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At one time or another, many of us are going to want to store our RX-7s. Whether it be for the winter or because of a long term project, proper storage techniques are very important. Improperly storing a car can be one of the worst things you can do to a vehicle and lead to multiple failures when it is put back on the road. Or worse, poor storage techniques could allow the weather, moisture and even rodents to wreak havoc on every system in a vehicle. This document will cover proper storage techniques for the RX-7. Few of these are specific to the RX-7 in the sense that they will not also apply to basically any vehicle. I know this is going to sound like a lot of work when you read it, but in reality you are only looking at an afternoon's labor. It's a small price to pay when you consider how much damage improper storage will cause.
The first thing to consider is whether the car will be stored long term or short term. If it's only going to sit a week or two, then there really aren't any special concerns and it can be parked in a safe place and perhaps covered. But if storage is a month or longer the fuel is going to get stale, components will stiffen up and the whole car will start to look very inviting as a home for the local wildlife. My advice is to consider any storage longer then a few weeks to be long term. Even if you intend to only store the car for a month, life has a way of extending that period. Maybe you'll get distracted on another project? Maybe another of your vehicles will require attention? Vacations, job changes and just generally the mess that is life can get in the way and suddenly turn short term storage into long term. So many cars have been ruined as they were "only put away for a month" which turned into 6 months, then a year, then two years and so on. Thus, this document will treat all storage as long term. We start with choosing the appropriate location.
Ideally you will want to store your RX-7 in a climate controlled garage on a concrete floor that has been sealed. Of course, very few people have this option. If you are storing anywhere that moisture can come up from above (unsealed concrete, dirt, gravel, asfault) then you must park the car on a plastic tarp to prevent condensation from forming underneath. Underbody rust from this effect is a major problem as anyone who has ever seen a vehicle stored on dirt knows. Climate controlled buildings will almost eliminate the condensation problem. Common storage areas like unheated garages, driveways and backyards are fine as long as the vehicle is not allowed to sit directly on the ground.
Regardless of storage area there are a few things to keep in mind. It should be out of the way so people are not bumping into the vehicle or hauling things past. Heavy objects should not be stored above roof level and your storage area should not be exposed to environmental hazards (high winds, floods, etc.).
Thoroughly wash the car by hand. Make sure to get into all the little areas and don't forget the door sills and wheel wells. Dry the car with a lint free towel or Chamois and then apply a coat of wax. Apply a non-silicone rubber dressing to the door and hatch seals to prevent them from drying and sticking. Lubricate hinges and latches with a lithium based grease, as well as the lock mechanisms.
The first thing people think of when considering storing a car. Indeed it is the most involved part of the process since the engine contains many intricate components and internal unprotected bare metal surfaces. These surfaces will easily rust as condensation forms due to temperature changes and moisture in the air.
Fully degrease and clean the engine bay. There are many commercial products available such as Simple Green, Castrol Super Clean and Gunk Engine Degreaser. No matter which product you use you must keep it out of the electrical system and do not allow it to sit on aluminum. Rinse from above with a gentle spray of water.
Pour the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer into the fuel tank. I generally use Sta-Bil. The bottle has a built in measuring cup and instructions for amounts on the label. You want this to be the first step so the stabilizer will circulate throughout the entire fuel system.
To begin, start by changing your coolant. Flush the system if you are so equipped and don't forget the heater core. Coolant will become acidic over time as it's additive package depletes. At the same time, corrosion inhibitors wear out. This can cause havoc on the cooling passages during periods of inactivity. Start the car and go for a drive to circulate your new coolant and warm up the oil. Don't forget to run the heater as you want to get all that stale coolant out of the core.
Before you continue you will probably want to park the car in it's final resting place. After the next few steps are completed you cannot start the engine so if the car has to be moved you will be pushing it.
Jack up the front of the car and change the oil and filter. Be careful as the engine is still hot. Hot oil flows much more easily then cold oil. Start the car and let it idle for a minute or so to circulate the new oil.
