How to Store Your Car Temporarily

From flat tires to rodent infestations, there's more than one hazard to avoid.

Ronan Glon | 
Jun 2, 2023 | 3 min read

Car under cover parked next to stone wallShutterstock

Your car is designed to be driven, but there are plenty of reasons you might need to keep it off the road, ranging from winter storage to a long trip abroad. Here are some of the steps you should follow when temporarily storing a car.

Find a Suitable Location

One of the first things to consider when contemplating temporary car storage is where that storage is taking place. Ideally, you'll want to park your car indoors so that it's in a dry environment, out of the elements, and not in direct sunlight. If that's not possible, however, consider a spot outside and try to park the car on a surface that isn't just bare dirt — a layer of plywood and plastic sheeting, for example, or on stone or concrete. Also keep ambient moisture and light in mind: If the car is exposed to too much humidity, it could lead to rust, while too much sunlight could damage the paint and interior. Avoid parking the car under a tree, where sap, leaves, or branches could fall on it. Protect it with a breathable cover that allows moisture to evaporate, and be sure to secure the cover so it doesn't get blown away.

Keep It Clean

Whether you're storing your car indoors or outside, it's a good idea to clean it thoroughly beforehand. Dust, grime, and other debris that accumulates while you drive can cause cosmetic problems inside and out over time. Consider pressure-washing the vehicle's underbody components to get rid of mud or road salt. Then let the car dry fully before you put it in storage.

Dormant cars can be attractive sources of food and warmth for rodents and other critters, regardless of where those cars are stored. Mothballs placed around the engine bay can help keep rodents out of the engine area, where they could chew on wires. Close the windows, even if you're storing your car indoors, and shut all air vents to help prevent animals from accessing the car's interior.

Preparing the Drivetrain

If possible, park your car in a way that leaves the engine area easily accessible. You'll thank yourself later if you need to make last-minute repairs before taking the car out for a spin. If your garage space is tight, think about acquiring a set of wheel dollies, which can allow you to push your car around as needed.

Once you've found a good spot to store your vehicle, disconnect the battery, remove it from the car, and put it on a clean, dry surface.

Filling the fuel tank can help keep rust-causing air and moisture at bay if you drive an older car with a metal fuel tank (many modern cars use plastic fuel tanks). If you're not going to start the car for more than a month, consider using fuel stabilizer to prolong the gasoline's life. Gas can go bad in a matter of months or even weeks, depending on the age of the fuel when you put it into your vehicle.

If you live in an area where the temperature drops below freezing, make sure the cooling system is filled with antifreeze instead of water, which can cause expensive damage if it freezes and expands. The same goes for windshield-washer fluid: empty the reservoir and fill it with washer fluid designed to not freeze. Experts also recommend increasing the tire pressure slightly to prevent flat spots if your car will spend several months stationary.

The Paperwork

Call your insurance company before storing a car. Some companies offer cheaper plans for garage-only vehicles.

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Edited by humans.

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Ronan Glon

Ronan Glon is an American journalist and automotive historian based in France. He enjoys working on old cars and spending time outdoors seeking out his next project car.