Should I store my truck?
December 15, 2006 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Going out of town for 3 months...should I store my truck?

I'll be spending the next three months or so in NYC and that means I'm not going to be driving my '91 Ford Ranger for a while. It'd be really nice if it started when I got back. Is three months a long enough sit to warrant a little preparation? If it is, then what sort of things should I do?
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
For three months the vehicle should be just fine. It would help if the truck was garaged but still it should be ok.
posted by JayRwv at 3:05 PM on December 15, 2006

I leave my '94 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked for three months at a time pretty often, and it starts and runs fine. And, welcome to NYC!
posted by nicwolff at 4:26 PM on December 15, 2006

You can let it sit-- and it should start fine. But change the oil often. As weird as it sounds, oil goes bad a lot faster when cars are sitting than when they're driven regularly.
posted by koeselitz at 5:00 PM on December 15, 2006

Wouldn't hurt to have someone go start it up once or twice. And expect the battery to be dead when you get back.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:15 PM on December 15, 2006

You can either get someone to start it while you're gone, or just prepare it a bit.

Basic storage procedure would be to disconnect the battery terminals (so that parasitic loads don't drain it) and leave the gas tank no more than half full. When you get back, reconnect the battery, fire her up, and go fill up the tank with fresh gas.

Three months is really not much. But it won't hurt to disconnect the battery to make sure you don't have problems starting it when you get back.
posted by jellicle at 7:50 PM on December 15, 2006

Given that this is a short winter lay-up, I'd go a bit further than other posters have suggested. First, I have an oil change prior to shutting the truck down, and I'd run or drive it a least a half hour thereafter to circulate the clean, fresh oil. Check/change the air filter as needed, too. But a week or so before I shut it down, I'd add a can of gas treatment to the tank, just to pull out any incidental water that may have settled in the tank. And I'd be using Shell Premium or a similar high detergent Top Tier gasoline for a week or so before shutting the vehicle down, for the extra detergent additives these fuels contain. I might also wash the vehicle a few days ahead of the shutdown, driving it for a day or two thereafter, and parking it in the sun to be sure it was thoroughly dried before leaving it. If it's sitting outside, you want any rain or water it gets to drain normally, and not be contributing to rust or finish problems.

At a minimum, I'd make sure to fully inflate, or even slightly over-inflate, your tires, prior to the shut down. Over 3 months, sitting in one spot, most steel belted radials will definitely "take a set" that will make it feel like you're driving on square wheels for a hundred or so miles after you start driving again. If you have very good tires, it might even be worth the $40 to buy some jack stands and a floor jack (you'll need 4 jack stands) and the half hour it takes to do it, to put the truck up off the wheels while you're gone.

When I disconnected the battery, I'd also take a few minutes to thoroughly clean the post and cable terminal, or whatever battery connection system is used on your truck, and coat the parts with grease. I'd also throughly clean and dry the top of the battery case and the sides, to reduce current leakage paths on the outside of the case. It will be late February or early March when you're trying to start this thing, and you don't need to be fighting questionable connections then. But a battery can discharge due to internal faults, too; if yours is more than 36 months old, I wouldn't be surprised to find it dead when you get home, despite any prep you do. If you're leaving the vehicle home, and want to put it on a maintenance charger, that's fairly cheap insurance for a new battery.

And I'd shoot some WD-40 in the door locks, and wipe down the door seals with Armor All, to make sure getting the doors open on a cold day isn't a problem. I'd also lube the hood latch and any part of the release cable that was visible, so as to make opening the hood easy. I might have a look at the wipers, and if they need to be replaced for winter use, have a set on hand to be put on when you get back.

Of course, I'd also be checking anti-freeze, belts and hoses, before leaving, and I'd have any seasonal service due the cooling system done a week or more ahead of shutdown. As other posters have said, 3 months isn't a long time to leave a vehicle, but then again, this is a 15 or 16 year old truck. If you don't want problems, pamper it a bit in shutting it down.
posted by paulsc at 9:54 PM on December 15, 2006

Three months without driving it shouldn't be a problem.

I had a "summer car" for a few years, and I kept it garaged for the winter. The only preperation I made for storing it was to put Sta-Bil in the gas tank. It stabilizes the gas and helps to keep things from gumming up. When I took the car out of storage in the spring I'd change the oil. Also, you don't mention where you're storing it, but be aware that little critters like to build nests in engines if given the chance. Just pop the hood and have a look around before you start it in the spring.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:43 AM on December 16, 2006

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