With the car up to operating temperature, shut it off and remove the air filter. Start the car again and while holding a high idle (around 1000-1200 RPM) spray fogging oil into the intake. Fogging oil is available at almost any auto parts store and is a thick aerosol oil that will cling to any metal parts and prevent corrosion. Continue spraying the oil into the intake by pulsing the nozzle, gradually increasing the amount you are spraying. This will create a lot of smoke as the oil burns off. Finally, when you are down to about half a can, spray a continuous stream into the intake and allow the idle to drop and the car to stall. This will coat the inside of the intake and engine, preventing corrosion on all internal components (rotors, irons, seals, throttle plates, etc.). Make sure to turn the ignition key to off after you have stalled the car.
This next step will involve removing the spark plugs so you may want to continue below and then come back here when the engine has cooled. Remove each leading plug and then spray fogging oil liberally into each hole. Most cans come with an applicator you can shove into the hole and use to spray almost the entire engine. By rotating the eccentric shaft slightly you can get the entire bottom half of the engine and some of the top half. Pulling the trailing plug can sometimes give you access to the top half if the applicator is thin. Once the engine is coated internally you can put the plugs back into place after applying anti-seize to their threads. Apply dielectric grease to the spark plug boots to prevent them from sticking.
Apply a commercial rubber preservative to the hoses for your cooling and heating system. You'll be replacing these hoses if you store the car for more then a year anyway but it's worth keeping them in good shape if the storage period is less then you expect. Avoid anything with silicone as in the long term it dries rubber out. Try not to get any of these products on the belts since many of them are greasy and will cause the belts to slip wildly when the engine is restarted.
Spray a light oil (for example, WD-40) around the throttle body linkages. These linkages are designed to operate dry so a light oil is important otherwise you'll just be stuck cleaning it up when you unstore the car. WD-40 is useless as a lubricant but is a decent corrosion inhibitor and will evaporate the first time the car is warmed after storage. Also spray exposed steel and aluminum parts. This can be a bit messy but will be worth it to prevent surface rust.
If your engine is not running then you can still complete most of these steps without warming up the engine. Fogging oil can be introduced through the spark plug holes and the oil can be changed cold. If the starter runs you can rotate the engine to circulate new oil. Any unused orifices on the engine (ie. intake and exhaust ports) can be covered with quality duct tape.
There's not a whole lot to do in this area.
If your brake fluid is more then a year old, change it. Flush the system and then fill with new fluid and bleed. The fluid absorbs moisture over time and you don't want this corroding the brake system from the inside out. While you are there, use high temperature grease to lubricate the caliper guide pins and parking brake mechanism. You can apply a light oil (WD-40) with a cloth to the surface of the brake rotors to prevent rust. Stick a sign on the steering wheel as a reminder that the rotors are oiled as the first stop after storage is going to be a long one. Use only a light oil for this.
To avoid flat spotting, pump the tires up to about 50-60 PSI. Modern tires will have no problem with this pressure but be sure to lower it before driving the car. Apply a non-silicone preservative. Remove each lug nut, apply anti-seize and then torque to spec.
Lubricate any exposed suspension joints with the appropriate grease. If you can find a product called "Cosmoline" it is ideal for coating springs and shocks to prevent corrosion. Honda dealers can generally order it.
Do not set the parking brake as it can stick if left engaged for long periods of time. Instead leave the car in gear and chock the wheels.
Most auto parts stores sell a spray rust proofing oil which can be used to coat the underbody of the car. Moisture can come up from the ground and attack the underside, and any condensation that forms will hang at the lowest point of the car. Oiling the bottom is also important to prevent the exhaust from rusting as a non-stainless exhaust will rust aggressively when sitting.
Clean and vacuum all upholstery and carpets. Remove any garbage especially food related (animals will smell it a mile away) items. Give the dash and plastic a good scrubbing with a mild detergent and then dry well before applying a non-silicone based preservative. Don't forget the shifter boot.
