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Lengthy car storage

I have had my car in storage since 2003. I will be pulling it out next year. I have it on blocks and in a outside storage unit and was wondering what steps should I take to get it in running coindition again. I put gas additives in it before I put it in storage and remove the tires. Should I have it towed? or can I drive it to a mecahnic?

First, give the car a good visual inspection, under the hood, interior, and trunk. Look for any evidence of mice or other animal infestation. Critters like to chew on wiring and leave nesting materials around. They will tear up the sound deadening materials, padding, carpeting, and seat cushions. If there is evidence of critters you may have electrical problems.

Next, reinstall the tires and make sure the tires are inflated to about 32 lbs pressure. Take the car down off the blocks. Open the fuel filler and smell the gas, it should have the normal gas smell. Reinstall the battery. If you left the battery in the car and didn’t run a battery tender charger go and buy a new battery and install it. Take the old battery with you to trade in, they can test it and try to charge it but it is likely dead. Be sure to hook up the + and - terminals properly when you install the new battery.

If you can access the spark plugs I’d pull each plug and squirt some oil in the spark plug hole of each cylinder. Check to be sure you have an oil level showing on the dipstick. If the oil drained out and the crankcase is empty I’d get the car towed. If there is oil on the dipstick, with the plugs out, I’d crank the motor for about 20 seconds to circulate some oil.

Check that you have coolant in the radiator. Check that the brakes feel firm when you apply the petal. When you turn the key do the warning lights show as normal? If all is a go, reinstall the spark plugs hook up the plug wires and crank the starter.

If it runs it will likely be rough for a few seconds. If it fires but won’t run. Wait a few seconds and crank it again. It should catch stronger as more cylinders fire and eventually run. Now that it is running does it smooth out, and in a minute or two will it settle into a normal idle. If yes, let it run and look carefully for leaks, coolant and oil leaks in particular.

After a few minutes the temp guage should be showing the motor warming up. Now it is time to engage the transmission. It may engage slowly at first. Put it in drive and give it a few seconds with your foot on the brake. Seem normal, let off the brake and the car should creep forward, if not give a bit of gas.

The brakes may be “frozen”. That is the pads are stuck on the rotors. Eventually you can rock the car in forward and reverse and the break the loose the pads from the rotor(s). Drive the car slowly in a safe area and test the brakes a few times before attempting to drive on the highway.

If all goes well take the car to a shop and get new trans fluid, brake fluid, coolant, oil change, and a safety check of your vehicle. The wipers need to be replaced, and new grease on the wheel bearings might be needed. Drive the car locally for a week or two keeping an eye on all your fluids to insure nothing is leaking. Eventually you can take longer trips as your confidence in the car’s reliabilty is restored.

Uncle Turbo did a very good list. I think I would plan on new tyres even if they look good, especially if they were not new in 2003.

I would also suggest taking a good look at any rubber parts. Vacuum hoses fuel lines etc.

You did not mention how old the car was when it was stored. If the car was five or six years old when you put it in storage, that would tend to increase the possibility of problems.

You did not say why kind of car and the model year, but if it has a timing belt, I would get it changed. If it is an interference engine, you really should have it towed to the shop to replace that belt (likely the water pump at the same time). If the belt breaks on an interference engine can total an engine and you are, at best, due for a new belt. They are replaced by time or miles whichever comes first.

7 years is beyond the protection of most gas stabilizers (2 years max for Stabil, according to the web site), so you may still have problems. If it won’t start, it may be bad gas, you’ll have to get it towed, drained, and flushed out. You might check around for a garage able to handle that, just in case.

Outside storage WHERE?? Lesson learned. You should have sold it in 2003…Good luck with this one…