Removing An RX-7 From Storage, Dealing With Improper Storage

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Every spring thousands of RX-7 are pulled out of their winter slumber and put back on the road and/or track. Unfortunately this is rarely done correctly and when combined with improper storage techniques can lead to some real headaches. Here we'll cover proper ways to take a car that has been properly stored and put it back into service. We'll also cover the common problem of improperly stored Wankels and what can be done with these "field" or "barn" cars to get them back onto the road safely and reliably.

Removing an RX-7 From Proper Storage

If the car was properly stored as covered in How To Store Your RX-7 then there is not a whole lot to be done when it's time to put the vehicle back into service. Good preservation of each system means that only a few replacements or repairs are needed.

The Cover, Body and Interior

Carefully remove the car cover by first removing any ropes that are holding it in place and then rolling it up from each end of the car to the middle and lifting it off vertically. Do not drag or yank the cover off in a grand gesture since you will be scraping any trapped dust or dirt across the paint job. The wax that was applied before storage should protect the paint but you can never be too careful.

Examine the body for any damage that may have occurred during storage and make notes of anything that needs to be repaired. Check all trim to make sure it has not loosened up and make sure no insects (bees, wasps, etc.) have made nests between the doors and body.

Open the doors and hatch to ventilate the interior before sticking your head in. Check for any animals and remove any mothballs or rodent repelling devices you may have used. Make sure the seats still move correctly and note any faults.

Suspension, Wheels and Brakes

Check your tire pressures and make sure they are within spec. Remember that if you pumped them up for storage you will want to bring them down to a safe level before driving the car. Check to make sure the tires are not damaged or cracked.

Inspect the suspension and look for any damage that may have occurred. Check the springs and make sure the shocks are not leaking (do not confuse any oil applied prior to storage for shock oil).

Once you are done with the wheels you can move onto the brakes. If you applied oil to the rotors, now is the time to wipe it off. Light oil like WD-40 can be wiped off with a cloth as the remaining residue will burn off the first time the brakes are used but heavier oil may need degreaser.


Thoroughly inspect the underbody for any damage, pinched lines, animals and other debris that can accumulate over time. If the underside of the car was properly oiled then corrosion should not be an issue but do not be surprised to find a light coating of surface rust on exposed metal areas. These can be cleaned up easily with a wire wheel and then painted later on. Be sure to examine the exhaust, driveshaft, CV joint boots and other rubber components.

The Battery

Reinstall your fully charged battery making sure to apply dielectric grease to the terminals and tighten it down securely with the strap. If the battery was properly stored inside and it's charge maintained then a jump start should be unnecessary.

The Fuel System

The fuel system is always a concern when taking a car out of storage since all kinds of sediment and gunk can be sucked into the system the first time the pump runs. If the storage period has been less then a year then the stabilizer should have maintained the fuel enough to not have to worry about it. If the storage period has been a year or more then it is a good idea to drain the tank and put in fresh fuel. You can drain the tank by siphoning (do not use your mouth as a source of suction) or by using the drain plug at the bottom. Often the drain is rusted or otherwise difficult to remove so the siphon might be the best option. Dispose of your old fuel at the local hazardous waste depot (generally free of charge). For the initial startup a few gallons of fresh gas should be enough so don't bother filling the tank. It's also a good idea to replace the fuel filter after the first tank to clear any clogs that may start forming.

The Engine

It's almost time to start the sleeping engine but first you will need to do a good inspection of the engine bay. Check the belts and hoses as well as the wiring harnesses, vacuum lines and oil cooler lines. If the storage period was more then a year it's definitely a good idea to replace the belts and seriously consider replacing the rad and heater hoses as well. Both are cheap insurance and you will sure wish you had when you are stuck at the side of the road. Make sure animals have not made a nest in the airbox, fan area, under the intake or in the radiator/oil cooler. If the throttle linkages were lubricated before storage they should move freely now but verify by moving them back and forth with your hand. Be especially sure that the throttle will not bind and get stuck open.

The Startup

Since fogging oil is used during proper storage there should be no issues with just cranking the car over and starting it immediately. As a precaution a few ounces of oil can be poured into each leading spark plug hole to help lubricate the engine and build compression. Occasionally it is necessary to replace the spark plugs prior to starting since they may have fouled due to all the oil that has been sprayed or poured into the engine. Also do not be surprised if the engine runs poorly for the first few minutes as the oils burn off and the seals free themselves from their resting places. Expect to see some smoke arise from the engine bay as any lubricants sprayed on the engine heat up and burn off.

