Storing Your Pride And Joy

Disuse is the enemy of all automobiles. In truth, a car driven a thousand miles a week doesn’t need as much maintenance and frequently will require fewer repairs than the car that’s only driven a couple thousand miles in an entire year. On newer cars, seals and gaskets are not the major problem. Modem technology has given us sealing components capable of withstanding long periods of disuse with little or no adverse effects.

The really insidious damage to an engine, be it new, old, or in-between, stems from fluids contaminated by acid and moisture. Controlling acids in the crankcase is easy to do. It amounts to nothing more than changing the oil immediately prior to storage. However, there is a rule which states that engine operation should be limited to a maximum of 15 (fifteen) minutes after the oil change. Running the engine for more than that negates the benefits. Running an engine even for short periods of time will cause minor to major oil contamination from combustion by-products.

The combustion of fuel and air in the cylinders of any engine is relatively inefficient. It leaves carbon, unburned fuel, moisture, and a host of other unfriendly things, which contaminate the oil. In day to day operation those by-products are dissipated through engine heat and evaporation. But, during long-term disuse contaminated oil will remain between the crankshaft and the crankshaft bearings, and the camshaft and the camshaft bearings, etc. Because some of the contaminates will be acidic and because bearing material is very soft, bearing etching is probable. This does not lead to immediate or catastrophic failure, but rather to shortened engine life.

Oil contamination is certainly a problem, but the really bad actor is . . . water. Not just water in the oil either, but water that forms in the cylinders as a result of condensation. As temperatures fluctuate from night to day, the cylinder walls sweat. The resulting moisture trickles down the cylinders to the lower sides of the pistons. Left untreated, condensation causes pitted cylinder walls, and corroded pistons and piston rings, a potentially deadly condition.

Your assignment, should you decide to take it, is to control moisture, control acid, and control corrosion. If the vehicle is going to be stored more than 30 days, in anything less than a temperature controlled garage, you should follow a rigid storage procedure:

Wash your car in detail. Be particularly careful to remove all dirt and other foreign material from under the car, from behind moldings, and especially around the front and rear windshields.

Every interior surface should also be cleaned exceptionally well. Vacuum not only the carpeting and seats, but under the seats and mats. Remove the rear seat cushion and clean this area. All surfaces, door panels, dash, steering wheel, kick panels, etc., should be dust-free and protected with an appropriate chemical.

Apply a heavy coat of high quality wax to the exterior.

Using silicone, spray all rubber items, including bushings and hangers under the car. All weather-stripping should be treated with silicone and don’t forget the weather-strip under the trunk lid.

Spray hinges and latches with white lithium grease. Remember the trunk and hood hinges and their latches.

Test the pH level and visual clarity of the cars’ anti-freeze. The pH should be around 10. If it’s 11 or above, corrosion will occur because the coolant is too alkaline. If the pH is 9 or below, corrosion will occur from the coolant being too acidic. Either way, you lose! The ideal is to flush the cooling system and install fresh anti-freeze of the proper type and quantity. Add a coolant additive to prevent corrosion.

With the engine thoroughly warmed, change the engine oil and oil filter, using oil of the recommended quality and viscosity.
Unless it’s been done in the last 6 to 9 months, flush the brake system, using fresh DOT 4 Brake Fluid from an unsealed container. If the vehicle has a hydraulic clutch, flush this system using appropriate fluid (usually brake fluid).

Change transmission fluid and filter in an automatic transmission, unless it’s been done in the last year.

Here’s the really critical part. Disable the ignition system so no high voltage can be generated. Remove the spark plugs from the cooled engine; spray about two tablespoons of Liquid Wrench or similar product through the spark plug holes. Once that’s done, crank the engine for 15 seconds, the ignition system is still disconnected.

Now it’s time to inject about two (2) tablespoons of engine oil into each cylinder and once more crank the engine for 10 to 15 seconds. This helps reduce the possibility of moisture forming and it keeps any moisture that does form, from attacking the metal. The spark plugs and spark plug wires can be reinstalled once all this is done, but DO NOT start/run the engine as this will undo all the protection you’ve just provided.

Also I forgot to mention the fuel tank should be full, and the fuel in the tank should be treated with a stabilizer such as Stor-N-Start. Run the car for 10 to 15 minutes so the stabilized fuel will be dispersed throughout the fuel system to prevent gasoline breakdown. Stor-N-Start is available at farm supply stores, and at RV and marine supply outlets.

The friendliest way to treat tires and suspension parts is to place the car in its temporary place, adjust tire pressure to the recommended inflation, and jack the car up. Next, support the car with jack stands placed as close to the inside of each tire as possible. Proper positioning of the jack stands is crucial because the springs must be pre-loaded, not hanging free. It isn’t unusual for spring rates to change when stored for long periods of time without a pre-load.

Best battery life requires that you disconnect the battery and install a 100%-fully-automatic-total-shut-off trickle charger.
A high quality, breathable car cover is essential. If the car is stored indoors there must be no electric motors or other electrical devices that produce ozone. Ozone causes rapid deterioration of rubber items.

And don’t forget your vehicle’s fuzzy neighbors; squirrels, mice, rats, and even an occasional cat. Field mice for instance are extremely classy critters. They love to build a nest in the wire harness or in the front seat of a Corvette. Guess that shows it isn’t just large mammals who appreciate the finer things in the automotive kingdom.

If you’re looking for car covers or a complete enclosure for weather protection or for rodent control, contact:

B & W, Inc.
PO Box 106
Hunt Valley, MN 56219
320-695-2891 FAX

‘Mid-America Designs’ also offers covers and enclosures, 800-500-VETT.

Tell the Customer Service Rep, at B & W or Mid America, I said Hello.

The possible consequences of not following storage procedures could be horrific.


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