Twenty long weeks. Just over 38.46 percent of a year. My 1999 Porsche Boxster is officially in winter storage, and although saving it from the ravages of road salt is a noble pursuit, I’m already getting antsy. For one reason or another, many of us simply have to let a car sit for an extended period of time. Sometimes it’s due to living in a frozen wasteland for several months of the year. Sometimes it’s due to some spectacular mechanical failure. Sometimes it’s due to life changes, like the miracle of childbirth or the honor of re-enlistment. No matter the circumstances, a similar objective is shared: Prevent the car from becoming a complete shed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my winter storage routine is fairly standard. First, I change the oil and filter to combat the possibility of acidification. Corrosive contaminants just sitting inside an engine aren’t good, and the thinking goes that any small traces of moisture accumulated in storage will boil off once oil reaches operating temperature in the spring. Next, I deal with the fuel system. Due to legislative shenanigans, ethanol-free fuel isn’t really a thing around me anymore, so I throw in some marine fuel stabilizer for peace of mind while at the gas station. Full tank of 93 octane? Don’t mind if I do.
From there, I go directly to indoor storage, overinflating the tires to prevent flat spots and connecting a smart battery maintainer. Then I just don’t start the car until the snow’s melted and rain has swept through to rinse the brine from the roads. I definitely check in on the car regularly, but otherwise, patience is key for nearly five months. So, what’s the longest you’ve let a car sit for, and how did you mitigate the potential negative effects of storage? Inquiring minds want to know.
[Editor’s Note: Ooh boy. You know I’ve purchased cars that have sat for literally decades. In fact, one of my own cars, my 1992 Jeep Cherokee, is sitting in the woods in central Michigan. Who knows how many years it will be before I try to rescue that thing, as I didn’t prep it at all.
But I have a strategy to get a long-sitting machine fired back up. I pour automatic transmission fluid (or Marvel Mystery Oil) into all cylinders to get them lubricated, as the oil has probably all disappeared from the cylinder walls. If it’s a flathead motor where the cylinders aren’t below the spark plugs, just pour a shit-ton in there as fast as possible so some will flow along the deck and down the bore.
Then I let the motor sit for a few days. From there, I drain the oil, slap a new filter in, and run a compression test. If I’ve got compression, I know I’m in good shape, and begin preparing the fuel system for go-time. If the fuel has only been in there a few years, I usually just dilute it with at least five gallons of good gas to every two or three gallons of bad gas. That’s worked for me in the past. Then, after a visual inspection and probably a replacement of the air and fuel filters as well, I slap in a new battery and crank the motor and pray. If I found that I don’t have compression, I remove the cylinder head and prepare for a hellish job.
So let us know how you prep your car for storage, where you store it, and then how you fire it back up when it’s time to get going. -DT]
(Photo credits: Thomas Hundal)
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