As the engine warms, thoroughly examine all hoses (especially the oil cooler lines and heater hoses) and seams for leaks. Gaskets like to dry out during storage and this can of course be problematic when the engine is restarted. Common areas are at the metering oil pump, underneath the oil filter and the oil pan gasket. Check also for fuel leaks around the primary fuel rail and pulsation damper area.

Finally, Out Of Storage!

Once you are sure the engine is operating correctly you can finally move the car from it's resting place and get it back on the road. Do a walk around to check for anything that may have been piled around the vehicle and remove wheel chalks if you used them. At this point you can get in and carefully drive the car out and into the world. It's a good idea to treat the next few hundred miles as a "breakin" period and avoid beating on the car excessively as it is during this period that any storage related failures will show up.

Dealing With An RX-7 That Has Been Stored Improperly

As the RX-7 ages, more and more of them are being found in backyards, fields and barns. Almost none of these cars have been stored properly and can take varying degrees of effort to bring them back into a road worthy condition. Pulling one of these RX-7s out of storage, starting it up (if it starts!) and putting it immediately back on the road is one of the worst things you can do. All the fluids will be old and likely worn, belts and hoses will be dry rotted, suspension bound up, interior in various states of nastiness and of course the fuel system will be clogged with sediment. Correct preparation of the car's mechanic systems prior to initial startup are very important and can prevent many headaches in the future. So let's begin with a general inspection.

General Inspection

The first task is to walk around the car and thoroughly examine it. Check the condition of the body, interior, glass, wheels, etc. Obviously if the car is seriously damaged or missing major pieces it's not going anywhere under it's own power so it may not be worth the trouble to start it up where it lies. Check carefully for any insects and animals. Groundhogs, badgers, opossums and other angry creatures love to make their homes under vehicles. Bees, wasps and other pain inducing insects can nest in the door gaps and other sheltered areas. Verify that the exhaust is not clogged or that the car is not parked on highly flammable material.

Check the clutch to make sure that it still engages and disengages properly. Often they will stick from sitting.

Engine Inspection

Before beginning any mechanical work on the engine it is important to determine whether it is a good idea to start it. Inspect the engine bay very carefully for excessive rust, missing components or anything that indicates the engine is not in running condition. Pulling the spark plugs and checking for rust is a generally reliable way of making sure there is no excessive moisture in the engine. If you attempt to start a rusty engine you're going to do a lot more damage so if you find rust it's a good idea to stop if you intend to preserve the engine. A boroscope can be used to look inside the spark plug holes and down the manifold to check for any surprises. As such a scope is rarely available, sometimes even a mirror and bright light will let you look into the plug holes and see any problems.

Make sure the external moving parts are not stuck or seized. The throttle blades should move freely along with all rotating components (alternator, air pump, power steering, A/C compressor). If anything is stuck then penetrating oil can often free it up.

Pull apart the airbox and make sure animals have not made any nests. Mice and rats love the filter area as it has a small entrance and is very sheltered so often you'll find nests that you would rather not have sucked into the engine.

Preparation For Starting

You will likely need a fully charged battery to proceed so make sure to have one on hand. Drain the coolant and flush the system if you have the capability to do so. At this point replace all the cooling hoses including the heater lines. Replace the belts as well. Drain and change the oil and filter as it's highly likely the old oil is mixed with a good amount of water. Pull the spark plugs and pour a few ounces of oil into each leading spark plug hole and then spin the engine over by hand a few time to lubricate the sealing surfaces. Without this step the engine will have very poor compression as the seals need small oil film to work properly. You may want to repeat this step several times until you are happy that the inside of the engine is thoroughly covered. Reinstall a new set of spark plugs and use new spark plug wires (making sure to remember to coat the plug threads in anti-seize and the plug boots in dielectric grease). Before you go any further, connect the battery but no not power on the car. Immediately check for electrical faults.

