Home » What’s The Longest You’ve Let One Of Your Cars Sit, And How Did You Keep It From Falling Into Disrepair?

What’s The Longest You’ve Let One Of Your Cars Sit, And How Did You Keep It From Falling Into Disrepair?

Img 3570 Copy
ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

ADVERTISEMENT

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
56 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
James Colangelo
James Colangelo
8 months ago

Longest Sit: Indoors in a storage unit, about 14 months for my 66 Fiat. Started fine on the older gas which had stabilizer in it, I stored the battery off-site which was on a charger so it was fine. Recently my buddy and I started up an old car on gas from 2008.. didn’t run great, but it ran!

For storage: I think there is a delineation to be made here – Older cars need a bit more TLC than newer “modern” cars (I use modern loosely – for me a modern car is basically fuel-injected / OBDII). I DO NOT start them and let them idle. If I start them, it’s because I’m taking them out on a nice brisk winter day on salt-less roads which happens from time to time.

Frankly, I don’t do a TON prior to winter, but I can say they are all put away for now. They are stored in a garage.

2 cars from the 60’s – Battery tender, fuel stabilizer, and a full tank of 93 octane which I run anyway all year because why not?
2 cars from the 90’s – Battery tender, park it, cover it, leave it. I might fill up the tank, I might not, it doesn’t really matter.

They all sit for about 5-7 months depending on the weather. All of them start right up every spring, and any flat spots on the tires are gone in a few miles, but that’s generally not an issue on the newer cars with radials. I don’t change the oil or do any of that unless it’s time for their oil change (which for me is every 5000 miles or once a year on every car I own no matter the year).

Last edited 8 months ago by James Colangelo
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
8 months ago

> my 1992 Jeep Cherokee, is sitting in the woods in central Michigan

That’s like Extra David Tracy levels of… Something. In the woods? In a state where it snows?

Peter d
Peter d
8 months ago

My buddy got called up for over a year overseas. I took care of his pickup by getting it going and driving it around the block about one a week. His parents took care of the sedan – I am not sure if they even turned it over that year, but it never left the garage. The pickup was fine when he got back, the sedan not so much. Somewhat surprisingly on my current daily driver, which I inherited from my mother, spend at least a year in the garage at one point when my dad was sick and I charged up the battery and drove the car out of the garage and around the block with no ill effects. But this thing has the Nissan VQ engine which has been remarkably free of issues in the 50K I have put on it since it left the garage. Now the wheel bearings – that is another story…

Peter Del Giudice
Peter Del Giudice
8 months ago

1974 Triumph TR6. Sat from 2009 to 2018. Added gas preserve plus octane boost. Changed the 2 fuel filters in 2008 added 2 gallons of fresh gas plus gas stable and octane boost. Oldest said it would not start, Started right up. Just to busy with family stuff. Now it sits once again with blown engine after replacing it 500 miles ago. Just waiting on space in my garage to rebuild engine

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
8 months ago

A Peugeot 505 Turbo S, for fifteen months, outdoors. Electrical gremlins and a clutch issue, combined with a two-month trip to Greece and loss of license meant no driving at all. I didn’t do anything, and she left on a flatbed truck… sorry, Brigitte, I was 22 and dull witted.

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
8 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

On the bright side, the same thing would have happened even if you did drive it.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
8 months ago

Oh yes, those problems were the ones I parked it with…

Myk El
Myk El
8 months ago

I let my 2003 Mini Cooper S sit for the better part of about 2 years prior to selling it. It had issues and I decided I just didn’t want to fix it. I needed something that had a real back seat. Had to air up the tires and replace the battery before selling.

MP81
MP81
8 months ago

Well, I pulled the starter in ’81 Z28 last August (having last driven it in November of 2021), with the expectation that doing so would motivate me to put a new one in it.

So of course that happened in May of this year, driving it in early June. So a solid year and a half or so – it literally didn’t get driven at all during 2022.

Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago

So what’s the consensus on gas that’s a few years old? Just add some fresh gas to it and let er rip, or completely drain the fuel system?

My LS1 Firebird has been sitting going on 2 years with 4 or 5 gallons of 93 in it, I’m thinking just adding at least that amount of fresh 93 plus a fuel system cleaner will be okay.

