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Tech Talk #3:
Storing Your Car
Date: Oct 22, 2007
SBR SCCA Blog
#3: Storing Your Car
By Adam Lewis
I’ve been asked several times why I haven’t written anymore articles,
and the answer is very straight forward. I couldn’t think of anything
else. Many people wanted to know about different modifications that
could be done to their cars, which parts are better than others, driving
techniques, ect ect. All of these are fine subjects to talk and debate
about, but in the end I’m not the one to tell you what you should and
should not do in these areas. Each autocross driver is as unique as
their car and driving style, and one of the fun parts about this sport
is figuring out what works for you… not what works for me or the other
guy. Agreeably there are things such as tires that will help improve
your times, but I’m not about to recommend one brand over another. I’m
still trying to figure that much out for myself.
Before I go into this article further, I would just like to
congratulate all of you on a great season! The people of the South Bend
region make it totally worth dragging my rear end out of bed early on a
Sunday. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank once more a
few South Bend Region members who graciously allowed me the use of their
driver’s seats, while I have spent the season trying to beat the idea
into my saturn that plastic can in fact go fast, and not just keep food
fresh. Pat Ohmann, and the entire Ohmann tribe… The Buzz bomb is always
a blast to drive. I can’t get over how much fun that car is. Stan
Jones, that Miata of yours is tangible insanity. I had adrenaline
shakes just getting in it. Gary Burton, that mustang of yours did
everything I wanted it to do, even when I didn’t know I wanted it to do
it at the time. These cars are a true testament to their owners; great
cars built by great people. Thank you so much for sharing the
experience with me.
On to this issue; putting your car away for the winter. While many
of us drive our toys in the winter, due to necessity or desire, many of
us also put them away for a winter slumber. This article is for those
who store their cars.
There are two ways to store a vehicle. The first is by far the
easiest. Simply parking the car and going out to start it once or twice
a week. This method works, and I used to do it myself, but there are
still a few things to keep in mind.
- Keep it in a garage or storage building to at least keep it
protected from the elements and critters. If this isn’t an option,
a good quality car cover is better than nothing. You should consider
using a DuPont Tyvek or Evolution-3 type weatherproof cover to
protect against the elements.
- Make sure the area is well ventilated when you are starting the
car. CO2 can build up quickly.
- Run for a minimum of 20 minutes to allow the engine to come up
to normal operating temperature. This will allow the oil to
circulate and will also open up the thermostat so that your radiator
antifreeze circulates as well.
- Crank up the air conditioner and/or heater and run them for 10
minutes or so. Again, circulating fluids is what this is all about.
- If your vehicle has power steering, you may want to turn the
wheels a few times to keep the fluids flowing.
The biggest drawback to doing it this way, in my opinion, is the fact
that you have to go out in the cold and do this stuff. I don’t “do”
cold too well. Also, it’s a well known fact that starting your car is
rough on the engine, starting it in the cold is even worse. Why punish
it more than need be?
Here’s a more involved but better option to storing your vehicle.
This option better protects your vehicle, and allows you peace of mind
that your investment is well protected.
GAS AND OIL
Change the oil and filter so that no contaminants are left behind. Add
fuel stabilizer to your gas prior to filling the tank so that it mixes
well. Run the engine long enough so that the stabilized gas makes it
through the entire fuel system. Topping up your tank will help to
prevent corrosion and adding a stabilizer will make sure your gas
remains gas and doesn’t turn into gunk.
Now is the time to clean the interior thoroughly. Clean the glass,
shampoo the carpets, dig in between the seats to see what’s there, clean
the upholstery, and get into all the nooks and crannies you’ve wanted to
get at all year. Why? Well, there’s no time like the present to get rid
of a season’s worth of dirt, and besides, when spring comes along, you
want to be able to drive your car, not scrub it.
Make sure everything is spotless and when you’re done, put in some
cedar (chips or boards) and silica gel to absorb any excess moisture. I
wouldn’t recommend using mothballs since the smell can be hard to get
rid of. A good source of silica gel is as close as your nearest
department or grocery store. It’s called kitty litter. There are a few
companies selling it as the latest and greatest thing for your cat.
While it does work great in Fluffy’s litter box, it also works great at
absorbing excess moisture in your car.
