How Often Should You Start a Car In Storage?

When you purchase a car, you’re probably not thinking about the time it’ll spend in storage when you’re not using it.

In reality, though, it’ll spend more time in storage than on the road. This is especially true for winter car or classic car storage.

But how often should you start a car in storage to ensure it’s ready to drive when needed?

We’ve got the answer for you right here.

Do You Need to Start Your Car While It Is In Storage?

Some experts and car collectors believe that if you properly prepare your car for winter storage, you don’t need to start it. Instead, they claim you can let it hibernate in place without interruption for months at a time.

In their view, if you put fresh oil, seal off the intake and exhaust opening, and run gas through the engine, the car should be in the same condition you left it in when you first put it in storage.

There’s also the risk of sporadically doing more harm than good by starting your car. It can introduce moisture and other contaminants to the cold engine.

Since it won’t be running long enough to heat up and evaporate all the extra stuff, your engine can rust sooner than it would under normal conditions.

On the contrary, others say they’ve been able to keep their cars operational by starting a stored car now and then. Ultimately, there are pros and cons for each side of the argument.

Your decision should come down to storage conditions and how well you prepared your car for long-term storage.

In our opinion, starting a stored car is better than letting it sit.

First, we’ll explain some of the reasons why we that’s the case. Then, we’ll dive into how often you should start it, where you should store it, and whether it’s worthwhile getting car insurance – just in case something happens.

Reasons to Start Your Car Periodically

Even though there are some downsides to starting a stored car periodically, there are several benefits.

However, one significant caveat is always warming it up to operating temperature. Also, take it out on the road for 10 to 20 minutes, if possible.

Driving your car every once in a while circulates the oil and other fluids through your engine. Any contaminants in the fuel will settle once the engine cools down. 

There are several reasons to start your car while it is in storage, but the main reason is to stop corrosion.

Turning on your engine coats the inside with oil and ensures that water pumps and charging systems remain in peak condition.

Taking the car out for a drive also ensures the tires do not experience flat stopping and keeps the brakes from rusting.

With all that in mind, never start your car for a few seconds and turn it off again. You are doing more harm than good by not letting the engine adequately warm up before shutting it off.

Always run your engine for at least 15 minutes at a time.

Car stored in garage with car cover

How Often Should You Start a Car In Storage?

The answer to this question can vary. All cars require different maintenance depending on their make, model, and age.

However, starting your vehicle once a week is a good idea, and doing so will keep your car from rusting or the batteries from dying.

Furthermore, I want to reiterate the importance of allowing your engine to run for a few minutes until it reaches its standard operating temperature.

This lets the heat dry out your engine, protecting it from corrosion.

Additionally, it does not hurt to rev the engine lightly before turning off your car so that the remaining mixture is shot out of the exhaust components of your vehicle.

How Long Can Your Car Go Without Starting?

So, you should start your car weekly while it is in storage. However, there might be times when you cannot get to your car every week.

So, how often should you start a car in storage? More importantly, how long can it go without starting?

Most cars are not at risk of damage unless they go two weeks without starting.

It might take more than two weeks without starting for your car to experience adverse effects. However, you shouldn’t wait to find out how long it takes.

What Happens If You Go a Long Time Without Starting a Stored Car?

The reason you start your car while it is in storage is to avoid long-term damage.

However, many of you probably do not know what you are looking to avoid by starting your car periodically.

Unfortunately, several negative things can happen if you do not start your car periodically. Notably, the battery in your car can die from lack of use.

Additionally, your tires can deflate and degrade if you do not drive around a little.

Finally, not starting a stored car risks contaminating lubricants, oils, and other fluids.

Can You Fix a Dead Battery?

The battery can die if you leave your car idle for too long. If this happens, you might wonder how to fix or recharge a dead battery.

Unfortunately, a dead battery can no longer support the electrochemical processes required to power your car and its systems.

As a result, when your cat battery dies, you will need to have it replaced.

However, ensuring your car’s battery is dead and not just discharged is essential.

You can hire a mechanic to inspect your car battery to determine if it is completely drained.

Alternatively, there are several educational YouTube videos for you to watch to assess the state of your battery yourself.

Will Your Oil Go Bad Sitting In Your Car’s Engine?

One of the main concerns of car owners putting their vehicles in storage is the state of their oil. Oil is expensive, and as a result, you do not want it to go to waste.

In good conditions, engine oil can stay in good condition for a long time.

When I say optimal conditions, I refer to an opened container at medium temperatures. With that said, engine oil typically remains effective for two years without use.

So, it shouldn’t be a big deal if you only store your car for the winter.

Should You Store Your Car Inside or Outside?

If you’re going to store your car, you need to know where to keep it. As a result, consider the pros and cons of outdoor and indoor storage.

For the same reason that garages are better than carports, indoor storage is far better than outdoor storage.

Indoor facilities have way more control over the conditions your car will sit in. An indoor facility protects your vehicle from the weather and can control the temperature.

Conversely, outdoor storage facilities provide you with very little in the way of control. You can rent a spot in the lot, but it will not be protected from the elements.

Even if you park your car under a carport, there is still a good chance your vehicle will be affected by the elements. It will undoubtedly experience any swings in temperature throughout its tenure in storage.

Some outdoor storage facilities do a great job of caring for your vehicle. However, they are hard to find, and they are more expensive.

Additionally, you need to do more prep on your car before it goes into storage when using an outdoor storage facility.

How Much Does Car Storage Cost?

Car storage prices vary drastically depending on your car’s size and the facility’s quality. Indoor facilities are typically more expensive than outdoor lots because they provide a better service and may even provide car covers for your vehicle.

On the cheap end, you can expect to spend $45 monthly on storage. However, if you are storing a large truck or RV in a high-quality indoor storage facility, you can expect to spend as much as $450 a month.

Should You Purchase Car Storage Insurance?

Another thing to consider before you put your car in storage is purchasing car storage insurance. I recommend getting it if you can.

Car storage insurance will protect you from any unforeseen damage that your car could experience while in storage.

However, I do not want to mislead you by stating that there are specific car storage insurance plans you can purchase.

Car storage insurance is not something you can buy. Instead, you need to modify your car insurance plan while in storage.

You should eliminate any driving-based payments that are part of your insurance plan. Suspend the liability and collision coverage to protect you only against damage.

Doing these things will save you money, and as a result, the savings pay for the storage facility themselves.

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Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.