Leather upholstery requires significantly more care. Wash with a mild detergent and then apply a preservative or moisturizer. Many good leather conditioners exist and are available at auto parts stores and leather stores. Avoid anything with petroleum or silicone as it can do long term damage and leave a greasy coating that will attract every airborne particle that floats by. Some of these products are multiple steps so read the instructions.
Grease the seat rails and mechanism with lithium grease. It's amazing how quickly that will jam up after non use.
Crack the windows slightly to allow air circulation. Closing things tight will allow a musty smell to build that can be very difficult to get rid of.
Remove the battery from the engine compartment and bring it indoors. Keep it at a steady temperature and check it's state of charge every 6 months. If necessary, top up the charge should you get a volt reading of less then about 11.6V. Avoid trickle chargers unless they are of the "smart" type (ie. BatteryTender) as most will overcharge the battery and cause sulfation. Never leave the battery in the engine bay as it will slowly drain (if left connected) and cause corrosion issues.
To protect the car from dents, scratches and weather damage you are going to need a cover of some type. Even if you are storing indoors you will want to keep it covered to avoid accidental damage. With indoor storage you can use a thick blanket or inflatable cover like the Carcoon. Outdoor storage means using a specifically designed breathable outdoor car cover. Tarps are generally not a good idea as they tend to seal in any moisture and may actually cause puddles to form on flat surfaces. They also offer very little in terms of scratch and dent protection. Make sure that outdoor covers are properly secured to the underside of the car with rope. Bungee cords will stretch over time and you'll find that in a large wind your cover will disappear. Worse still a cover that flaps against the side of a car can grind into the paint as it picks up dust and other debris. Remember that any storage on a porous surface (concrete, asfault, dirt, gravel) requires that you park the car on a plastic sheet. Do not secure the cover to the sheet as an air space is required under the car for circulation and to prevent moisture buildup.
Animals love cars. Especially mice and rats. They can find their way in through the smallest crack and make a truly horrid mess of upholstery, carpet and wiring. If they get into the vents you will never be able to remove the smell. By far I have found the best solution to be the ultrasonic repellers available at most hardware stores. In my experience they are 100% effective against small rodents. Placing moth balls around the interior of the car will also repel rodents, but then you have to deal with the odor of mothballs when you begin to drive the car again. Squirrels, opossums and other larger rodents are more of a problem. If you find that one of these critters has taken up residence in your storage area you may find the only cure to be extermination.
There are several common myths associated with car storage that need to be addressed.
The first is that it is somehow a good thing to start the car every week or so, then either let it idle for a while or go for a drive around the block. This is in fact one of the worst things you can possibly do to an engine. The main reason is that unless the engine reaches full operating temperature, moisture (a natural byproduct of combustion and temperature changes) and acids (combustion byproducts) will build up inside the engine and contaminate the oil and metal surfaces. Obviously this is not good for metal components and results in increased wear and shorter life. This effect is easily seen by looking inside the oil filler tube of any rotary that was used primarily for short trips as there will be a clearly visible rust scale that has formed. During normal driving the engine generally heats up enough to vaporize these nasties which are then drawn off by the purge system and burned by the engine.
The second myth is that a car should be stored on jackstands to keep the weight off the suspension. The theory is that keeping weight off of the suspension will somehow preserve it's full motion. In fact, removing the weight of the car will pull the suspension out of it's normal resting place and put it in an unnatural state of hyper extension. Keeping it this way over the long term will cause bushings and joints to bind up and the end result may be corrosion building up in the area of normal suspension travel where don't want it instead of the unused areas where it basically doesn't matter.
A properly stored vehicle will be in good condition when put back on the road even if that time is several years after the initial storage. However there are a few tasks that must be performed afer a period of storage. For more information, see Removing An RX-7 From Storage, Dealing With Improper Storage.
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