Planning to store your car long-term? Even if you store your car in a controlled environment, you must protect it from dust, moisture, and damage.
Most experts recommend using a car cover for long-term storage, even if you’re storing your car in your garage.
We’ll talk about why you should cover your car in the garage and what types of car covers to use.
Spoilers…it makes a big difference.
Read on to find out more.
Why Should You Cover Your Car in the Garage?
Most people assume that keeping your car in your garage is enough to keep it safe from damage.
A garage protects your car from extreme weather and debris.
However, it can’t stop things like dust or humidity inside your garage from taking their toll.
The best way to protect your car is to use a car cover, even inside your garage. Additionally, it protects from external elements like dirt, falling debris, and moisture.
Car Covers Protect Against Moisture
Moisture creeps into your garage when you least expect it.
If you’ve got an older car with chrome or exposed metal parts, you know that they don’t handle moisture buildup well.
Often, it leads to discoloration or rust.
Even if you seal your garage to keep moisture out, it’s tough to figure out where moisture gathers. It’s worse if you live near the coast or in an area that salts roads after a snowstorm.
Salt eats away at the exposed parts of your car, quickening corrosion and rust.
Keeping your car in the garage helps keep it safe from the weather. Still, it can’t prevent damage from moisture that accumulates behind body panels and in your engine bay. A breathable indoor car cover helps prevent moisture from building up because it allows air to circulate and dry out quicker.
Best of all, using an indoor car cover keeps moisture from settling on your car and gives it a just-waxed appearance.
Car Covers Protect Against Scratches
Your garage is a busy place. If you have kids with toys or even a cat that likes to jump up on your car, it’s easy to scratch up your paint.
The problem gets worse if you use your garage as a workspace. I know I’m guilty of scratching my car because I was careless with my watch or the tools I was carrying.
Using a car cover in the garage may not completely stop the damage. Nevertheless, it will add extra protection against minor scratches, bumps, or cat paws.
Car Covers Protect Against Dust in Your Garage
You want your car to look great for as long as possible, but dust and pollen make it difficult.
Your garage is dusty, especially if you have a concrete floor. Even if your car is in the garage, you can’t escape it.
Depending on where you live, you may have to deal with pollen and other allergens that can find their way into your garage whenever the door opens or even when you park your daily driver inside.
Dirt is easy to clean up, but dust and pollen are much more challenging because of their smaller particle sizes.
Although dirt, dust, and pollen buildup may seem trivial, it can dull your car’s finish and even permanently scratch it.
If you’re planning on storing your vehicle in your garage long-term, you should invest in a quality indoor car cover. Indoor covers help protect your car from pollen and dust buildup and keep your car’s paint looking new for longer.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor Car Covers
Car covers are designed for either indoor or outdoor use. Using an indoor car cover outside is usually not good, or vice versa.
Outdoor covers are thicker and heavier to give protection against rain, snow, sun, or wind.
In other words…the conditions you won’t find indoors.
Their heavy fabrics also help protect against tree sap and bird droppings, keeping their acids off your car’s paint.
In contrast, indoor car covers are lightweight, easier to store, and made from a softer material. They still help protect your car from dings and keep dust off.
But they’re made from a breathable fabric that helps keep air flowing so moisture can evaporate.
In a pinch, you can use an outdoor car cover in your garage. However, you can’t use an indoor cover outside. It’s not designed to provide adequate protection from the weather and will start to deteriorate quickly.
If you plan to leave your car outside for long periods, you need an outdoor car cover to protect your vehicle from UV rays and other elements.
How to Prepare Your Car for Long-Term Storage
Whether you’re planning to go for an extended vacation or have a car that you only drive in the summer, you need to prep your vehicle before storing it.
Here is the general process to follow:
Wash & Wax Your Car Before Storing It in the Garage
Never store your car without cleaning it first.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to clean the car before storing it, it helps keep your car’s finish looking good for longer.
Start by cleaning the lower body panels, fenders, and wheels to eliminate dust, grease, tar, or mud.
Be sure to pay special attention to your wheels to clean off any accumulated brake dust. Brake dust is acidic and can eat the wheel’s finish if left unchecked.
Similarly, check that the interior is free of food particles and debris so ants or other pests don’t make your car their new home. If you eat in your car (ugh!), be sure to throw out any food wrappers to avoid unwanted odors in your vehicle. Now’s a good time to find that lost french fry that fell between your seats.
Furthermore, to help make the car’s interior more breathable, steam clean the carpets, adopt carbon-coated seats, and desiccate the upholstery.
The undercarriage should also be cleaned to avoid salt or road grime eating away at the metal.
If this seems too much work, take it to your local detailer. When you get it home, give it a final once-over before you put on the car cover.
Care For Your Tires
It may seem like the same thing, but cleaning your tires is separate from cleaning your wheels.
When cleaning your wheels, the goal is to remove road salt, grime, or acidic brake dust. But cleaning your tires is about caring for the rubber compound so it doesn’t crack or flat spot while your car’s in storage.
Flat spotting occurs when tires are stationary and under pressure for an extended period. This eventually changes the tires’ circumference, causing a ‘flat spot.’ This isn’t easy to see but becomes apparent the next time you drive the car.
The damage is usually permanent, so you’ll need to replace the tires.
Alternatively, you can take the wheels off and place the car on jack stands.
This means it’s essential to maintain proper tire pressure to reduce the possibility of flat-spotting. Sticking to your tires’ maximum cold inflation pressure is a good idea.
When storing your car, never use tire dressings on your tires.
Instead, use a simple cleaning solution. For more tips on how to store your tires, check out my article here, where I detail the entire process I follow.
Check and Replace your Fluids (Fuel, Oil, Coolant, Etc.)
If you’re storing your car short term (less than two weeks), you can skip this step. However, checking and replacing the fluids is a good idea if you’re storing your car for the winter.
Ethanol-blended gasoline stays fresh for a maximum of three months. After that, the ethanol absorbs too much water in the air and breaks down.
To help, fuel industry experts recommend the gas tank be at least 90% full. We also recommend adding a fuel stabilizer to help prevent degradation and fuel line corrosion.
Similarly, engine oil contains contaminants that could damage the engine once you start it up after storage. As temperatures drop, oil thickens, which could damage your engine when you cold start it.
A fresh oil change can help prevent engine corrosion during the winter.
Finally, ensure your vehicle has enough coolant (antifreeze) to stabilize its temperatures during winter. Check the coolant’s water mixture to avoid overheating or freezing. Avoid mixing antifreeze coolants, and remember to use a winter-friendly coolant.
Avoid Using the Parking Brake
I’m bad at this one. Although I’m a fan of using the parking brake when driving my car, you shouldn’t use it when storing your car long-term.
The rotors and brake pads could fuse together. If you want extra security, you could get a tire stopper or parking aid to prevent your car from moving.
Start Your Car Periodically
As much as you’d like to forget about your car until spring, starting your vehicle periodically in winter storage is beneficial.
You don’t need to drive very far. As little as 30 minutes every month will help keep your cars running properly.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but a car cover is a good idea, even when storing your car in the garage.
Your garage and a car cover work together. The garage will help keep your car safe from the elements. In contrast, a car cover helps protect your car’s exterior from dirt, dust, scratches, and moisture buildup during prolonged storage.
Invest in a quality, breathable water-repellant indoor car cover with a soft lining. Make sure to securely fasten the car cover to your vehicle, and avoid plastic covers.