A coworker said his early ’00s M3 fired right up on old gas after sitting for 5 years.

Lance Rutherford
Lance Rutherford
8 months ago

15 months. just fuel stabilizer and brought a jump box. Change oil after i drove home from storage.

Flyingtoothpick71
Flyingtoothpick71
8 months ago

my bug is currently sitting in a (unheated) shed while I’m in college and its been a month and a half since i was home and drove it. my routine when I leave is to put it on jack stands so the tires don’t go out of round and remove the battery and put it in the heated attached garage. last time i drove it i basically ran it out of fuel so I didn’t do anything there, but I unusually siphon the gas if there is a significant amount and dump it in my daily. other than that basically nothing, but please let me know what I should do, I am just a college kid, so i don’t know everything.

Flyingtoothpick71
Flyingtoothpick71
8 months ago

before this it sat for 19 years, and fired right up with a new battery and some gas, but i did have to replace the tires ( i still need to replace one of them, it works but at 24 years old, probably time for a new one) and did and still do need to redo most of the wiring on it. hopefully i can get a lot of that worked out over my winter break and put in some set belts.

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
8 months ago

I didn’t plan on having it sit for a long time, but my E85 Z4 ended up sitting in my garage for 4 years while I was unable to return home due to covid restrictions.

I live overseas and keep a car I bought it 2009 in my garage to use when I go home for holidays. Usually it sits for 6-11 months as I get back one or two times a year. My typical routine is to put on an old set of rims and tires and disconnect the battery or have my mom go and start it every few weeks when she checks on my house when I am working.

When I left Michigan in late summer of 2019, I was not expecting to leave the car sitting for so long, when I finally got back home this summer I expected the worst.

Fortunately my garage is attached to my house and the temperature and humidity is stable throughout the year. This July, when I finally laid eyes on my car after 4 years, there was just a hint of surface dust, everything else looked exactly as it did when I closed the garage door 4 years ago, tools in the right spot and even the bit of trash I forgot to throw out was still there. My car in Beijing accumulates more dust sitting in the underground parking garage overnight than my car had over 4 years.

That day, I took out the battery and went to auto zone to get a replacement. Because of some amazing warrantee, they took my old battery and gave me a brand new one, no questions asked. I was in and out in like 5 minutes.

I was afraid of starting the car with old gas and oil that I put in the car in 2019. That year I did a huge road trip and participated in a few track days so I assumed it was pretty used up. I decided to have it flat towed to my mechanic, and insurance covered that trip. I got to ride in the cab of the truck, which was fun for me and the driver was really interesting and we had a great talk on the ride there.

A day later and the mechanic said the car was ready. They mentioned to me that the gas seemed fine and they plan to use it in their snow plow this winter. Also they were surprised that the brakes didn’t even have a hint of surface rust on them. To them, the car was as in a good of condition as it would have been if I parked it overnight. I still had them change the coolant and brake fluid too. I’ve been going to that mechanic for a few years and have developed a trust in them, as they are always very honest and charge reasonable rates. They know I do a lot of work on the car myself and help me out when I have questions.

After carefully driving the car back home, I put on the newer tires I had stored in my garage, recharged the A/C and did some adjustments to the coilovers- as the last time I used it I was 4 years younger and I didn’t set it for street after the track day in 2019. After that, it drove as good as I remembered- or maybe even better- because I am more knowledgeable about setting up the suspension now than I was back then.

My wife and I enjoyed it all summer long, had an amazing road trip again and then we put it back in the garage, I changed the wheels and tires (just before going to the airport) and this time I hope it won’t be 4 years until I see it again.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
8 months ago

I stopped using my 1962 Valiant after buying a replacement daily driver – it was already due for a full brake job, then the battery died. I didn’t plan on having it sit, but it hasn’t moved in maybe 4 years. The last time I tried to do anything to it I spent an afternoon fixing seized bonnet hinges after being unable to get it open.
But at least the fact it has a Slant Six/Torqueflite, a handful of wires and literally 2 fuses for the whole car means that there’s unlikely to be much that it actually needs to get it running again!

Parsko
Parsko
8 months ago

I try not to drive the Pickup during the winter. I might do Stabil this year. I’ll pull the battery and charge it once a month. If one of the daily’s breaks, out comes the Pickup. I beg for this to not happen, as it’s CT, and salt is everywhere until April showers.

