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Storing a car for a year?

I’m going to be taking a one-year job in Japan, which means I’ll be leaving my car untouched for that period of time. To save money, I’m going to cancel my insurance. Because I live in Virginia, that also means I have to cancel my registration (or pay a $500 uninsured motorist fee).

I do have family members who could drive it around, but is it enough to just drive it on our street once a week? Because it won’t be registered or insured, it’ll be staying out of sight in the garage. Is it enough to only take it out for a few minutes a week? I wouldn’t want it to leave the subdivision.

So I’m thinking of mothballing my car. What is the best way to go about this? I am not sure how to get it up on blocks, so I’m thinking I’ll just leave that be and then buy new tires when I get back. But what’s the best procedure for dealing with an unused car for a year?


The first thing that should be done is add the proper amount of fuel stabilizer to the gas tank and fill the tank. The next is to disconnect/remove the battery and it store it in a cool dry place. If you don’t have a way to maintain a charge to the battery, and depending on how old it is, it may require replacement when the vehicle is put back into service. If there are critters in the area where the vehicle will be stored, take stainless steel pot scrubbers (scrim) and stuff some up the tail pipe and some in the air intake before the air filter. Not only will this prevent critters from getting inside the engine, but it also allows condensation to escape from the engine as it’s stored.

That’s about all I’d do for a vehicle in long term parking for a year.


And I’d go with a double dose of Stabil, they say that’s preferred for the one year period. And if I had an outlet available, I would use a battery tender with the battery in the car, various setting go away with the battery out. They can be reset, but I’d avoid it. Is your storage area critter-free? I might seal up the air intake and the exhaust pipe it there might be a problem.

All sounds like good advice.

I’d also be worried about the tires. If you put the car on jack stands (or cinderblocks, if you’re cheap) so the tires are a few inches off the floor, the weight isn’t resting on the same little patches of tire for an entire year.

As for the battery, the easiest thing may be indeed to disconnect it and hope for the best. I would put it in a plastic tub of some sort, so that if it leaks, the acid doesn’t drip onto whatever’s underneath. (In labs, they call this secondary containment.) Another option is to hook it up to a trickle charger. My dad does that with the lawnmower battery in winter, to avoid having to replace the damn thing every year. The comparative price of the trickle charger and a new battery really depend on what sort of battery your car takes.

Storing a car for a year is no big deal. Do not disconnect the battery, put a battery tender on it or just have someone start it once a month and let it run for 10-15 mins. I have a dump truck that sits for a year or more at time. I just put gas in it and jump start it and away we go. My Jeep has been left in the garage for 7 months and it started up just fine. Same gas that was in it when I left. Did not need a jump or charge. It does have a gal cell battery though. My farmer friends leave tractors set for months all the time gas and diesel. Most need a jump but they run just fine. I would raise the car as it can flat spot the tires or if one goes flat,it can damage the tire.

Oldbodyman has the right idea. One year of sitting idle is no big deal. I recently restarted a car that sat idle for 2+ years, no special treatment. I had to use a borrowed battery but it started up and ran fine on 2-year-old gas (bought for under $2/gal). All I had to do was add air to the tires and wash off the layers of dust.

You can either disconnect the battery or use a battery tender. Or you can have someone start it once a month like he said, No need to use additives to the gas, but they won’t hurt. Same with the steel wool; can’t hurt.

I would not cancel the insurance - talk to the insurance company and see what they recommend for coverage if the car is to be stored. What if the car is damaged in storage (fire in the garage, tree falls on it or it is vandalized)? Alternatively, you could try your other option. Before we were married, my husband went on a 10-month deployment and I took care of his car while he was away. I drove it periodically and made sure maintenance was taken care of as needed. This arrangement worked well for us. So if you have trusted family members and they can add your car to their poicy, that might be a possibility.

I’ve checked with the insurance company - they do have an “other than collision” policy, so I may be using that, but I won’t be maintaining regular insurance, because I can’t afford to! Not maintaining regular insurance results in having to de-register the car - thanks, Virginia.

The steel wool, sure, I’ll do that. It’s highly unlikely any critters would make it in there while it’s in my garage; we don’t really have critters - but it seems easy to do and would result in added peace of mind.

Hmm…looks like a battery tender runs about $50 and a new battery runs about $90 (last time I had it replaced anyway). I gotta admit that just like I don’t know how to put a car up on blocks, I don’t know how to use a battery tender. But I’m game to learn either, if it’ll save me money when I get back! (Japan is…expensive.)

Thanks for the advice, everybody!

I use these battery chargers on my lawn mowers and motorcycle during the winter months. Just plug it in and leave it, it will do the rest.

You could also buy a couple sets of jack stands to put under the car to get the wheels/tires off the ground.

Discontinuing insurance does lead to one potential issue.

Insurance companies do check into why someone did not have continuous insurance and raise rates accordingly. They consider it a higher risk. I assume if you discontinue then enable with same insurer it may avoid this spike.

Ask insurance once again. Also NEVER lapse your policy by simply ignoring it. Put it into writing to them you want to stop it even if about to run out. I know these things as I was an IT contract developer for a major auto insurance company.

Insurance companies do check into why someone did not have continuous insurance and raise rates accordingly. They consider it a higher risk.

Happened to my brother-in-law who is a retired Chryco exec. For over 20 years he had cars leased for him by Chryco (one of his perks). This included all service and insurance. Well, when he retired, he needed to buy a new car and get insurance…Because he hadn’t had his own insurance in the past 20 years he was put in the high-risk pool and was paying triple what anyone else his age and driving record paid.

"I'd also be worried about the tires. If you put the car on jack stands (or cinderblocks, if you're cheap) so the tires are a few inches off the floor, the weight isn't resting on the same little patches of tire for an entire year."  

That will not do any damage, assuming the jack does not slip, but it also is not needed with today's tyres.  Any flat spots if any, will be gone in just a few miles.

As for the time you will not be driving it, make sure you continue your insurance.  You will not need full coverage, but you do want to have theft, fire etc. covered.

Depending on the car, the engine computer may have “learned” how you drive, and made adjustments for best performance. You lose those if you disconnect the battery. There are reports on the internet and elsewhere in this forum of other problems caused by disconnected batteries. I would go with the tender.

I would definitely add fuel stabilizer. E10 (gasoline with 10% ethanol, which is the only kind available these days) is more prone to breakdown and separation than pure gasoline.

And I would definitely maintain some kind of insurance coverage against theft, vandalism, and other non-driving losses.

I wouldn’t suggest putting a car on cinder blocks, because the blocks can weaken from the weight over a long period of time possibly allowing the car to fall onto anyone that might be near it. I certainly wouldn’t use them if I had small children that might be near the car. I just read of someone getting killed a few days ago because they were working underneath a car that was on blocks and the blocks gave way. A couple sets of jack stands could be bought for well under $100. and would be much safer.