The following advice is based on car storage of more than 30 days. While you may use some of this advice for short storage periods, most of it is only applicable for longer term storage.
: You should store your vehicle with a full tank. Extra credit for using a gas stabilizer prior to the fill-up. Reason for full vs. empty is a full tank allows less moisture into your system. Alternately you could totally drain your tank, but this is a huge hassle for 99% of people.
: Change it just before you put your car into storage.
: All other fluids should be topped off and should be fine. If your car will experience cold weather: washer fluid should be the cold weather variety so as to not freeze and split your tank. Check the bottle specifications for freezing data as most of the regular "blue" washer fluid is not rated for cold weather. For STI owners, the intercooler waterspray tank should be filled 1/2 way so the freezing process will not crack the tank. Filling intercooler waterspray tank with anything other than water is NOT necessary.
: Call your insurance company. Many insurance companies will allow you do reduce coverage for long periods of storage and each company has their own ins and outs of doing so. Contact them WELL before the storage period as they may have to verify odometer readings, etc. BE SURE to call them the day you plan on taking the car out of storage as well.
: Make sure you have a current state inspection, registration, tags, etc. for the duration. This is especially critical for outside storage as many localities will tow with no warning for expired tags, inspection, etc. If someone is watching your vehicle, you may consider a limited power of attorney for them to perform these actions on your behalf if you are unable to do so while you are away. Talk to a lawyer about this or search online for power of attorney forms. Since it is limited, you can specifiy exactly what the person can do for you and have no fear that they will sell your car out from under you.
: Tires stored off the vehicle should be stacked on their sides. Have a portable air compressor ready as the tires will probably need inflation when you return to your vehicle. Removing the tires or placing your car on jackstands to prevent flatspotting is a myth carried over from older tire generations. Though you may see some tire deformation, proper inflation and running them will restore them in short order.
: Cover all points of entry. Windows and doors should be closed. Tailpipe should be covered to a fair the well with multiple layers of plastic. Intakes (depending on the brand/type) should also be covered in the same manner. Also look over your vehicle for any egress points that may need to be covered as well. Get underneath your car with a flashlight and check it out. Any opening larger than a dime is an invitation for critters to nest. Fender liners are famous for holes/ill fitment that allows infestation.
: You are mainly concerned about moisture and odor. Many companies sell dessicant packs and/or charcoal packs for cars. You could even do it on the cheap tip with nice aluminum foil tray or two full of regular (NOT Match Light) charcoal. Dessicant packs can absorb excess moisture and if your vehicle is monitored during the storage period, many of them can be refreshed by oven baking the packs. The baking removes the retained moisture and many of the dessicant packs will change from (for example) pink, which is moist, to blue, which is dry. This step is not a terribly important point, but something to consider.
: Full detail job with a premium, long life wax. Long life is the key here as you are looking for a lasting protection, so consider one of the synthetic waxes like Nu Finish. While not the "best" wax, Nu Finish will last forever and length is more important than shine. Consider consulting www.autopia.org
for other long life waxes as Nu Finish is just one wax to consider.
: That's a toughy. If your vehicle is stored indoors, most would say a QUALITY cover is a good idea. By quality, we are talking about a car cover that is designed to protect the finish of your car where it meets the cover as well as protection against UV rays and bird bombs. www.calcarcover.com
is arguable THE source for quality covers and their catalog also contains other products for long term storage as well. If anything, you should sign up for their catalog anyway as it's really killer. if your vehicle is stored outdoors, most would say a cover is not a good idea. Think about it.....6 months or a year of the cover flapping against your paint....think it through....it that better than having your car covered in pollen/dirt/bird bombs?
a. Your battery should be removed. PLAN ON it being dead even if you remove it and place it on a dry, non-conductive surface. Plan ahead and have a charger of some type, another vehicle for jump-starting, or a fresh battery. Your battery WILL be dead no matter what precaution you take and the OEM battery is famous for not returning from the dead, so keep this in mind. Plug in type trickle chargers are another option, but it is generally easier to do one of the above options.
: If you have someone that will be looking after your car, having them start it once a month or every two weeks is another option. It should be run for at least 10 minutes. 10 minutes is enough time for it to come up to temperature and have all the water in the oil burn off. If the vehicle is parked, they should drive it for 5-10 miles or so. As to whether it's better to leave the vehicle be or to have someone drive it once or twice a month....that's a judgement call for you as there is no set answer as many people have used both methods successfully.
Garage/storage unit storage
: Definately the best way to go.
: Worst case scenario. The keys to look for here are:
a. Will it be in a safe place?
b. If someone is looking after it/driving it occasionally, the battery should be left in and they should keep a careful eye on tire inflation and keep the tank topped off. MAKE SURE the person knows you car takes premium.
c. Make sure the person (if applicable) who drives your vehicle is kosher. Your cousin Jimmy whose insurance lapsed due to not paying his premium by two days and has a suspended license is NOT a good candidate. Your ideal candidate has a valid license (check it), valid insurance (check it), and you both have a WRITTEN contract stating the uses of the car. If your mother T-bones a bus load of nuns, a written contract could save you and/or your insurance company from a horrendous lawsuit. Odds are nothing will happen, but cover your ass.
d. Limited power of attorney for the supervisory person. This will allow them to get state inspections, new plates, maintenance, etc. on your behalf. Not for everyone, but with a limited power of attorney, it will allow that person to perform actions on your behalf that you specify.
e. Will you use a car cover or not? As stated above, that's a tough call and one for you to think about.
Off storage start up
: Remove the car cover if applicable. You will have to put the tires back on and check for proper inflation or lower the vehicle and check for proper inflation. Remove any protection on your tailpipe/intake and any charcoal/dessicant packs from the interior. Replace the battery and have it charge on a charger or have a new one installed. If you are jumping an old battery, put the cables on for a good 10-15 minutes before attempting a jump start. If all else fails and you need to "pop the clutch", it's usually easier to do so in 3rd or 4th gear vs. 1st gear. Popping the clutch should be your LAST resort for getting the car started. Once started, easily take off. You might very well hear/feel some jarring pops or bangs like you ran over a piece of concrete in the road. This is one or all of your differentials unseizing and breaking free, so expect some starting off unpleasantness. Now drive your vehicle for a good 15 minutes in a very Christian fashion. Act like it's a Kia Sephia, no boost, no mad power runs. After 15 minutes and everything comes up to temperature, you can wail on it once again. In theory, you should then be good to go. For extra points you may get an immediate oil change though that's not really necessary.