How Often Should You Start Your Car In Storage?

Car enthusiasts typically have a limited window in which they can enjoy their prized rides throughout the year. If you reside in a hemisphere with winter weather, it might force you to take additional measures to protect your wheels. Storing an antique car or any vehicle during the winter offseason is a common practice that will help keep your car in mint condition. But, should you start the vehicle while it is stored? We’ve looked to the opinions of knowledgable automotive enthusiasts and experts alike to get the answer for you.

Most experts believe that you don’t have to start your car when it’s in storage. However, some experienced owners say they’ve managed to keep the car operational for longer when making sure to start it once a month. The final decision may depend on storage condition and how you prepared the vehicle for storage. With winterized vehicles, it’s best not to start the car at all.

To help better understand why starting or not starting, your car can be detrimental to its return to the road after storage, keep reading, and we’ll delve right into these two theories. We’ll also discuss how to prepare your car for long-term storage adequately, talk about issues to look for if improper care is taken, and add a final note on how to ensure your vehicle stays at its best.

A small car in a storage unit, How Often Should You Start Your Car In Storage?

Automotive Quandary; How Often To Start Your Car During Storage

Owners may find themselves asking this question as they prepare their cars for seasonal or long-term storage. But, among enthusiasts and experts, just how often should you return to the storage facility to start your vehicle? There are two frames of thought on this topic; whether to start the car or not at all. Let’s take a look a the main points from each opinion.

Start The Stored Car Semi-frequently

Those agreeing with the “to start” frame of mind believe that periodically idling their vehicle improves the odds of components working smoothly when the car is recalled from storage. While more anxious owners swear by the effectiveness of a once per week startup, the majority of those who subscribe to the “startup in storage” philosophy only do so once every two to three weeks or once monthly. 

In theory, running your vehicle more frequently will ensure that vital engine lines and relevant component connections are being lubricated and maintained in the most efficient manner possible. The thinking is that frequent operation of your vehicle, your battery will be more appropriately tasked, resulting in more active and quality recharge times and allowing for essential functions to be carried out within the battery’s cells and electrical conduits.

Unfortunately for those who practice this methodology, not all idling is created equally, and not all startup practices will result in the same outcome. Infrequent idling alone will not drastically improve battery life. Car batteries require a regular and significant strain to operate up to the standard industry expectations.

Battery life aside, if you ultimately decide to start your car in storage, you absolutely must allow it to run long enough to bring the engine and vehicle up to normal operating temperature. Running duration should last approximately 15 minutes or longer, depending on the surrounding weather conditions. By not doing so, vapors and condensation that typically evaporate during operation may develop in the lines and ultimately result in corrosion from the inside out. In simplest terms, the theory hinges on the idea that regular maintenance is ultimately better for performance than none.

Start The Stored Car Rarely, Or Not At All

The prevailing opinion is that once your car is stored, there should be no interaction whatsoever. Not starting makes sense when considering all the precautions taken to prepare the vehicle leading up to storage, more to come about that momentarily. Those asserting this frame of mind believe that unnecessary operation of a car could inadvertently expose it to damage. 

By running previously prepped and cleared lines, newly created, undesired moisture could potentially build up. Chemical buildups could also impact essential components versus being avoided by not operating the car.

Should You Start Your Car During Winter Storage?

When storing your vehicle seasonally, you intend to preserve and protect the car from long-term exposure to inclement weather. The potential impacts of weather can be detrimental to the performance and overall value of your vehicle. After choosing a designated storage space for your ride during the offseason, it’s now time to talk shop to identify and adopt the best preemptive care practices before dropoff.

Thoroughly Detail Your Vehicle

A clean interior and exterior are the foundation for a proper send-off. Surface contaminants should be removed before any period of storage. Wash, wax, and seal the vehicle’s exterior. Any exposed areas, including the undercarriage, should be treated with spray compounds because these areas are susceptible to rust damage.

Don’t forget to remove all garbage from inside the car before storing it to avoid possible infestations. Now, it’s time for the interior detail. Thoroughly clean the upholstery, floormats, dashboard, and windows. 

