- 3 Min Read
- By: Tim Wong
How To Store Your Car Outdoors
Like it or not, there will come a time that you just won’t be able to drive your car. Maybe it's because you need to put it away for the season, or that you need to take care of other projects before getting back to your toy. Nonetheless, if you need to park your car for long periods of time, you better make sure to put it away properly. Failure to do so may mean a ride with more problems than you last left it with.
Step 1: Buy a car cover and retention clips
Without a doubt, UV from the sun causes the most damage to plastics and paint. There are a multitude of car covers available from heavy-duty waterproof covers which can cost over $100 to cheaper covers for under $25. Some shopping and research will tell you that the more expensive covers will generally protect your car to a greater extent. I personally went with a cheaper cover as I didn’t expect to keep my car outdoors for long.
Also make sure you buy a cover retention kit. If you don’t, I can promise you that your cover will blow away. Ask me how I know.
Step 2: Wash, wax, detail, and take care of your car’s seals
You may think this step as unnecessary because you’re simply going to keep it under a cover for a while, but this is most certainly the most important step. If there’s dirt on your car when you put the cover on, you will come back to a car with a paint scratched as if a hundred cars thought your car was its scratching pole. Wax will both protect the paint and keep it as scratch-free as possible.
Use a good plastic conditioner and cover your plastic trim. There’s no better time to let the product soak into your plastic to revitalize it.
For your rubber seals, spray silicone spray on them to keep them soft and supple.
Step 3: Take care of rust spots and spray penetrating fluid on any potential bolts
WD-40, also known as the do-everything wonder spray, works best when used for its original task, keeping rust away. I don’t blame you if you thought WD-40 was simply a good lubricant, because that’s what most people use it for nowadays. However, the original purpose of WD-40 was to displace water and keep airplane frames rust free while in storage. Hence, the name, Water Displacement-40. Spray WD-40 around any spots that have rust and/or you believe may start to rust. Exposed bolts, and the underbody are great places for WD-40.
Also be sure to take advantage of your sitting car by spraying your favorite rust penetrant (WD-40 also works) onto any bolts that you plan on removing soon. As I am planning on doing my head gasket, I made sure to put some penetrant on the exhaust manifold studs.
Step 4: Disconnect your battery
Disconnect your battery and any accessories connected to it. Better yet, take your battery out and keep it on a battery maintainer, fresh for the next drive.
Step 5: Put your car up on jack stands and pump up your tires
Up next is ensuring that your tires don’t turn into odd shapes. If you let your car sit on its inflated tires for long periods of time, you’ll get flat spots. To prevent this, either remove your tires completely, and store them away, or simply lift your vehicle off the ground and keep the tires from touching. After storing your tires, or leaving them on the car, pump them up to 40 PSI to keep them nice and round, accounting for eventual loss of pressure over time.
Optional: If in doubt, remove your brake pads and rotors and store them inside. Brake rotors rust very quickly when not in use, and you may end up glazing them when you put your car back on the road. When you store them, spray some WD-40 on it to keep them fresh, but make sure you remember to clean them off before putting them back on the car!
Step 6: Remove your wipers and/or raise them off the windshield
It is best to remove your wipers completely if you plan on using them again, or just put a block of wood under the wiper arms, resting on the glass. I initially put them on blocks of wood, but decided on removing them entirely later.
Step 7: install your car cover
Install your car cover, covering one corner of your car and pulling it over to the opposite side. It is a little tricky, and is best done with two people, but one can do it with a bit of finesse. Just try not to let the inside of the cover touch the ground, or else it might pick up debris that may deposit itself onto your paint. Just of note, car covers are designed to fit one way. If it doesn’t sit right, you may have just installed it backwards.
Secure it with your retention clips, placing a bungee across your car, in front of the front wheels and behind the rear wheels. Again, it is very important you install these retention clips as your cover will almost surely blow off.
Step 8: Maintenance
Your car should be relatively maintenance-free if stored away. Check up on your car every couple weeks to make sure no rodents have make their nest in your engine compartment, or even worse, made their way into your car. Keep any debris off the cover of your car, and make sure the cover is never waterlogged or has pooling water.
If you’ve done this correctly, your car will just as fresh on your first drive as when you stored it away. As for me, I need to take care of a head gasket at a later date. I better not come back to a car full of Ratatouille.
Tim is a Canadian from Windsor, with a knack for taking things apart, and sometimes putting them back together. He is a mechanical engineer by day and backyard mechanic by night. His mantra in life is to never break another bolt.