Prep after long term indoor "managed" storage

Our family will be returning to the states this fall after nearly 4 years overseas and are concerned about picking up our car from long term storage. It?s a 2003 Honda Element w/low miles that has been in warehoused in government storage & in theory getting monthly mechanical checks and drives around the storage facility. I?m sure when we go pick it up we?ll get their opinion on ?what we should do? but I couldn?t hurt to ask for 2nd opinions in advance. The day we pick it up we must drive it home a couple of hundred miles so do you think we should change the oil, AT fluid, tires…or just drive through the nearest White Castle (I?m dying for some sliders) and hit the road?

Sincerely John

If it has indeed been managed as you say, head for the nearest White Castle and then cruise directly home sweet home. Your oil might have picked up some moisture condensation during this time but you will burn it all off in 10-20 miles. Check fluid levels and tire pressure before you leave, top up if necessary. And fill the tank with fresh gas as soon as you can. All additional maintenance can wait until after you unpack.

getting monthly mechanical checks and drives around the storage facility.

Not a very good storage philosophy IMO. Those short drives not allowing the engine to get up to full operating temperature would just lead to moisture build up and fuel in the oil.

Four years storage is a long time. I would want to drive it up to full operating temperature, like ten miles while staying close to service facilities. At that point an oil change would not be a bad idea. However before starting it I would wonder want one thing checked. Open the owner’s manual. Does this car have a interference type engine? If so what is the timing belt situation? Is it due for a new timing belt? Belts are changed by miles or time which ever comes first. That time clock did not stop when you stored it. If it has an interference engine and that belt breaks, not only does the engine stop all at once (not good on a freeway) but some very serious damage can be done to the engine. There is no way to check a timing belt, they just need to be replaced on schedule. I suspect that your belt is not past due if it has not been replaced already.

Check (or have someone check) the tyres for cracks, if you don’t see any they should be OK. AT fluid and oil change soon, but I would wait until you get home after the sliders.

Now for the real question. Assuming you knew you would be away for four years, why did you store that car rather than selling it. You would have saved the storage cost, insurance and depreciation on the car?

Good Luck

You’ll probably be OK to drive it home, but I wouldn’t push my luck. Four years in storage (“managed” or not) is not a good thing. If this were my vehicle I’d drive it home, park it in the front yard, and put a FOR SALE sign in the windshield.

Seriously, sell this thing before the trouble starts. Someone will gladly take a low-mileage Element off your hands for a reasonable price. Let it go. Go buy a newer Element or whatever suits your current needs. I would not try to keep this vehicle. Too many potential problems from long term lack of use. Sell it, trade it, whatever. Just get rid of it.

I hope the storage was free, and I hope someone put fuel stabilizer in the gas tank.

Good Luck.

Storage was paid for & insured by my employer and at the time selling it was not an option because I owed more than it was worth. Good tip on selling/trading it in; we?ll certainly we’ll look into it.

Thanks for the advice.

If you don’t have to buy AT LEAST a new battery, you’ll be very lucky. It is now a five year old battery, unless the original failed in the first year.

Enjoy your sliders.