How to Safely Start a Car Stored for Months or Years

Stored your car for a while? This comprehensive guide outlines the steps to safely start your vehicle and prevent damage after prolonged storage.


Whether you've been away for an extended trip or have stored your classic car for the season, it's crucial to follow proper procedures when starting it after long-term storage. Simply turning the key and hoping for the best might lead to immediate and costly issues. This guide walks you through the process of preparing, assessing, and starting your vehicle safely after it's been sitting idle.

Step 1: Pre-Start Assessment

Before attempting to start the vehicle, conduct a thorough inspection. This step is crucial for identifying potential issues caused by prolonged storage.

  • Check for Rodents: Look for signs of rodent intrusion. Mice and other small creatures can wreak havoc on electrical systems, hoses, and other components.
  • Inspect the Exterior: Examine the car body for rust or other damage that may have occurred during storage.
  • Under the Hood: Check for signs of corrosion, particularly on battery terminals, and ensure there are no loose or damaged wires.

Step 2: Battery Inspection

Your vehicle’s battery is fundamental to its operation, but it's vulnerable to degradation over time, especially during periods of non-use.

  1. Inspect the battery for leaks or swelling.
  2. If the battery was disconnected, clean the terminals with a brush and baking soda solution before reattaching the cables.
  3. Use a voltmeter to check the battery's charge level. If it's below 12.4 volts, you'll need to charge it.
  4. If the battery is old or incapable of holding a charge, consider replacing it to avoid further start-up issues.

Step 3: Fluid Inspection

Fluids are the lifeblood of your vehicle. Here's how to check them:

  • Engine Oil: Check the oil level using the dipstick. If it’s low, top it off. If the oil is dirty or you haven’t changed it in a while, consider an oil change before starting the engine.
  • Coolant: Verify that the coolant level is within the recommended range.
  • Brake Fluid: Look at the brake fluid reservoir's level and color. Dark fluid indicates a need for change.
  • Transmission Fluid: This should be clear to slightly pinkish. If it’s dark or has a burnt smell, replace it.
  • Gasoline: If the car has been sitting for months, the gas may be stale. If you suspect this, add fresh fuel and a fuel stabilizer.

Step 4: Tire Inspection

Long-term storage can adversely affect your vehicle’s tires. Perform the following checks to ensure they are roadworthy:

  1. Check for flat spots on the tires. These can develop if a car sits in one position too long.
  2. Inspect the tire pressure and inflate the tires to the recommended PSI found in your vehicle’s manual.
  3. Look for signs of cracking or degradation, which could indicate the need for new tires.

Step 5: Starting the Vehicle

With the preliminary checks and maintenance out of the way, you’re ready to start the vehicle.

  1. Before turning the key, make sure the car is in 'Park' or 'Neutral' with the parking brake engaged.
  2. Turn the key to the 'On' position (just before the start position) for a few seconds to allow the fuel pump to pressurize the system.
  3. Now, turn the ignition key to start the vehicle. It should fire up. If it doesn’t, and the battery is good, you may need to check the fuel and ignition systems for issues.
  4. Once started, let the engine idle for several minutes. Monitor the dashboard for any warning lights.
  5. During this idle period, listen for any unusual sounds. Popping or clanking noises might indicate a problem.

Step 6: Post-Start Tips

After the vehicle is running, it’s not quite ready for a regular drive. Follow these tips:

  • Don’t Rev the Engine: Allow the car to warm up at idle or under light load conditions to ensure that oil circulates fully.
  • Check the Brakes: Before driving, test the brakes. Brakes can seize up during storage, and brake performance might be hindered due to rust buildup.
  • Take a Short Drive: Begin with a short drive around the block. Monitor for any noises or performance issues.
  • Plan a Maintenance Check: Consider scheduling a full service or inspection with a trusted mechanic, especially if you notice any issues.


Reawakening a stored vehicle requires more than just a turn of the key. By following these detailed steps, you ensure the health of your car’s engine, electrical system, tires, and more. Properly removing your car from storage and preparing it for the road safeguards against potential issues, ensuring many more miles of enjoyable driving.

Created by a Human

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