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All About Long-Term Car Storage in Northern Virginia

Throughout the years, I have been asked many times about what is the best way to store an automobile in Northern Virginia that will not be used for a long period of time. This question is not answered simply. It is complex response that depends on the age of the automobile, condition, and the length of the storage.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Storage

When considering the length of time a car will be stored, I like to consider 90 days or less without running short term. Conversely, over 90 days is long term. Within a 90 period, any car should be able to start and run fine and not skip a beat. This of course is provided that it is stored in a quality environment. A car cover should always be used regardless of the storage time. Dust will accumulate in most any automobile storage environment. Classic, vintage, muscle car and sports cars that are more than 30 years old have chrome that needs to be kept as clean as possible to ensure longevity.

Long term storage is much more complex. Regardless of short or long term, the best environment is a climate controlled area. The battery, paint, tires, dash pad and fuel all can be affected by extremes in temperature. "Store it with Joe" offers insulated and heated storage in all locations for long term or very limited use requirements. To assure moisture (another killer for storage) is kept low; all concrete floors have a barrier between them and the ground. During the summer months, a timed controlled fan) is used to keep the air moving so that the air does not become "stagnant".

Moisture in the air is a major problem with long term storage. It can cause mold to form on the interior, and be very detrimental to electrical systems. When viewing storage for any car, one should check out the walls for mold spores or a "musty smell". All "Store it with Joe" locations use drywall and not cinder block for walls in long term storage areas.

With the storage environment proper, one must then consider the automobile being stored itself. Batteries, fuel and tires are a major areas that need to be looked at. All long term group stored vehicles in "Store it with Joe" facilities, have regular trickle charging rotations to maintain the battery charge. Individual spaces at the Berryville VA location in Clarke County have a plug for trickle chargers (provided). The Bluemont VA location in Loudoun County VA has a few spaces with outlets for chargers. All batteries do have a finite life regardless of their use and maintenance. It is for this reason that even when hooked to a trickle charge, a battery can go dead permanently.

How Much Gas?

In regards to fuel, today's gas is about as bad is it ever has been for storage. Any fuel injected car should not sit idle for more than six months. Carbureted vehicles and fuel injected cars should have a fuel stabilizer added for any term over 3-4 months. Over the last 30 years, I have developed an opinion that gas tanks should NOT be filled for long term storage. Most internet searches will state that moisture will form in the gas tank if it is not filled during storage and cause issues down the road. Filling a tank with today's horrible gas is far worse in my opinion. It is best to keep the fuel moving in and out as much as possible. How long will it take an owner to use a full tank of gas? In my case, it could take two years or more for some hobby cars that are not used often. With an excellent storage climate, moisture in a tank kept at a quarter tank has never been an issue in my experience.

Engine Starting for the Long-Term

Starting the engine should NOT be done on a weekly or monthly basis for long term storage vehicles. When cars are first started there is water that comes out of the tailpipe when it first starts. This moisture can also be seen in cold temperatures with "white smoke" coming out of the tailpipe for several minutes. The moisture in the exhaust system will remain for several minutes or days if the car is not properly warmed up or driven. This build-up of water in the exhaust by frequent starting is not beneficial for several reasons.

Long-Term Vehicle Storage and Tires

Tires are not created equal. Some tires can be left in one spot for months or years without an issue. Others develop "flat spots" after sitting. Bias ply tire construction develop these spots but they are quickly removed by driving the vehicle at any speed. Radial tires are different. Some do need to be rotated and others do not. It is best to check with the manufacturer for proper a proper recommendation.

Group Vehicle Storage

When stored in group storage with "Store it with Joe" facilities, starting and rotation of cars can be done for a slight additional charge. Each car is treated like it is my personal car and babied when these services are required.

With proper facilities and maintenance, short or long term storage can be a satisfying experience that keep your car "ready to go" at a turn of the key.