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?

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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.

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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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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
3 months ago

My poor, sad 411. ???? It largely sat (with a few brief startups) from its last race in 2017 ’til the start of the pandemic when I went screw it, I got offered a whole new engine—let’s make it work.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
3 months ago

I only have 1 car. So the longest I’ve let it sit was maybe 2 weeks if I went away on vacation to Europe or something like that.

And what did I do to prep the car?

Nothing.

Where did I store it?

In my driveway where I always leave my car.

I fired it back up by putting in the key and starting it.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

Please differentiate between leaving a car unattended VS preparing and save it thru the dormant period?
I have all kinds of lawn equipment and a snow blower. At season end I prepare it for sleeping. Are you talking storage or forgetting?

Last edited 3 months ago by Mr Sarcastic
A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago

The Yamaha FZ6R gets topped up with fresh fuel and Sta-Bil, then she goes into the basement workshop which is heated and humidity controlled. I do check tire pressures and move her around a bit during the winter, but I’m not too worried about the tires developing flat spots.

Normally I charge the battery every couple of months, but I missed a charge at the beginning of this year and so it was only at 60% in the spring. It had enough juice to spin the engine (at a slightly reduced rate) but not enough to light the fire. D’oh. This year I’m putting reminders in one or more calendar apps to keep me on track.

Geo Metro Mike
Geo Metro Mike
3 months ago

13 years a Geo Metro sat in my Dad’s garage as I bounced around apartments. I lost the title and it became a parts car. One day Dad called me and said “get this thing out of here.” It was stripped down but the body was in awesome shape; so it got all the stuff from a wrecked one I was driving. Over the next few days the city came by and warned my Dad about a fine since dismantling vehicles is prohibited. Finally got it going and the donor one scraped, but had to go through the lost title process. When it came in the mail 2 months later I was so happy I drank a beer!

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
3 months ago

My 1958 Bel Air sat for about 4-5 years after I bought it before I got it running. Kept it in a covered area and kept the battery inside when not trying to get it running. Despite my efforts some mice did ruin the carpet, and I did find a snakeskin in it…but otherwise was unscathed. Once I finally got it running it was moved into the driveway until I traded it for a 67 Mustang.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
3 months ago

My BMW R1150 GSA sits for 11-1/2 months in Europe in storage and then gets ridden hard for two weeks on my vacation, then back into storage.

The first few years, it would have a dead battery every year because the storage place would move the bike at some point and then not plug the battery tender back in. I upgraded to a lithium battery and I disconnect it before I leave the bike. If it needs service, I leave instructions that it be disconnected when done. If they forget (and they did last year) the BMS system on the battery shuts it down before it’s damaged.

It also gets fuel stabilizer in a full tank of gas before it goes away for the year. It still smokes on first startup and smells like the gas is 10 years old. Even with stabilizer, modern gas goes bad very quickly.

My father and his wife left a early ’80s BMW 320i (really a 318i but BMW’s nomenclature is only approximate) for 10 years in a friend’s (heated) garage while they went sailing. They didn’t do anything before leaving it, but the friend did keep air in the tires, charged the battery and started it every month or so. Surprisingly, when they went back for it, it only needed new tires and a new battery. Considering the fiendish complexity of the Bosch FI system, they really got lucky. They drove it for another 10 years before selling it.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
3 months ago

For my track cars, I follow this simple recipe.

Step 1: park in farthest part of lawn, away from significant others view
Step 2: remove battery
Step 3: Add fuel stabilizer to one. The other is diesel, so that one is cool without
Step 4: Await spring

Seems to work fine, no mouses have made houses, or divorcing spouses yet.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
3 months ago

I’ve got the same battery charger/tender. Works fine. My brother in law has a few of the same ones for his snow mobiles and bobcat at the cottage.

I fill the tank, make sure the oil change was recent and park it with the tender on. I get some damp rid to leave in the cabin and trunk and let it run with heat and AC cranked for a while before the final park of the year to help everything dry out as much as possible. Also clean out anything that got left in there.

V10omous
V10omous
3 months ago

The Viper went away this weekend.

The SS will go away in a week or two.

Stabil in the tank, fresh oil change for both, park on foam pads, hook up the battery tenders. The Viper has a hibernation mode to preserve the battery, so I use that as well. I found a mouse nest under the engine cover last year so now poison packets go underneath both cars.

Both should reappear around March given typical weather patterns.

My ’72 Blazer has been mostly sitting (now in pieces) since summer 2020, with a bit of yard driving only.

