Storing Your Beater and Getting Your Summer Car on the Road
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Storing Your Beater and Getting Your Summer Car on the Road

Winter is finally loosening its grip, and that means it’s finally time to put away your beater and drive your summer car. Here are some tips for getting your cars in and out of storage.

Storing Your Beater

1. Cleaning

Just because you’re out of the snow doesn’t mean salt no longer influences your vehicle. Moisture from dew and rain can still cause rust, and it will be hastened by its reaction with surface salt. If you must store your vehicle outside, use a car cover. This will reduce contact with water and dirt during storage so you’ll have less work to do when you’re ready to drive the car again.

2. Fuel

Filling the tank will push out air that can oxidize the fuel and add moisture. Add some fuel stabilizer and let the engine run a couple of minutes before turning it off. This ensures the entire fuel system is filled with treated fuel.

3. Battery

Now is a good time to inspect the battery. If the top of the battery has caps, it should be topped up with distilled water to keep the plates submerged in electrolyte. Clean off any corrosion on the terminals.

Between small electrical loads from the security and remote systems and natural sulfation, the battery will die if left untouched. There are three ways you can preserve the battery during storage:

– Take the car on a short drive every couple of weeks.
– Connect the battery to a trickle charger, or give it a full charge with a regular battery charger every month.
– Disconnect the negative terminal. This won’t stop sulfation, but it will keep it from discharging.

4. Oil

Used engine oil contains contaminants that can damage the engine after months of exposure. Most manufacturers recommend having the oil changed if the vehicle will be sitting for more than one or two months.


If weight is placed on one part of the tire long enough, it will develop a flat spot. If your beater won’t be running for a few months, lift it onto jack stands and store the wheels.

6. Deterring Mice

Mice like to chew on wiring insulation, leading to some costly repairs.

– Thoroughly clean the interior. Be sure to check under the seats for hidden bags, bottles and cans.
– Sprinkle some cedar chips or peppermint oil around the vehicle. These act as natural deterrents.
– Set a few traps around and inside the vehicle.
– Cover the intake and exhaust to keep rodents from crawling inside.

Getting Your Summer Car Out of Storage

1. Inspection

Before you try to move the vehicle, look underneath it for puddles. This will help you match these spots with their source.

Even if there were no visible leaks, it’s still a good idea to check the oil and transmission fluid levels. While you’re there, check the belts and hoses for signs of dry rot and signs of mouse damage including insulation damage on the battery cables, upholstery damage and bits of tissue paper and other material strewn around the interior.

If you covered the exhaust and intake before storing your car, be sure to open them again.

2. Tires

It’s normal for tires to lose one to two PSI per month of storage, so by now they should be well below their recommended pressure. Tire pressure information can be found on a sticker to the right of the driver’s side door jamb. Don’t forget to air up the spare.

Even if you parked your car in a heated garage, the tires can develop flat spots. The tires should return to shape one you get them warmed up with a short drive.

3. Battery

Reconnect the battery if you removed it during storage.

4. First Drive

Before starting the vehicle, turn the ignition to “On.” You should hear the hum of the fuel pump re-pressurizing the lines. Once this noise stops, the engine should be ready to start. While old cars required piston lubrication before starting, modern piston rings should be fine if the vehicle has been sitting for just a few months.

Let the car idle for a couple of minutes, then go on a 20-minute drive. Don’t worry if the exhaust is white: it’s normal for the exhaust system to collect water vapor during long-term storage. Watch the gauges and make sure the car is running correctly.

Addressing Damage from Storage and Rust

Was your car damaged while it was in storage and needs autobody repair? Does your beater need some rust repair? Merton Auto Body is an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop, and our technicians are ASE certified, giving us the experience and techniques to repair your vehicle. Have insurance that covers this damage? We have an auto body estimation center to get work approved quickly so your car can be back on the road in no time. Visit our website for a free online repair estimate or stop by our convenient Sussex, WI location. We proudly service the Waukesha County and surrounding Lake Country areas, including Pewaukee, Hartland, Delafield, and Oconomowoc.


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