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Check Your Tires

Depending on the age and quality of your tires, you may use the offseason as an opportunity to replace worn or spotting tires. If you have newer tires, adjust each tire PSI to a level slightly higher than marked on the sidewall.  Please do not exceed the maximum PSI as it may have the opposite effect and ruin the tires.

Setting the vehicle on jack stands for storage comes highly recommended by experts. Car chalks are also a popular storage method. Jacks and chalks remove all pressure and weight on the tires, which will increase tire longevity.

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Check The Fluids

Before storage, replace the oil, oil filter, and all other component fluids. One last joyride after top-off should ensure that the new fluids circulate through the entirety of the system.

If nothing else, invest in a high-quality fuel stabilizer. Ethanol-based fuels degrade over time. The best quality stabilizers will prevent any unexpected internal corrosion from taking place during prolonged storage.

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Maintain Power Systems

Remove your vehicle’s battery and store it on a battery tender.  The tender will regularly activate the battery to verify the correct chemical processes of the battery are taking place during downtime. At the very least, without a tender, disconnect the battery and keep it indoors to prevent overexposure to heat or cold.

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Acquire A Protective Car Cover

This last component depends on the circumstances of the storage. Should your space be lacking, you should double down and invest in a car cover. Even if you have the ideal storage location, no harm comes from extra protection.

The higher the quality of the car cover, the greater the likelihood the cover will better protect your car. If you buy an inexpensive, poorly constructed cover, you will get cheap coverage. Low-quality covers could be a costly decision when it is time to unveil and bring your car out of storage.

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What Happens When A Car Sits For A Year?

A year of deliberate non-usage is surprisingly costly because the solidarity of vehicle components degrades over time. The longer that a car remains idle, the greater the chance that an issue awaits when resurrecting the car from hibernation. Here are some common issues to anticipate if your car sits for a year:

Dead Battery

At the very minimum, expect to have to recharge the battery before starting your car after storage for one year or longer. But, in dire cases, the battery will have to be replaced.

Damaged Tires

If tires are in poor condition, such as weakened or rotting, you will need to replace them because it is unsafe to drive on damaged or overly worn tires.

Fluid And Oil Degradation

The longer your car is left unattended and unused, the greater the chance that there will be some form of internal corrosion. You will likely have to flush all the vehicle’s fluid lines and hope that costly repairs do not result from corroded, cracked, or clogged lines.

Damaged Seals

The rubberized surfaces and component connections will eventually crack and become porous. As this happens, the seals become inefficient, causing your car to overwork during regular operation. Replace damaged seals should because they potentially cause severe damage down the road.

Should A Car Be Stored Indoors Or Outdoors?

Indoor storage is the preferred option, hands-down. Indoor facilities provide climate control options and no exposure to the elements. The most significant control over your car’s storage location proves the best chance to have the best outcome afterward. 

Using outdoor storage facilities, you have minimal control. You may have a reserved space but cannot prevent exposure to the elements. Quality outdoor storage spaces are not unavailable, but you are responsible for a lot more “heavy lifting” in terms of your pre-storage care. The highest quality of care that can be exercised should be pursued, and possible precautions taken to store a car stored outdoors.

Should A Car In Storage Be Covered? 

Using a car cover is preferred, rather than not. A car that is stored indoors and also covered is, essentially, double-protected. It takes that extra initiative to protect the value of your vehicle. To reiterate a previous point, if you do not take the storage seriously, the outcome may be incredibly disappointing.

What Does Car Storage Insurance Cover?

Having diligently prepped and stored your ride like a responsible owner, finally take it one step further. Tidy up all the loose ends and sweeten the deal by freeing up some finances.

There is no such thing as vehicle storage insurance per se, but you can eliminate all driving based payments from your insurance policy while the car is stored. Start by suspending the liability and collision coverage, and be left only paying into a policy that protects against damage.

In Closing 

No matter what you decide when choosing vehicle storage options, be sure to take care and put forth the hard work beforehand. The effort you put toward preparation, and appropriate storage facility will pay off in the end. Keep safe, keep smart, and keep on rolling. For more protective storage tips, check out these other VEHQ guides:

How To Winterize Your Car In 5 Easy Steps

How To Store A Car Long Term

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