Car Not Being Used: How To Keep Your Ride Ready To Hit The Road
Whether it’s a military deployment, a change in your commute, maternity leave, or a public health emergency, you could be forced to put your car on ice for an extended period of time. No matter WHY your transportation pattern is changing, you can take steps to control how ready your ride is to hit the road on a moment’s notice.
Follow these steps to ensure your car is in the same shape (or better!) than when you put it away.
Fill Gas Tank & Use A Fuel Stabilizer
Emptying out your gas tank is nearly impossible, and potentially unsafe. Instead, it’s a good idea to fill your tank and use a fuel stabilizer, like STA-BIL 360°® Protection.
Before you fill up, pour one ounce of STA-BIL 360°® Protection into your fuel tank for every five gallons of fuel you’re going to fill it with. Expect to use three-to-five ounces depending on how large your tank is.
It’s important to use a fuel stabilizer because gas can go bad in as little as 30 days. Mike Profetto, Vice President of Product Engineering at Gold Eagle Company, the makers of STA-BIL® says “gasoline is a living, breathing chemical that will react with the oxygen in the air to form gums, varnishes and evaporate spark-inducing light ends.” He adds, “Larger car or truck engines are more forgiving to these issues but can pose the same issues described. Small gasoline engines can have severe engine issues with the gums and varnishes that form such as: will not start, engine surging, sticky fuel bowls stopping fuel flow and other problems.”
If you don’t know how long your car is going to sit and do not use a fuel stabilizer, there’s a chance you will have to remove and clean, or even replace, your fuel tank, pump, lines, and injectors. STA-BIL 360°® Protection fights corrosion and will keep your gas fresh for up to 12 months, helping you avoid the headache of untimely maintenance right when you’re ready to get back behind the wheel.
If you know your car is going to be stored for longer than 12 months, consider using STA-BIL® Storage. It can keep fuel fresh for up to two years. One ounce of STA-BIL® Storage treats two-and-a-half gallons of fuel.
Profetto says, “STA-BIL® Storage is formulated for fuel used in: vehicles, trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, weed whippers, etc.” When any of those vehicles or pieces of equipment are going to be stored for a year or more, Profetto adds, “the Storage product is formulated slightly differently to provide additional corrosion protection in the fuel bowls of older vehicle and small equipment carburetors.”
Check Tire Pressure
While you’re at the gas station, check your tire pressure. The air inside your tire can expand or deflate based on temperature fluctuations throughout the year.
Once next to the air station, pick one tire to start with. Look for the PSI label written on the side of the tire. It will follow the combination of letters and numbers that represent the brand and model. Inside a parenthesis will be the tire pressure range required to drive safely. An example range is 30-45 PSI.
Now, remove the small air cap and pull the air hose close over the stem opening. There will be a pressure gauge at the point where the hose will press on the stem. Press the hose firmly over the stem for a couple seconds and you’ll see the gauge react and extend a bar that shows the pressure level. The point where the bar stops is the PSI level of the tire. If your tire is already inside the recommended level, you do not have to fill with air. If it is low, fill to the recommended range.
If the gas station air machine does not have a gauge, you’ll have to buy a tire gauge before filling up with air to make sure you do not overfill your tire.
Keeping the recommended PSI makes sure your tires don’t go flat while your car sits and waits for you to come back. It also ensures your tires do not develop flat spots, which would then cause you to have to replace them. Overinflating can also reduce traction, cause uneven tire wear once you return to the road, or even increase the chances for a full-on tire blowout.
Change The Oil
Whether you do it yourself or run it through your neighborhood oil change shop, making sure you have fresh oil in your ride for any storage beyond 30 days is highly recommended. The contaminants in used engine oil could potentially damage your engine when you start it up again. Changing your oil before storage ensures you’ll be good to go!
Top Off Fluids
Now is also the time to top off your fluids. If you took your car into a service station to get an oil change, chances are the technician topped off your fluids for you.
If you changed your oil yourself, make sure to check the levels of:
- Brake Fluid
- Power Steering Fluid
- Transmission Fluid
- Windshield Washer Fluid
Review your vehicle’s manual to locate each of the storage containers.
If you believe you have a leak in your Power Steering, Transmission, Engine Oil, or Gear Oil, consider using No Leak® All In One Stop Leak. This product seals leaks, repairs main seals & o-rings, and stops hard starting.
Wash & Protect Exterior
It may seem like a waste of time to wash your car when you’re putting it away but cleaning your ride can keep it looking like the day you put it away. Removing external debris like bugs, bird droppings, dirt, and water stains stops them from damaging your paint while your car sits.
Once your car is clean, we recommend claying your car with a product like the 303® Clay Mitt. Claying the car will take off any contaminants that have caked on to the clear coat that washing won’t take care of.
After washing and claying your car, make sure to protect it.
You can use a hand-applied Carnauba-based wax like 303® Show Car Wax, or 303® Touchless Sealant which uses SiO2 technology to act as a shield against water, dirt, and grime from embedding onto the paint.
Also consider using a UV protectant, especially if your car is going to be sitting outside during this extended break. 303® Protectant prevents UV rays from causing fading and cracking in any rubber, plastic, or vinyl surfaces. You should use on trim, tonneau covers, even windshield washer blades, as well as the rubber and plastic components in your engine compartment.
Clean & Protect Interior
Same concept applies to your interior. Vacuum the floor and between the seats, then use a product like 303® Interior Cleaner for seats, consoles, even LCD screens. Once your interior is clean, break out that 303® Protectant again and use it on your dashboard, especially if your car is going to sit outside. The sun’s rays can cause fading and cracking pretty easily if it’s going to sit for an extended period of time.
Pro Tip: Before you shut the doors and lock it up, make sure you close all the vents and windows to keep any critters from turning your car into their new home.
Your car’s battery can be drained pretty easily while it sits idle. The electronics inside, like its computer and clock, constantly draw current from the battery. Consider hooking up what’s known as a trickle charger. Profetto explains why, “A battery maintainer generates a trickle charge of current such as: 1.5, 3.0, 6.0 and higher amps that, when connected correctly to the battery, provide a constant regeneration of the battery power. This constant recharging will protect the battery and allow the vehicle to be started when needed.”
The STA-BIL® Battery Maintainer automatically detects the voltage in your battery and recharges it when it goes down. If you’re storing your car in a garage, connect the Battery Maintainer to its battery terminals and plug it in to your nearest outlet.
Use Waterproof Cover
The last step is to make sure you don’t waste all your hard work. Use a waterproof cover that breathes to shield your car from the elements. A tarp sounds like a good idea, but the material can actually scratch your paint. It also traps heat which can harm your interior and trim. Here’s a list from Consumer Reports of some of the top brands to consider.
Start Engine Once Every Two Weeks
Once you have shelved your car in a garage, driveway, or spot on the street, it’s important to continue to turn that ignition and run the engine periodically. Whether it’s you, a friend, or family member, try to make sure your car is started and lightly driven for 10-15 minutes at least once every two weeks. You can go up and down your driveway, around the block, or just let it idle outside for a few minutes.
Profetto goes in-depth to explain why, “It is important to start the engine every few weeks for several reasons including: 1. Circulate the oil throughout the engine to make sure an oil film coats all the internal surfaces to prevent any flash rusting; 2. Circulate gasoline throughout the fuel system to make sure any small openings in the fuel injectors receive fuel and flush out any particles and pumps and valves are operating correctly; 3. Circulate the coolant throughout the cooling system to prevent any particles from settling out of the coolant and creating a plugging condition; and 4. Recharge the battery through the alternator, the car computer and other electronics in the vehicle use considerable power if the car is not running.”