The fuel system is going to require specific attention. As fuel sits, it begins to decompose. After a while it looses it's potency and becomes stale. If it continues to sit for long periods of time it will dry out and either gel or become a powder (depending on how long it sits). If the drain plug on the bottom of the tank can be removed (they are normally rusted in place) use it to drain any remaining fuel from the tank into an approved container. If this plug isn't an option then you'll have to siphon (don't use your mouth to create suction). If the fuel looks at all like it was in an advanced state of decomposition (very yellow, floating sediment) then the tank itself will probably need a cleaning. Beside the drivers shock tower in the rear of the car is an access panel through which you can get at the fuel pump flange. It's highly likely the retaining screws will be rusted so have fun removing them. Plenty of penetrating oil and an impact screw driver are a definite necessity here. Once the pump assembly is removed (pay attention to the condition of the rubber fuel hoses and replace if necessary) you can get at the inside of the tank with a rag-on-a-stick to remove as much gunk as possible. Afterwards, reinstall the pump assembly using a new gasket and new hose clamps. Fill the tank with several gallons of fresh fuel mixed with injector cleaner (the cleaner is largely ineffective but you might as well use it as it may help out a little). Now you can move to the front of the car and begin to flush out the lines. The first step is to remove the fuel filter and attach a section of rubber fuel hose to the metal line. Place the other end of this hose in an approved container. To run the pump, you will need to jump the diagnostic connector at the passenger front shock tower. It's a yellow plug with two connections and you can jump it with as small jumper lead or even a paper clip. Watching your fuel hose carefully, set the key to IGN and allow the pump to run until fresh fuel flows from the hose. At this point you can shut the car off, remove the jumper lead and install a fresh fuel filter in place of your temporary hose. Now some stale fuel will still remain in the fuel rails so you can pull the upper intake an fuel rail assembly to give things a thorough cleaning if you have the equipment and supplies handy. Most of the time this is unnecessary as the new fuel will flush out old contaminates.

Starting The Engine

At this point you can start the engine. First, turn the key to IGN, wait about 5 seconds and then turn the key off. Repeat this several times to prime the fuel system. The moment of truth has arrived: start the engine! Often this takes some fancy pedal work and several attempts to keep it running the first few times. If it doesn't start the it's time for some troubleshooting. Spark? Fuel? Compression? Sometimes there's a reason that the car was originally parked and it may be preventing you from starting it now.

With the engine running and warming, check all gauges to make sure they are reading correctly. Pay careful attention to the oil pressure and water temp gauge and shutdown the engine if something doesn't look right. Inspect the engine bay to check for leaks, electrical arcing, fires, etc. Immediately cut the ignition of something is wrong since you probably want to avoid dumping all the engine oil or starting a fuel fire. Particular attention should be paid to the fuel rail and pulsation damper area.

When you are satisfied that the engine is running as it should, the rest of the car can be attended to.

Getting The Car Rolling

If the car has been stored for significant amount of time then it's highly likely the tires will be in no condition for any extended driving. If you are only moving a few blocks then it generally not something to worry about. Any real amount of driving will require proper and safe rubber. In any case the existing tires will be flat so for the moment inflate them to the appropriate pressure. Assuming they will hold air, then the car can be driven or pushed to an area accessible by a tow truck or flatbed.

Final Tasks and Inspection

Now that the car is mobile it can be moved to an area where a thorough inspection can take place. Raise the car and check for major rust damage, missing suspension pieces, loose hardware, missing heat shields, leaking brake and fuel lines, rotted bushings or any other damage. Flush and bleed the brakes and clutch system keeping in mind that new fluid will find any leaks that the dirt in the old fluid has been plugging. While you are dealing with the brakes you might as well replace the pads and many times the rotors need to be done as well since they rust like crazy when exposed to the weather. Repacking or replacing the bearings is always a good idea as well.

Change the transmission oil and differential oil. This is most likely the first time those fluids have been changed since the car left the factory so always remove the fill plug before you drain to make sure you can actually refill the fluids after you drain them.

Walk around the car and make sure that all the lights and indicators are working. It helps to have someone else in the drivers seat to activate them while you verify they function. Most of the time any faults are just due to a bad bulb or corrosion on the sockets.

Remove the seats and clean the interior thoroughly. You will be amazed at what you find in the oddest places. Wash and wax the body, then apply preservative to all rubber seals. The seals are likely already too far gone but the sealant will at least help prevent them from leaking in the rain.

Back On The Road

At this point the car should be basically road worthy but it is a great idea to treat the first few thousand miles as a break in period. Drive gently for a while until you are confident that the engine, brakes and suspension functions as designed. After the first few tanks of gas, change the fuel filter since all the remaining sediment in the tank and lines is going to have it almost clogged. Expect to have some failures. It is the nature of any vehicle to deteriorate while it is sitting and the RX-7 is not different. Rubber, bearings and electrical connections are common problem areas when the car is put back into service.

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