The ’70 Blazer I bought as a parts vehicle has been sitting behind my barn since March of 2021, but was dragged out of a field and has a 2004 registration sticker on it, so I believe it hasn’t been fired up in at least that long. Still need to decide what to do with it, as they are too valuable to use for parts now.

Last edited 3 months ago by V10omous
Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
3 months ago

I am a one-car man, so while I don’t typically drive long distances, if I’m going anywhere at all, it’s tough to let my car sit for a long period.

The longest would have been the start of the pandemic when I wasn’t going anywhere, so my car sat in my garage for a few months. When it became clear that the situation wasn’t going to change any time soon, I got into the habit of going for a short drive about once a week just to keep everything moving.

Goof
Goof
3 months ago

Spyder tends to sit for about 12 weeks during New England winters, as the Boston area averages around a meter (39 inches) a year. However, it’s usually the car for the holiday visits, top down, even if it’s 10F (-15F at highway speeds!) air temps.

It’s put on Flatstopper ramps with the tires set to ~38psi at 45F. Before the last fill up I put in some Sta-bil, and some octane booster. Tender plugged in. Cover on.

Though every 4 or 6 weeks I’ll run it stationary, with a bit of load on the engine, for about 45 minutes. Long enough for oil temps to get up 90C or so. I’ll work the gearshift a bit to ensure it’s smooth, and make sure heat and A/C are as expected.

I think once I let it sit for 10 weeks. Started on the second revolution, as expected.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

More by accident than design my wife’s 1983 Honda CM250C languished in several garages for almost 25 years. All I did to resurrect it was replace the battery, drain the fuel, clean the carb and put the two jets that are externally identical in the correct spots. Now it desperately needs tires since they date from 1991.
As far as four wheel stuff goes, I parked my truck for six weeks once and it fired up first try.

Paul E
Paul E
3 months ago

I brought my old ’86 Saab 9000 back to life this summer after about a half-dozen years sitting in the garage. The gearbox leaked oil, so it got parked and covered at the time. About three years in, I thought I was going to get to work on it, so a battery went in, and it fired right off. Let it run/idle for probably close to an hour then shut it down. Didn’t get back to it that spring, so it sat for another few years.

Fast forward to this year, and begun the gearbox swap a couple weekends before a trip to Chicago for the yearly national Saab owner’s club meet. Finally laid hands on the correct gearbox, did the swap in the garage, then changed the oil, put some fresher tires on it, finishing the project an hour before hitting the road. Other than an ignition module failing about ten minutes from the meet in the western Chicago burbs (Boschium, similar part is used on a Mk2 VW Jetta), the car did great on its first time out of the garage in six years. The AC even mostly held up until after I got home (shaft seal failed after I got home, so a compressor overhaul is in its future).

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
3 months ago

I’m about to do the same with my ’97 Mustang GT convertible with the leaky roof (hoping to get that replaced next spring, though probably after taking it to Maaco for a fresh coat of paint).

Thomas, when you overinflate the tires, how high do you go? 40 PSI or just under the manufacturer limits?

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
3 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

Convertible I assume? I have an 04 Mach 1 that the carpet kept being wet on after rain. Took me a year to track down the cause…turns out it was leaking from the seam sealer on both fender apron areas.

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
3 months ago
Reply to  Turbotictac

Thanks for the heads up! The roof is in rough shape thanks to its previous owner keeping it parked outside during Eria, PA winters. I usually throw a waterproof (ish) cover on, along with a tarp, during rainy camping trips and that mostly works.

And yes, the moisture is mostly on the carpet…through I also see water ever so slowly drip on one spot on the driver’s side, above the windshield and just below where the vinyl meets the frame.

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
3 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

Looks like I took a picture of the exact spot sometime last year. https://imgur.com/a/RAfrZL1

Last edited 3 months ago by Spartanjohn113
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

When I was in the Air Force, I was preparing for a two-year overseas assignment. I decided to leave my six-month old car with my father for the duration so that it could be driven periodically.

On my cross country dash from CA to MA, the car developed a transmission problem. I stopped at dealer halfway and since the car was under warranty, they quickly replaced the gears in the transaxle and got me back on the road that evening. I made it from TN to CT before the gearbox began to give out again. By the time I got to Boston, all I had left was third gear and I had to hold the shifter in place.

I made arrangements with a local dealer and limped the car in and explained my woes and what had been done. The dealer said no problem, but that it would take a couple of weeks before they could get to it.

I left the next day for the Philippines. Where I lived overseas there were no phones unless you went to base and stood in line, so mainly I relied upon letters home for updates on the car. After three months, there was still no word. My father tried calling but could not reach anyone and his calls were not returned. At the time, my dad was the only other driver in the family and worked two jobs, so by the time he was off from work the dealer was closed. He’d drive by and see the car parked in the same spot we’d left it.

