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A Simple Checklist for Taking Your Car Out of Storage

Chris Kaiser

Whether it’s been a few weeks, months, or even years, eventually you’ll be resurrecting your vehicle. Here’s what to do and what to look for when taking your car out of storage.

Rising like a Phoenix, Firebirds and the Rest

Whether you’ve put that old beater out to pasture literally, leaving that ol’ Chevy sitting under a tree on cinder blocks or you’ve preserved your pride-and-joy Mercedes in a climate-controlled garage, you’ll need to cover your bases when finally taking your car out of storage. Restarting a car that’s been in storage can be daunting and a little nerve-wracking. To help, we’ve come up with a simple checklist of things to check over, replace, and watch out for when bringing that car back to life.

Initial Checklist

tarp covered vintage car

The first thing when taking your car out of storage is to just give it a good look. Pull off the tarp (if you used one), blow off the dust (if there is any), and take a gander.

  • Check the tires for low pressure, bulges, wear, or thinning treads. As long as the tires look road worthy and you have an air compressor, you can fill them up to the manufacturer recommended psi.
  • Identify any degradation of rubber components like wipers and weather stripping.
  • Look around for any evidence of animal activity. Spiders, mice, and hornets are all prime suspects.
  • Examine the paint for chipping, fading, and rust.
man checking car engine

Once you’ve looked over the outside, it’s time to pop the hood.

  • Check belt and hoses for cracks and wear.
  • Similarly, look for evidence of fluid leaks.
  • Verify that filters look okay and are free of debris.
  • Reconnect the battery if you disconnected it prior to storage. Examine the battery terminals for corrosion and make sure the connections are tight. If there is corrosion present, you can use a mixture of water and baking soda along with a toothbrush to clean them off (make sure to wear gloves and eye protection). Then you can test the battery’s charge and, if it’s low, charge it.
  • Again, look for any evidence of animal activity like rodent bedding (shredded upholstery, grass, etc.), droppings, chewed wires (supposedly the insulation tastes great to mice), or insect nests.
  • Check all your fluid levels including coolant, brake fluid, wiper fluid, power steering, transmission fluid, and of course, your oil. If you’ve stored your car for any decent length of time, it’s recommended that you get your oil changed at the earliest opportunity. Oil degrades overtime and won’t have the same protective properties.

Road Checklist

man driving vintage car

The moment of truth has arrived and it’s time to see how your long-idled car runs.

  • Turn the car over and allow it to run at idle for approximately 30 minutes. Don’t rev the engine or drive the car until it’s had a chance to warm up and all the relevant fluids have moved thoroughly through their respective systems.
  • Once you’re ready to get moving, check the brakes. Note their responsiveness, are they soft/spongy, does the pedal stick or is slow to return? These might be a sign of a problem. Some rust will likely be present on the rotors and may make some noise, but this rust usually wears off in short order.
  • Listen to the engine for any odd sounds and make note of them. Often a long-idled car will sound a little funny on its first day back, but any unusual sounds that persist should be promptly investigated.
  • Also listen and feel for anything out of the ordinary with the suspension and steering. Weird vibrations, rattles, clanking, or other noises could indicate a problem.

Fully Sorted and Road Worthy

man driving vintage car

Now that you’ve checked things over and your car is back in running order, go get it washed and have the oil changed (if you haven’t done that already, yourself). Now that you have the checklist, you’ve run out of excuses. Go get that old beater or family heirloom out of storage!

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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