Gas and oil have already been covered, but there’s still work
to be done under the hood. Degreasing and cleaning the engine is a good
idea so that you can see if there are any leaks that require
maintenance. Check all hoses and wires to make sure everything is in
good condition and replace any that need to be. The last thing to do is
to make sure the internal components of the engine remain lubricated and
don’t corrode. There are a number of engine storage products that are
designed to keep moisture and corrosion out while your engine is parked
for an extended period. Some of these are known as “fogging” sprays,
hence the term “fog it and forget it.” I believe this stuff is mainly
used for storing marine outboard motors, but it won’t hurt a normal
Another alternative is plain old engine oil. Simply remove the spark
plugs and add approximately one (1) ounce of engine oil to each
cylinder. The engine should be rotated, BUT NOT STARTED just after
adding the oil to the cylinders. The purpose of this step is to coat the
cylinder bore to protect against rust formation during storage.
Starting the engine will just blow out all of that oil.
Also, one of the biggest problems with long-term automotive storage
is rodents, vermin, critters, and varmints. Depending on how secure the
facility is that you store your car in, one fact remains…. it’s a source
of protection from the elements for both your car and those furry little
critters. Most owners don’t realize it, but certain brands of spark plug
wires can become a meal for mice. Some brands consist of a silicone
inner jacket that surrounds the carbon suppression core. The silicone
inner jacket is then surrounded by a vegetable oil based insulating
outer shell which mice find particularly appetizing. To help prevent
them from making a meal out of your car’s ignition system, place some
mothballs in and around the engine compartment, but remember to remove
them before starting up the car!
Remove the battery so that you can clean the battery tray and
connections to remove any acid or build up that may have accumulated.
Your battery should be stored some place relatively warm (not hot) and
away from kids, animals, and sources of heat or sparks. I’ve heard that
storing a battery on a concrete floor will cause it to go bad quicker.
I don’t know if there is merit to this or not, but keeping it on a block
of wood couldn’t hurt.
SEAL ANY OPENINGS
Seal up the exhaust tips to prevent any corrosion inside the
system, but more importantly, to keep varmints out. Make sure all
windows, vents, and any other openings that may exist are closed. You
don’t want your vehicle to become a winter home to unwanted pests so
seal everything up and periodically check under, in, and around your car
to make sure nothing has found a new winter home. The only thing worse
than finding a critter in your car, is finding him after he’s been in
there for a few months.
If your car is a convertible, store it with the top up. A
folded top can dry out and crack over the winter. Keeping the top up
also provides one less method of entry for unwanted critters. Be sure to
clean and condition the top prior to storage to prevent it from drying
GETTING OFF THE GROUND
The purpose of blocking up your car is to prevent flat spotting
of your tires and to take some of the strain off of the suspension.
Whether you put blocks under your car or not is up to you, but if you
do, make sure the blocks are under the frame and not the springs. Use
something solid and stable, like axle stands, to support your car. This
will help to prevent unfortunate accidents while your car is stored and
when your getting ready to bring it out again. Finally, don’t forget
about your car. Go visit it once in a while, bring it flowers, read it
a story….just keep reminding it that it’s special to you.
Well, I think I’ve covered all the bases for this particular article.
Once again, if you feel I am in error, omitted something important, or
wish to share your mega millions lotto winning with me, my e-mail is
always available to you. I thank you for reading, and leave you with a
suggested quote by the late Carroll Smith.
“I am fully aware that much of what I have to say in this book is
subjective. I wish that my knowledge and wisdom were such that this
were not so. Many readers are going to disagree with my
interpretations, conclusions and recommendations. I offer no
apology. In each case I will put forth my personal best shot on the
subject at the time of writing. I reserve my right to change my
thinking at any time. ”
South Bend Region SCCA Chief Tech Inspector
(Note from the author: This article is intended as a helpful
guide, and nothing more. Every precaution should be taken concerning
safety when performing any of the above tasks. If you are unsure about
performing any of the above tasks, it is advised you seek the assistance
of a professional. The “Author”, “The South Bend Region SCCA” or the
“SCCA” CANNOT be held liable for any person(s) injured while performing
these tasks, or be held liable for any damage to any vehicle(s) directly
or indirectly resulting from the advice in this article.)