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LifestyleTips for Storing Your Car During Summer Heat

Posted On: 09/14/2020

Improper car storage can have a devastating impact on your vehicle. From project cars to pristine vintage rides, when the weather turns unfavorably hot or cold, it’s time to get your vehicle out of the elements and ready for storage. Preparing for winter might come second-nature, but preparing to store your car during the hot summer months can leave some drivers perplexed. Here are some of the most important summer storage tips for drivers from dry-heat Nevada to humid Florida:

Prepare your storage location

If your car could speak, it would tell you that it needs to be stored somewhere dry, ventilated and away from direct sunlight. Climate-controlled garages are your best friend, but if you have to go a more economical route, you can at least mitigate damage caused by common long-term storage offenders. Check your garage for rodent signs and lay down traps if necessary, cover any windows to minimize sun exposure and reduce the risk of excessive heat in the middle of the day. Sweep up any dust or debris, and lay down cardboard where your underbody will sit to soak up any small fluid drips and prevent damage to the floor (if that’s a concern). Consider investing in a dehumidifier to keep air circulating and preventing moisture build-up if you know humidity will be a concern.

Clean your car inside and out

This is second-nature to most people living in hot climates, but should be reiterated every time you put your vehicle away for an extended period of time – clean your car. Any food/beverage spills will have the chance to fester in 100+ degree heat, lip balm will melt like ice cream, and sunscreen/lotion will turn completely liquid and possibly go rancid. Similarly, giving the outside a good wash will reduce the chances of mud, dust and grime baking onto your paint, and you can top it off with a light coating of wax to act as a barrier between the car and the cover while it’s in storage.

Clean your car inside and out
Detail the inside by wiping with approved cleaning products

Fluids

Fresh, full fluids will prevent air from creating moisture in your gas tank, and prevent small metal shavings and gunk from settling into the nooks and crannies and causing problems once you pull your car out of storage. Plan on getting an oil change the week before you put your car away. The day before or the morning that you store it, drain the gas tank, then add a gas stabilizer to the tank before filling it back up again. By adding stabilizer, you reduce the chance of ethanol gasoline separating, evaporating, and leaving air in the tank that can attract moisture. Adding stabilizer can also extend the shelf life of non-ethanol gasoline, however, because non-ethanol gas separates and evaporates at a much slower rate than ethanol gas, it’s not crucial to perform this step if your car runs exclusively on non-ethanol gas.

Tend to your battery

Leaving your battery connected during long-term storage can lead to fluid evaporation and deteriorate your battery. If you’re very partial to your radio and dashboard settings, use a trickle charger to keep just enough juice in there to preserve your dormant battery. If you didn’t like those radio stations anyway, pop that sucker out and take it with you so that you can properly store and trickle charge it until you’re ready to put it back in. Never connect your battery to a battery charger long-term. In newer cars, it will most likely also result in a dead, useless battery; in older models with older-style batteries, it can lead to highly flammable hydrogen off-gassing that will cause the battery to explode with the slightest spark, sending acid and shrapnel flying.

Don’t use the parking brake

Whether you drive a manual or an automatic, cars should never be stored with the E-brake engaged as this can put strain on the parking brake over time. In the worst case scenario, the brake will fuse with the brake rotor, creating bigger problems. If rolling is a concern, chock your car properly or put it up on blocks or jack stands and remove the tires. For manuals, you can decide if you prefer to leave the transmission in either first gear, reverse or neutral (in which case, chocks, stands or blocks will be a very important safety step).

Don’t use the parking brake
Issues with storing your vehicle with parking brake engaged

Protect your tires!

Sun, heat and inertia negatively impact stored vehicles, so have a game plan on how to tackle your tires. If you decide to remove them entirely and put your car up on blocks or jack stands, wash off each tire and dry them thoroughly. If you have expensive tires, or just want to do the utmost to conserve longevity, consider placing them in air-tight plastic bags to prevent sunlight and ozone from damaging the rubber, then stack all four tires vertically. Two-toned tires should always be stacked white-to-white and black-to-black because they have different compositions that could bleed into each other. Stacking will keep weight distribution even. Ideally, store them in a cool, dry location.

Flatstoppers
close up Flatstoppers
Protect your Tires: Use flatstoppers for ultimate protection

If you prefer to leave the tires on due to convenience or storage constraints, wash off the tires and let them dry before driving up onto FlatStoppers or a similar product that will conserve the tire’s natural shape and prevent flat spots from forming. Hot temperatures and lack of use can start to warp rubber tires, especially when they’re stationary, creating flat areas that cause vibrations and serious tire damage the next time you drive. If you know your car will be sitting outside, tire covers are also a good option to protect against sunlight, heat and the elements.

Clean and lift your wiper blades

Wipe down each blade to remove dust or grime, then lift them off your windshield to prevent the rubber from sticking to the glass if temperatures get too hot. If you know you will be covering your car, consider using something to just slightly prop each blade end up enough to be off the windshield without hampering a car cover.

Leave convertible tops up

Although it might be tempting to leave the top open and throw a breathable cover over your convertible as a way to equalize the temperature and keep air circulating around your interior, this can increase the chance of permanent creases to the cover that will be unsightly and possibly cost a pretty penny to repair when and if the weakened crease splits. Better to leave the top up and handle the temperature a different way, such as choosing your storage location with care and keeping it well-covered.

Addressing your windows

How you leave your windows will depend on what kind of heat you experience and whether or not you are able to climate-control your storage location. For dry heat and a well-ventilated storage location, cracking your windows will allow the inside air to equalize with the air outside your vehicle.

If you live in a state with humid heat, or you know you won’t be able to control the humidity in your storage location, having the windows cracked invites moisture inside where mold will seek out porous surfaces with delicious bits of organic material like oil from your skin or leather steering wheels and seats. To block out moisture, keep you windows rolled up, close your air vents and engage the air recirculation button for good measure to close the air intake vent.

Cover your car

No plastic covers! This includes tarps made of poly or polyethylene. Under direct sunlight and excessive heat, these lower quality tarps can break down in a matter of weeks. You don’t want to risk anything that could melt to your paint or shed brittle debris over your vehicle and garage floor. Coated canvas tarps are not much better, as these can leave build-up or transfer dye onto your vehicle over time. Instead, invest in a quality car cover that’s designed for intense heat and is UV-protected.

Covering car with tarp
Cover your Car: Using a tarp will help cools things down

Battle against mold

In dry-heat states like Texas and Arizona, mold is unlikely to be a problem; however, Florida and its neighbors tend to be just as humid as they are hot, so battling moisture build-up is a constant struggle. Make sure your storage location is well-ventilated or aerated to stop mold growth in its tracks. If you know humidity is a concern, invest in a quality dehumidifier to run while your car is stored.

Although it might seem like anything and everything can go wrong while storing your car in summer heat, take comfort in that you’re now better-prepared than ever! Keep all of these pointers in mind as you plan, prepare and carry out your storage plans, and your car will be in a good place when you get it out down the road.