If you store a vehicle in south Florida while you spend your summers up north, you have probably had some problems when you got back. We in the car care business often see the results each autumn, and can offer some advice to avoid the pitfalls of that storage. Here are the problems and some solutions.
Problem #1: The battery will die if left for many months without being recharged.
- Hook up a "smart" charger to the battery. This will only work if the car is inside a locked garage, of course, and "smart" means that the charger will not overcharge the battery. Do not use any other type of charger. It could boil the battery dry and cause a fire. Even a smart charger should be checked by someone every week or so to look for malfunctions.
- Remove the negative, ground cable from the battery. This will work for a month or two, but the battery might still die before you get back. Also the computer systems that run the car will have to re-boot themselves and may cause some engine roughness until they do so, and you will lose your memorized radio stations and power seat positions (if you have that option.)
- Have someone come by and start the car monthly and let your alternator recharge the battery for 20 minutes or so. This is the best option, but involves imposing on someone.
Problem #2: The interior may get moldy from the damp stuffy air trapped there.
- Leave the windows cracked open. Again, only in a locked garage.
- Put a container of mildewcide or dehumidifier inside car. It may leave it's own smell in the car, and anything with bleach might fade colors.
- Have someone open the car, and preferably also run the air conditioner for a while. This is the best option again. Goes well with battery best option.
Problem #3: Paint and upholstery exposed to the sun may fade and crack.
- Park in a locked garage, or under a dry roof. Best option if possible.
- Use a custom car cover. It may make the mold problem worse and, if stored outside, it will scratch the paint as wind whips it.
- Park in the shade of a tree. Good move for the upholstery, but if car gets wet from dew and rain and doesn't get sun, it will mold all over, and tree droppings can stain.
- If you can't keep it dry, have someone wash it occasionally. This may involve driving it to a car wash to minimize the imposition factor.
Optional solution: Have someone (possibly your own mechanic) go to your car just before you arrive, and jump-start it if necessary, run it, air it out and have it washed if necessary and prepped for your arrival. A good alternative.
Larry DeHays is the owner of DeHays Automotive Inc. of Fort Myers Beach at 17617 Broadway Ave. near Beach Bowl on San Carlos Boulevard (go to www.dehaysautomotive.com or call 466-3373). He has been an ASE Certified Automotive Technician for 35 years, and is an Arbitrator with the Florida Lemon Law Program, under the Florida Attorney General.