May 2, 2016 – After the mild winter we experienced and what has been a terrible start to our spring, exotic car, supercar, and classic car owners are itching and eager to get their cars out of storage and back on the road. As the milder temperatures filter in, the overwhelming urge to drive again builds as the season draws near.
For cars that have been stored for an extended period, certain precautions should be taken before firing them up for the first time. Here is my checklist for preparing to bring my car out of storage and ready for the driving season. These tips apply to all stored vehicles.
Checklist for bringing your car out of winter storage
- Check your engine oil! Pull the dipstick and ensure there is adequate oil in the engine. Add if needed. One of your first trips should be to get your oil changed. Even if you changed it just before storage, the oil is now old and it should be changed. Don’t skip this step. Fresh oil is cheap insurance for the health of your engine.
- Inspect your battery! Hopefully you had the battery on a maintainer/tender during the storage period. Look at your maintainer/tender and ensure the battery is fully charged. If not, put it on a charger. Do not attempt to start a stored vehicle with a half drained battery. I would not recommend boosting it either. Cranking a cold engine for the first time in months with a weak battery could lead to miss-fires and a check engine light warning. If you removed the battery cables, check them for corrosion/oxidization and clean if necessary. Some newer cars require the battery to remain connected at all times to maintain the on-board computer memory. In this case, a battery maintainer must be used during storage.
- Check your fluids! Inspect the fluid levels for coolant, power steering, and brakes. If you did not put fuel stabilizer in the tank before storage, add octane booster and get high-octane gas in the tank. Old gas will make the engine run rough so adding fuel stabilizer is an important precaution prior to storage.
- Perform a visual check! Look under the car for signs of fluid leaks. Check the electrical wires and hoses, looking for cracks and deterioration. Ensure everything is tight. Look for signs of unwanted visitors like mice who are notorious for chewing electrical wires. Remember to take the steel wool out of the tail pipe or whatever you use to prevent rodents from entering. Do a thorough visual check on the key mechanical components and get re-acquainted with your car before you starting it for the first time and embarking on that initial drive of the season.
- Check your Tires! Check the tire pressure and correct as necessary. Check your owner`s manual or the door jam to find the manufacturer`s suggested tire pressure. Look for any signs of cracks and/or bulges in the rubber.
Now that you’ve done your due-diligence to ensure that your vehicle is good to go, put the key in the ignition and fire it up. The engine may run a little rough at first as it will take several minutes for the fuel to fully circulate to enable a smooth idle. Let the engine reach operating temperature before you hit the road. Take it easy in the beginning. Remember, this car hasn’t been driven for a while so don’t push it too hard on its first run. One of your first drives should be for your first oil change of the season, have your mechanic look at the brakes to ensure there is adequate pad and rotor material. Inspect the suspension components and look for excessive play in the control arms and tie-rods.
The check list might be excessive but it’s important to ensure your car is ready for the season ahead. The last thing you want is to be disappointed with mechanical problems from overlooking an important detail. Spring is finally here! Exotics, supercars and classic cars are back on the scene. Now crank up the tunes and keep an eye out for all the potholes!