Home Do It Yourself Back In The Drivers Seat: 10 Vehicle Checks After Storage

Back In The Drivers Seat: 10 Vehicle Checks After Storage

A red classic car that is coming out of long term vehicle storage.

10 Important Things to Check When You Bring Your Vehicle Out of Storage

If you own a vintage or sports car, chances are you’d like to drive every day. Unfortunately, for most t this isn’t possible. Subzero winter temperatures, poor road conditions, and more can find your vehicle sitting in the garage all winter long. 

To ensure your car’s exterior and interior areas aren’t battered by the elements, opting for long-term or short-term storage is recommended. This activity usually entails storing your car in a climate-controlled self-storage center or your garage. Depending on where you live, this means tucking your vehicle in for a long nap that might be months long.

Once storage season is over, it’s normal to excitedly run to your self-storage location or garage to see your vehicle after months of it being alone. Missing you!

However, turning on the engine and driving off into the distance can prove hazardous. Why? There’s a chance that several parts may have become rusty. Additionally, the risk of essential fluids leaking during storage months to dangerously low levels is also possible.

As such, it pays to double-check everything to ensure your car is in great working condition. If you don’t know what to check after bringing your car out of storage, we’ve drafted a quick checklist that’ll come in handy regardless of the vehicle category.


Let’s get started!

What Happens to Your Vehicle During Storage

A lot can happen to your automobile during long-term storage. Notable mentions include:

Battery Discharge

If your battery isn’t disconnected and kept charged at intervals, it’ll most likely get discharged. As such, restarting the vehicle will be a challenge. Depending on how long the vehicle has been sitting the battery may become damaged and possibly need to be replaced. Testing your battery is important to make sure it does not let you down during the driving season.

Deflated Tires

When your car tires are left sitting for several months, they lose pressure. This issue can cause flat spots or worse yet a flat tire that will reduce the overall lifespan of your vehicle tires. A quick stop at a gas station and you will be able to quickly top up the tires if you do not already have a air compressor. Make sure you take a tire pressure gauge with you to check your tire pressures.

Fuel System Failure

When your car engine hasn’t run for some time, the fuel can become stale. This scenario may see you in a position where your engine does not start. Modern ethanol fuels have a shelf life of only 30 days, make sure you use a good fuel stabilizer to protect your fuels condition. 

Rust and Corrosion

Most car parts are made of metal. When exposed to moisture during storage, rust and corrosion will occur. Most are familiar with the damage that rust can cause body panels, your internal engine parts are also susceptible to this type of damage if not protected properly.

Rodent Damage

A car’s engine bay is the perfect hideout for rodents and other household pests. Rats and insects present in a vehicle can wreak havoc on electrical wiring, interior upholstery, and other vital automobile accessories.

Brake Deterioration

Car brakes are likely to corrode when they aren’t used for an extended timeline. Corroded brakes are a safety hazard, causing life-threatening accidents because they aren’t powerful enough to stop a speeding automobile.

Engine Stalling

When you first start the vehicle after coming out of storage the engine may stall a few times. If this happens when you first start the engine, it is normal. However, if when driving the vehicle the engine stalling continues, you will need to figure out what is causing the issue. 

All of these issues are cause of valid concern. If you’ve stored your car for a lengthy timeline, ensure you check its crucial parts before driving it. That way, you can prevent hazardous issues.

10 Important Things You Must Check When Bringing Your Vehicle Out of Storage

Itching to get your car back on track or just for a long drive after a lengthy storage season? Well, this process can be challenging, especially as a newbie. But don’t worry; we’ve got your back! Here are 10 essential things you must check once your car leaves storage:

  1. Fluids

When checking fluids, the first thing to check is the engine oil. During storage, there’s a chance contaminants and water have built up in  the engine oil. I always recommend changing the oil and filter when the vehicle is brought out of storage. This will eliminate any possible damage occurring due to poor oil quality. 

Check other essential fluids under the hood to ensure they’re within recommended levels and aren’t dirty. That said, if you failed to add a fuel stabilizer before storing your vehicle, we recommend filling your tank up with fresh fuel. By doing this, you’ll be able to improve the fuel quality in the tank and avoid any issues due to poor fuel quality. 

  1. Engine Bay

As we’ve established, your car’s engine bay is a hiding spot for rodents and other insects during storage. Since rats and insects can cause untold damages to electrical wiring within the vehicle’s engine compartment, checking it out once you’ve gotten your automobile out of storage is non-negotiable.

Using a flashlight, scan the car’s underbody to scan for loose fittings and wires. We recommend tugging these wires to ensure all connections are tight across the board. Since humid temperatures can compromise your engine’s gasket and seals, inspect their integrity. If any of these parts are cracked or leaking, replace them immediately to avoid overheating or fluid leaks that could affect your engine’s functioning.

