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It seems a lot of the questions regarding car storage are for prior to storage. I did not think ahead much and thus my question is for what to do after storage.

Context: Car stored in non air conditioned but enclosed self storage unit in the Northeast US for around 2.5 months. No fuel stabilizer was added but tank was full. Engine oil is not new but still has ~30% life according to the dash.

Do I have to worry about lubricating cylinders (I'm most concerned about doing long term engine damage)? Or should I just start it and let it idle before accelerating. Aside from an oil change what other important things should be done?

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Start it and be done with it. 2.5 months sitting isn't really a big deal. You may need to charge the battery, but probably not. Just run it at idle until it warms up, check for leaks, drive it to the gas station and fill it up with fresh gas. You really shouldn't have any issues with it which weren't there before you parked it. 2.5 months is a trivial amount of time.

  • As mentioned by David down below, he said I should not idle it and just drive. I've heard this advice before for just normal driving but does it apply to a car that is sitting? (Since the oil in the cylinders could have dripped down?) Thanks! – user1950278 Aug 19 '18 at 16:05
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    @user1950278 - As stated under David's answer, I disagree with his assessment. Letting it idle to become warmed up and properly lubricated is far better than driving it to get it in the same condition. Lubrication is key. As for "oil in the cylinders dripping down", this usually isn't an issue. Oil has a filming action, meaning it will stay in place on the cylinder walls to some extent. Really, this is just a case of fire and forget. The worst part of leaving it for 2.5 months will be the battery and gas, both of which are easily overcome as I stated in my answer. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 19 '18 at 16:32
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 If the original question was written for 3.5 months (instead of 2.5 months), would your answer or follow-up be any different? – RockPaperLizard Dec 22 '18 at 5:29
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    @RockPaperLizard - Probably not for 3.5 months, but there will come a point when you'd want to do things a little differently. The battery is going to be a little flatter than at 2.5m, because a battery will lose about 1.5% of its reserve every month (IIRC). This, this, & this question may be of help. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 22 '18 at 12:50
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I agree with @Paulster2, save his advice to idle the motor until it warms up. Instead, minimize the time the engine is running but not yet warmed up (when the most engine wear occurs) by starting the engine and driving the vehicle. Still, don't abuse the machinery with heavy throttle application or high revs until the oil has warmed.

  • Would this be true of an engine that has been sitting for a while? As oil in the cylinders would drip down to the pan? – user1950278 Aug 19 '18 at 16:06
  • Yes. Within a few seconds of engine startup, oil pressure will come up and fill the lubrication system. The harm from extended idle warmup happens over tens of minutes, not a few seconds. – DavidSupportsMonica Aug 19 '18 at 16:21
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    While it is definitely my "opinion" (nothing of solid value to back this up), the more stress you put on the engine before the oil is fully circulated and warm, the more wear you are going to cause to the engine/drivetrain. Letting it idle up to temp is going to cause the least amount of any damage which might occur. Driving it does not give the vehicle enough time to get these things back to right. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 19 '18 at 16:29
  • Oil comes up to working pressure in a couple of seconds, there's no need to waste fuel idling till it warms up – Dave Smith Feb 5 at 15:50
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Personally I would remove the spark plugs (assuming it is a petrol engine) and spin it over on the starter for 30 seconds or so to allow it to pick up oil and pump it around.

If it is diesel, then that is more difficult, and the same if the sparkplugs are difficult to get to, in those cases, just start it and let it idle until you hear it quiet down - all the valve train will become less noisy as the oil gets round.

The battery is fully charged I hope...

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In addition to the other answers: take it easy when driving away, there will probably be flat spots on the tires. Those should go away after a few km though.

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Has anyone else heard about this starting procedure? Make sure the battery is fully charged, get in and depress the accelerator completly to the floor and turn the motor over for just a few seconds. Turn igniton to the off position then repeat the procedure a few more times. I seem to recall this from somewhere a long time ago. With the accelerator fully depressed the car will/should not start, but by repeatedly turning/cranking the motor this way can prevent a "dry" start by actuating the oil pump and moving the oil around before acyually starting the motor and allowing it to idle for a while. As an aside, I've also heard that operating the AC for a little while helps to keep the O-rings lubricated.Cheers, Graham.

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