Finally, after six months, he was able to stop in during business hours. The service manager was surprised, said they had no idea why the car was there, no record or contacts or anything so they just left it, figuring someone would show up!

Turns out the original dealer had gone out of business a month after I dropped off the car and just walked away. The new owner reopened the dealership three months later. My car was a mystery to them as it was registered in CA and they had no way to reach me and no contacts for anyone else.

It took another month, but they correctly diagnosed the problem (hairline crack in the transaxle case) and replaced the whole assembly. It ran trouble free for years after. They also performed all of the maintenance required because of its long sit, including new tires (!) all at no charge. Altogether, it sat for about 8 months.

Last edited 3 months ago by Canopysaurus
Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Did the car ever get fixed?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

Sure did.

Mike B
Mike B
3 months ago

My ’00 Firebird Formula has been sitting in my aunt’s garage since Feb of 2021. It’s got 1/4 tank of 93 sitting in it, and all I did was disco the battery when I parked it. I had no intention of letting it sit that long, I was going to bring it back out in the spring, only reason it ended up there was because I had parked it in the driveway at my parent’s house that fall (I have no off-street parking) and my dad was very concerned about it being in the driveway ahead of an incoming snowstorm in early Feb.

Then the sticker ran out, the DMV cancelled the registration to a non-op state, and I lacked the ambition to get the car ready to pass inspection (and drive it unregistered to the inspection station in the next state over where the car was registered).

I have not started the car since I parked it, and I didn’t even throw any fuel stabilizer in it. Every once in a while, my thoughts will drift to it while I’m trying to get to sleep, and I lay in bed worrying about the 2-year-old gas in it.

I’m going to deal with it soon, I have Thanksgiving week off. After talking with coworkers who have let cars sit, some even longer, I’m thinking I’m going to change the oil, add at least 5 gal of fresh 93 to the tank, and fire it up. Hopefully the fuel system isn’t F’d.

At this point I just want to get it running to sell it.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
3 months ago

Does letting it sit for ten years so I could restore it count? If so, that actually didn’t end well (well, eventually it did). The coolant corroded the coolant seal jacket in the front housing and I drove it for a year and a half while chasing cooling system issues that eventually got traced back to a blown coolant seal which necessitated a full engine rebuild. Whoops!

3WiperB
3WiperB
3 months ago

Just winter storage for the MGB, so about 4 months. I have a quick connect under the hood for a battery tender, since the battery is hard to access behind the passenger seat. I usually push it a little in the garage every month or so to keep the tires from being on 1 spot. Other than that, I put the top up in case I need to take it out. Last year for example, I came out of the house to a flat on my truck and had to take the MG out on a below freezing day to get someplace on time. The heat works, so if there isn’t snow on the ground and there’s been enough rain to get the salt off the road, it can still be a spare car. It’s just not a very enjoyable car with the top up, so it rarely gets driven that way.

JDE
JDE
3 months ago

I let a scout sit for 9 years because of a distributor issue. I ended up having to shell out a few thousand to rectify that and in the end replace/rebuild all of the fuel system to make it run adequately after.

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
3 months ago

My Beetle will be stored from Sunday until April of next year, so 6 months . What I did last winter was to start the car around once a month, let it run for 30 min at least and shut it down

I also use ethanol-free gas and throw some stabilizer. I also placed some peppermint balls for mice in the garage around it (one in the engine compartment lol) to avoid animals to chew something.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
3 months ago

I had my ’77 F250 stored for 3 years at a climate-controlled indoor storage facility. I did nothing to prepare it (in my defense, I only planned to store it for a few months). The truck was a bit rough going into storage, but it did not get worse aside from flat tires and a dead battery. I had the oil changed and a new battery put it, but otherwise I did not do anything to revive the truck.

I have had a few other vehicles stored for ~6 months that I similarly did nothing to. Those were also stored in climate-controlled garages, though. I doubt my vehicles would have fared as well had they been parked outside.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
3 months ago

5 years, and it did fall into disrepair. That long and the rubber parts are definitely stiff and need replacement.

10001010
10001010
3 months ago

6 years, 2 months, 8 days, and counting…

It has absolutely fallen further into disrepair.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
3 months ago

Cars, trucks, vans. just about a month is the longest and then run around until warm. Motorcycles, 6 or more months (upper midwest winters ????) tires off the ground, 91 non-oxy gas with stabil also, Seafoam the intake, and expensive fully automatic battery maintainer. I live less than a mile from a station that carries non-oxy gas and run it in everything with an ICE but my daily drivers.

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