Another important area of the engine bay to consider is the air filter. There’s a possibility that this part got clogged thanks to pesky squirrels and mice after you kept your car stored for months. To ensure it’s in great working condition, remove the filter and clean the air filter box with a vacuum. If the air filter is dirty or damaged, purchase a new one. Your car’s air filter is important because it helps your engine breathe adequately, thereby improving performance. Therefore, making sure its top-tier functionality is 100% essential.

Cleaning engine spark plugs is also crucial to ensure your automobile is firing from all cylinders without issues. When cleaning the spark plugs, inspect their condition, if they need replaced make sure you do it now to prevent issues in the driving season. 

  1. Tires

If you stored your car before heading for that three-month family vacation, chances are the tires have lost pressure. Once you get it out of storage, check the tire pressure of all four tires. If low, consider topping them up via your home air compressor. Alternatively, take your vehicle to the nearest tire filling station for air pumps.

Besides tire pressure, you need to check tread wear and search for cracks and wear on each tire. You might need a flashlight to properly detect as some are very hard to find in low-light conditions.

NOTE: Modern-day vehicles integrate technologies that let you see your tire pressure via a digital display in your dash. Using this information, you can pump the appropriate amount of air into one or more tires without difficulties if you do not have a tire pressure gauge.

  1. Suspension Joints

Just before you hit the road, check your car’s suspension joints. These areas are crucial to comfort within the automobile’s interior. After extended storage times, inspect the rubber components in your suspension joints for cracks and splits. Ensure they’re soft to touch as hardened rubber is prone to cracks and can indicate old bushings.

Also take a closer look at the shocks to make sure leaks aren’t present. If they are, you might need to repair or replace them. 

  1. Battery

During storage, there’s a chance of severe battery discharge. It may also have corroded battery terminals from sitting for a long period of time. Cleaning corroded battery terminals is easy. For dirty and rusty posts, remove the connecting cables (negative first) and clean them using baking soda and a wire brush. 

Once you’ve done this, charge the battery and place it in a warm spot until you’re ready to hit the road! Test your own car battery if you think that it may be weak. It is best to replace it now if there is an issue, preventing future breakdowns. 

  1. Lights

Although lights don’t impact a car’s running, they’re vital from a safety standpoint. After storage, ensure all lights — blinkers, brake lights, fog lights, and headlights — are functional. If they aren’t, do yourself a solid by heading to an auto shop for expert repairs or replacement bulbs.

  1. Brakes

When you’re raring to hit the streets, make sure you check your vehicle’s brakes before tearing out of the parking lot. Once you start the automobile, give it some time to warm up. After a running timeline of five to 10 minutes, put it into gear. Remember, don’t rev the ENGINE!

Slowly release the brakes with the vehicle in gear. After gathering some momentum, press the brake pedal. Does the vehicle stop firmly? If so, drive at a higher speed and hit the brakes again to make sure to test the brakes before getting on a road. 

You might hear squealing sounds when you hit the brakes for the first time. Don’t worry; this is typically caused by rust built-up in the brake rotor. However, if these weird sounds don’t die down, it’ll be best to take a look at your brake rotors to see if they will need to be replaced.

  1. Air Conditioning System

Imagine driving in a hot climate and seeing beads form on your forehead despite your AC being at full blast. Although your air conditioning system might have been functional before storage, a blocked condenser can be a common problem. Again, caused by those pesky rodents building nests.

So, before you take your vehicle out of the garage or self-storage space, check the A/C condenser located just in front of the engine’s radiator. If you notice that it’s clogged with dirt, use a garden hose fitted with a high-pressure nozzle to clean its interior parts.

  1. Interior and Exterior

Life in storage means dirt buildup on your car’s exterior and interior area. Upon removal from the storage space it has been sitting in for the past three to six months, giving your vehicle a good wash is recommended. Well, you can’t go around in a dirty car — trust us, the looks you’ll get will make your stomach churn badly.

Check the seals and vents to ensure nothing is missing or damaged. Wash the exterior well — make deliberate efforts to clean the car’s underbody and other tough-to-reach nooks and crannies using a pressure washer. For the interior, apply a good interior dressing on featured upholstery and clean thoroughly with a microfiber cloth. 

  1.  Paperwork

Imagine having a jolly time driving around town after getting your car out of storage and hearing sirens behind. Intuitively, you slow down and park on the side of the road. Well, we applaud your respect for the law. 

But then, you realize your licensing papers have expired and you haven’t renewed them.

To avoid this scenario entirely, ensure you check your car papers after it’s been parked at a storage space for months. Make certain that everything’s up-to-date. If something’s amiss, get the necessary paperwork done before bringing your vehicle out of storage. It’s that simple!

Parting Shot

We’ve just taken you through the 10 most important things to check once you get your vehicle out of storage. Fulfilling every item on this checklist is essential to avoid possible breakdowns and substantial repair expenses. 

Have you utilized any of these tips before? Let us know in the comments.

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