasoline in the gas tank is three years old. And gasoline doesn’t store well. So the first issue you must address is, what’s the condition of gasoline, and has it effected the rest of the fuel system?


Thanks Tester.

I would siphon out all the old gas I could and add 10 gallons of fresh gasoline. Are the tires flat? Check the pressure and replace any flat ones. Is the battery dead? If it’s REALLY dead, you will have to replace it. You can do this yourself. Then, check ALL the fluids, motor oil, antifreeze, brake fluid. Start it up!

Disposing of the old gasoline can be a REAL problem. Put a little on a paper towel and smell it. If it smells like gasoline and LOOKS pretty clear in color, you can probably burn it in the car. If it smells like old paint thinner and has a darker, orange color, it’s hazardous waste, do not try to use it…

In 2002 I inherited a 1993 Chevrolet Caprice with 44k miles. This car also had been sitting for nearly 3 years, but it had been driven a few hundred miles during this time. Surprisingly I didn’t have a problem with the fuel, but I topped it off with fresh gas before I drove it back home (~75 miles).

I first replaced the serpentine belt, at 9 years it was in bad shape. The battery was fairly new and was fine. I replaced/changed the following to get a fresh start.

  • Oil, filter, and lube
  • Air and fuel filters
  • Transmission filter and fluid change, not flush.
  • Complete tune up, spark plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor.
  • Antifreeze, I checked the upper and lower radiator hoses and they were in good shape. The hoses and thermostat were replaced a few years later.

In additon, if the tires are more than 6 or 7 years old you may want to consider replacing them even if the tread is good.

Good luck,

Ed B.

Thank you Ed B. and Caddyman and Tester for your comments and suggestions. They were SO helpful.