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Storage smarts

Expert offers tips to keep car in shape

October 8, 2013 Car Care

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BUTLER TWP — While the longevity of a car usually depends on consistent and effective maintenance, sometimes it must be placed in storage. And as far as vehicle storage goes, it’s not as simple as driving it into a garage and leaving it there.

“If you don’t store them properly, there’s a lot of damage that could occur,” said Byron Dreher, a teacher at the Butler County Area-Vocational Technical School, who has more than 30 years of auto tech experience.

People put their vehicles in storage for a variety of reasons, Dreher said. Some Butler couples are snowbirds — they flee south during the winter months and leave a vehicle behind. Others display show cars during the warmer months but don’t take their cars out for everyday use during the winter.

Things to take into consideration include how long a vehicle is going to remain in storage.

For those looking to store a car between three and six months, there are a few things car owners should do to keep the car in good shape, Dreher said.

• Keep the vehicles indoors, if possible.

• Unplug the battery from the vehicle, but buy a battery maintainer and plug it into the wall so it stays charged.

• Change the oil and filter. Acids that naturally build up during combustion can end up eating a hole through the oil pan, causing a leak.

• Inflate tires to maximum recommended pressure while they’re in storage, since air will leak out over time.

• In the cooling system, have the dew point and freeze point of your fluid checked. It might need to be flushed and replaced.

• If on a concrete or dirt floor, put down a vapor barrier to keep rust to a minimum.

• Fill the car’s gas tank with premium fuel and add a fuel stabilizer to keep the consistency of the gas. Premium fuel usually lacks alcohol that’s blended into standard fuels. Alcohol absorbs water, which would speed the thickening process inside a gas tank.

In addition to using premium gas, “A fuel stabilizer is going to help maintain the integrity of the fuel,” Dreher said.

He said the best way to mix the stabilizer, which can be found at most car supply stores, is to put the stabilizer in before filling the tank. Most stabilizers last for about two years.

For someone putting their car into storage between six months and a year, there are a few other precautions to take into consideration, in addition to the items listed above.

n Take wheels off the vehicle and put it on blocks, leaving the suspension hanging.

n Lay tires and wheels flat onto a vapor barrier.

If a car is going to be stored for more than a year, there are other things that should be done instead.

n Drain gas from tank. Keep the motor running until the tank is about empty, Dreher said.

n Optional, but advisable: Use a car cover that breathes. Vinyl will often trap water against the vehicle surface, catalyzing rust. If the car is being stored outdoors, tie down a car cover to prevent scratching.

Dreher said he’s dealt with a fair number of people who didn’t take proper precautions when storing their car.

“The dollars just add up if you don’t store the car properly,” he said. Even then, though, “Sometimes, things deteriorate just by sitting.”

However, he’s had personal experience when a car was stored the right way.

As a teen in the 1970s, his neighbor sold Dreher a 1956 Dodge Coronet that had been kept in storage for several years. It was two-toned, pink and purple, and had meticulous upkeep.

When Dreher took it out of storage, he had the vehicle up and running in no time. A few years later, he sold the car to a man in DuBois. But just a few years ago, he said, he attended a car show and saw the car that was once his, just as beautiful as ever.

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