Automotive storage tips

September 1, 2018 | By Staff


I will be going overseas for a few months with the military and I want to mothball my 1967 Buick Wildcat. It will be garaged and covered, but I am wondering what else I should do to make sure it doesn’t suffer from my absence. What do you recommend?


I just mothballed a 1966 Morris Minor convertible and this is what I do: First I gave the car a wipedown, even though it was clean. After that I gave it a fresh coat of wax (I still like Turtle Wax) and buffed it off by hand. And then I went over the chrome and stainless with a heavy coat of wax, but didn’t wipe it off. It has been my experience that this trick keeps chrome in good order and helps prevent pitting while the car is sitting in storage. You buff off the wax when you revive the car.

After a polish, I pull the car into the garage, jack it up, and put it on jack stands to take the weight off of the tires. I also make sure the parking brake is off so the brake linings won’t bond together and become stuck. And if the car has a standard gearbox I put a big flat piece of plywood on the seat front and then use a piece of two by four to hold the clutch in a slightly depressed position so its disc won’t bind with the flywheel.

I then disconnect the battery cables and coat them with grease. I coat the battery terminals with it too. I then hook up a good quality battery tender. But if I were going to leave the car for more than a few months I would take the battery out of the car and put it on a wooden bench or shelf along with the trickle charger to avoid slow discharge due to ambient moisture.

I also change the oil because acids build up in motor oil in service and eat rod and main bearings over time when left in the sump. I then top up the cooling system, though if I were leaving the car for more than a few months I would drain the system completely and leave the radiator cap off so the system can dry out as much as possible. I smear a little white grease on electrical terminals too, and on friction points in linkage and moving parts.

As for fuel, I take the car to the nearest gas station and fill it all the way up into the filler neck. I do that so there will not be a broad surface of fuel in the tank to allow the more volatile components of fuel to evaporate off, and as a result allow moisture in the incoming air to condense out. Fuel tanks generally rust from the inside because water condenses out of the air pulled into the tank as fuel is consumed, so you want as little surface area inside the tank as possible for that to occur.

When I revive the car I use fuel stabilizer to keep the fuel from gumming up the valve guides. On the other hand, if I were to leave the car longer than a few months I would drain the tank and run the carburetor dry for long-term storage. And then I would cover the air filter with a plastic bag to keep moisture out.

While the car is in storage I have a friend come by to look in on the house, and to turn my classic’s engine over every month or so to keep the valve springs from developing a set in them. Valve springs that are compressed for too long will not resume their old resilience when decompressed.

I then throw a bag or two of desiccant in the passenger compartment, and in the case of wool upholstery I also put in mothballs in small plastic dishes. For leather I rub in Lexol leather treatment to keep it supple. I have been doing this every year for 28 years on a couple of cars that I keep in a damp environment, and they have held up well. I finish the job by covering the car with a good breathable indoor/outdoor car cover and I’m done.