how to prepare your vehicle for storage

Whether storing a car for winter, military deployment, a temporary job in Beijing, or a private retreat in Antarctica, there's some maintenance prep in order. Here are some invaluable vehicle storage tips to help make sure your car's ready to hit the road again as soon as you are.

1. decide where to store your car

Where you should store your car depends on a few factors, including how long it'll be in storage, your local climate, and whether someone will be around to check on it periodically. But it's important to note that if you leave your car outside covered in a tarp, moisture can still infiltrate every crevice of the car from its underside, which may cause vital components to rust.

So to protect your vehicle from the elements, always keep your car in your garage, a friend's garage, or a storage facility — especially if you're going to be gone for more than a month. Once you've found a suitable storage space, it's time to give your ride some lasting love so that it's in good running order while you're away.

2. top off all fluids

Leaving your car garaged with low fluid levels for an extended period increases the risk of corrosion. This is especially true for extreme temperature changes, during which evaporation and condensation can occur, causing issues later on. So make sure to top off all fluid levels, including fuel, anti-freeze, engine coolant, and windshield washer. Also, take a look at the brake fluid — if it has a brown color, then the fluid is likely old and needs to be flushed out, otherwise it could rust out the system.

Fill the gas tank

Remember to fill your gas all the way to the top. And if your car's going to be in storage for 6 months, consider using fuel stabilizer to prevent corrosion in your fuel lines.

Change the oil

If your engine uses standard oil (as opposed to top-grade synthetic oil), make sure to change it out before storing your car since old engine oil may contain contaminants that could harm the engine.

3. inflate the tires

To prevent flat spots on your tires, make sure they're properly inflated. Usually the driver's side doorjamb lists the correct tire pressure, denoted by "PSI" (pounds per square inch).

Sometimes flat-spotting is temporary but in more severe circumstances — especially in low temperatures or when a car sits for several months — it may be permanent, in which case the tires would need to be replaced.

For long-term storage (6 months or more), see if you can get a friend or relative to drive the car around every once in a while to prevent flat-spotting. If that's not possible, consider removing the wheels and mounting the car on a jack.

4. take care of the car battery

Car battery maintenance should be your next order of business. This is particularly vital during winter, as car batteries generally don't fare well in cold weather. You can either remove the battery and store it for safe keeping, or connect it to a battery tender, which typically has a float mode or automatic shutoff device to prevent overcharging. By keeping your car battery charged, there's a much better chance your car will start when it's time to hit the road again.

5. give your car a final detail

Cleaning both the interior and exterior is an effective way to prevent mold or mildew growth. Be sure to wash the car from top to bottom, and give it a top-quality wax job.

Once your ride's spic and span, cover it with a plastic waterproof sheet as an extra barrier against moisture, and to catch vehicle fluids that might stain the cement. Additionally, the sheeting will help deter rodents seeking refuge in your ride, which can cause significant (and expensive) damage.

6. leave the parking brake off

While this may seem counterintuitive, it's important that you leave the parking brake off for long-term car storage since brake pads may fuse with the rotors if they're in contact for too long. Make sure your car is parked on a flat surface, and for extra measure, employ blocks or tire stoppers to prevent the car from rolling.

7. manage your car insurance policy

It might be tempting to cancel your auto insurance policy while your vehicle's in storage. After all, you won't be driving it, so why should it be insured, right?

Not so fast. A lapse in coverage could lead to higher rates the next time you buy a car insurance policy. That's because insurers typically consider those without continuous coverage to be a higher financial risk — even if the car's in storage.

But as long as you're insured before you get behind the wheel again, you'll likely see any increased rates start to go back down after about 6 months (as long as you don't get into accidents, receive moving violations, or file a claim).

But by holding onto your auto insurance policy, there's a chance that what you save from not driving will outweigh a spike in rates later on. And considering you've taken maintenance precautions for your car while it's in storage, it's also a wise idea to furnish it with a financial safety net in the form of dependable, affordable car insurance in case life ever takes a turn for the worst.

Not yet an Esurance policyholder? Get your quick, free quote today and see how much you could be saving on car insurance that has your back when you need it most. Reach out to us anytime at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

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