Top Tips for Pulling Your Summer Ride Out of Storage

A few months back, you may have winter-stored a special warm-weather ride for the very first time – or maybe, you’ve been winter-storing a summertime sports car for years. In any case, a few tips and tricks are worth keeping in mind when the time comes to pull that ride out of storage, and to prep it for another year of fun in the sun.

According to automotive service technician John Kennard, there’s little to it – but a few checks and considerations may be worth knowing about, especially if it’s your first time taking your summer ride out of storage.

“Usually, you put your summer car away for the year in pretty good shape,” Kennard says, adding that he always applies a coat of wax before putting the cover on his 1999 Corvette.

“When it’s time to get driving again, you just want to give the car a quick once-over, but some extra attention and understanding is ideal in certain areas, particularly around tires and brakes, and fluid leaks.

“Be mindful of rubber components too, like plug wires and belts, especially on an older car. I’ve seen some cases where these dry out and degrade over the winter, even while the vehicle is in storage.”

Springtime is nearly here for another year – so let’s take a look at some tips to get that summer ride in tip-top shape, right out of storage.

The Battery

If you’ve used a trickle charger all winter, now’s the time to remove it and give your battery a little TLC. Whether the battery stayed in your vehicle, or was removed and stored elsewhere, remove the trickle charger connectors and inspect the terminals, ensuring they’re clean, free of deposits and buildup, and properly lubricated. Reconnect the battery to your vehicle if required, using care to tighten the battery terminals snugly but not excessively. Over-tightening can damage battery terminals, and leave you in need of a new battery. Check your owner’s manual for the full scoop.

Note that spending two minutes cleaning, lubricating, and caring for your battery terminals, and taking care to reconnect them properly, can save trouble down the line. If you’re re-installing the battery to the vehicle, be absolutely sure it’s secured properly, too: even a small amount of battery movement can strain the electrical connectors, or cause a sudden loss of power if a terminal wire breaks or loosens. There’s likely a strap, clamp, or some other provision to keep the battery securely fastened and immovable. Check by trying to move the battery once it’s secured: it shouldn’t be able to budge.

Around the Wheels

Fully inspect those wheels and tires, noting that tires may become flat over the winter, as they naturally lose air over time. Remember: you can’t tell if a tire is properly inflated (or not) simply by looking at it: so bust out that tire pressure gauge and check each tire for proper pressure while they’re cold, adjusting accordingly.

Examine every inner and outer sidewall for signs of cracking or other degradation, which may compromise the tires. Like driving on underinflated tires, sidewall cracks can be a safety hazard.

With your tires confirmed as properly inflated and free of damage, move to the wheel nuts, using a torque wrench to confirm proper wheel-nut tightening specs. If you store your ride with its wheels off, reinstall them to spec, and remember to re-torque the lug nuts after the first 100 kilometres or so of driving, just to be safe.

Fluid Levels / Leak Inspection

Grab a flashlight and inspection mirror, and start under the hood with a full visual check for signs of fluid leakage. Some (but not all) leaks will result in a highly apparent puddle of fluid on your garage floor, so be sure to have a look beneath the vehicle, too. If no leaks are apparent under the hood, under the vehicle, or on the floor beneath it, proceed to check all applicable fluid levels via the instructions in your owner’s manual. Now’s the time to address any low fluid levels by topping up accordingly.

Don’t forget to check the fuel tank area for signs of leakage, too. Fuel leaks typically give themselves away with a strong odour. Seepage of fuel, possibly caused by changing temperature and pressure, may be possible in some vehicles during extended periods of non-climate-controlled storage.

Rodent Check

Again using a flashlight and inspection mirror, give your ride a full check for signs of rodent-related problems. Vehicles make for a welcoming place for rodents to nest over the winter, and you’ll want to ensure to evict any freeloaders before your first drive. Check the areas where rodents like to hide, and don’t underestimate their sneakiness: a full check of the engine bay, including manifolds and the engine airbox and filter assembly, is advised. Inspect the HVAC air intake, the area beneath the seats, the trunk, and any accessible wiring, for signs of trouble, too. If you see clumps of seat padding, wiring that looks nibbled on, seed casings, rodent poop, or other clues, your ride may currently be in use by one or more small, furry creatures.

The First Drive

Once everything checks out, it’s time for your first ride of the year. Some owners like to remove the fuel-injection relay (which prevents the engine from achieving ignition) and crank the engine over for a few moments, to circulate fluids before actually starting the engine up. Others don’t.

With the engine running, a minute or two of idling may be advisable to bring things up to temperature gradually, to ensure full fluid circulation, and to determine if any Check Engine lights are activated. You may want to slowly pump the brake and clutch pedals a few times, to restore full fluid pressure within both systems before driving.

Some owners choose to fully burn the tank of fuel their vehicle was stored with before refueling, ensuring the removal of the “old” fuel in full before topping back up. Other owners simply get in, drive, and carry on as usual.

Kennard’s take?

“When I store the ’Vette for winter, I don’t worry too much about the fuel tank,” he says. “If I remember to, I like to top it up before storage, but I won’t lose any sleep over it if I don’t.”

Finally, remember that your tires may be flat-spotted from months of sitting, which can result in an unwelcome vibration for the first few minutes on the road. Also, note that your brakes may be rusty, meaning they’ll be noisy and offer reduced initial performance, too. Translation? Make the first ride of the year an easy one, for maximum peace of mind.

Summer is coming! 4/6/2018 10:00:00 AM