Zelda Bumperthumper
Zelda Bumperthumper
8 months ago

I’ve never had a reason to store a car long term, but I did once leave my RSX at the Philly airport for almost two weeks with the driver’s window down. Aside from an inch of water on the floor and the leather on the driver’s seat basically exploding, it wasn’t too worse for the wear.

Last edited 8 months ago by Zelda Bumperthumper
DDayJ
DDayJ
8 months ago

I own too many cars, including a 986 Boxster like you, so I’m terrible about letting them sit too long, though not as bad as David. I see in your picture you have the Boxster on a battery tender, which is key on a Porsche (any car really). My friend let his 997 sit too long and the battery died, which kills the electric frunk release, meaning you can’t get to the battery to charge it, and thus requiring you to hook up another battery to that little positive post that pulls out of the fuse box and ground to the door and get enough juice to pop the frunk. Make sure to use the key fob to open it. We wasted an hour not knowing that. Where was I…oh yeah, LT storage. I try to change the oil as well and keep the tires aired too, otherwise nothing special. In Colorado we get a lot of sunny winter days so if the snow melts I make a point to take a drive, or at least run the engine for some time to get the oil and fuel moving.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
8 months ago
Reply to  DDayJ

I’m surprised at how few classics and sports cars I see out and about on winter weekends here in the Denver metro area. No salt, the roads are usually dry, and the sun is usually out.

Boosted
Boosted
8 months ago

Bought a turbo Miata around 2008 or so, did a track day, it died on track and wouldn’t start. Sat in the elements with just a tarp protecting it, no top or hard top. Ecu was submerged and wet a few times. Anyways finally around 2018 i replaced the CPS, after cracking it a bit with 10yr old fuel it started but ran like crap obviously. Spent the year refreshing it to make it my track car, runs great now, makes 220whp, didn’t really have to replace much, or anything.

Idiotking
Idiotking
8 months ago

Technically, I didn’t let it sit, but my father-in-law did. a 1966 Chrysler 300 convertible, red over black, with a 440/727 drivetrain. It had been sitting on four flat tires under a mountain of garbage since 1980. Helping my wife get him out of a hoarding situation last summer, I rented a dumpster and emptied the garage myself. The engine would turn on the crank bolt, so I pulled the plugs, put Marvel Mystery Oil down the cylinders, rebuilt the carb, put new plugs and wires on it, replaced the points and condenser, and tested for spark. When I knew it would catch we brought him out and had him turn the key himself.
I have no idea what shape the brakes are in. It’s now hibernating on four new tires with a battery conditioner in his clean garage, waiting for springtime when I can get back to it.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
8 months ago
Reply to  Idiotking

If it has those damn Bendix type brakes you’re in for some fun. Aircraft style or something. If it’s those or drums up front just convert to discs, easier than fixing the Bendix and safer than keeping front drums.

Idiotking
Idiotking
8 months ago

Sounds like the unobtanium Lockheed brakes I was warned against on my Travelall. I don’t know about the drums on the Chrysler; I haven’t been able to get them off yet, but both vehicles will eventually get front discs.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
8 months ago
Reply to  Idiotking

Weirdly enough the brakes I’m talking about are discs, technically. It came standard on Imperials and as an option on their other higher end cars. They look like drums because the rotor is completely inside a metal casing. Instead of calipers it seems to essentially have a clutch assembly on each side of the rotor. Spring loaded friction discs. So yeah, if you’ve got em ditch em. Unless you have a mechanic/restoration YouTube channel and a bunch of subscribers who like to see you suffer. Imagine having to do four clutches to change your front brakes.

Tomato
Tomato
8 months ago

My old Acura Legend sat in the garage from November 2019 to July 2022. It went in for winter storage, and by spring, my job had gone scarce and I didn’t have anywhere to drive. For 2.5 years, it sat with the same problems: a probable coolant leak, no A/C charge, and bad front struts. When it finally rolled out of the garage in 2022, it had one more problem. Supply chains were broken. Today, they’re still broken, at least for 30 year old niche Acuras. But, you leave your car at the shop for 3 out of the 7 driveable months of the year, and they sort it out for you.

56
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x