By on August 12, 2009

Sokhom writes:

I’m in the Army and I’ve moved to Korea for at least two years. I have a 2000 Honda S2000 that I left with my father in law in his garage. I’ve read advice from S2000 forums about slightly jacking up the car to “unspring” the suspension to spraying something into the cylinders to keep the piston rings from drying. There’s also a debate about whether it’s good to crank the car every so often or not. What is a guy to do?

Sajeev answers:

No matter what car forum you read, there’s bound to be several stories of owner’s being depoyed to a foreign country and in need of storage advice. There are standard operating procedures for keeping a car healthy during hibernation, the problem is making sure someone does it.

My point: take the advice and make it an excuse to keep in touch with your family. You know, more often than you would otherwise. Not that I’m suggesting you love your car more than your family . . . but I’m sure you have one uncle/aunt/cousin that really drives you nuts.

Maybe we should get to the advice before I dig myself even deeper into a hole:

– Run the engine (to operating temperature) every month, at the least.  That isn’t easy advice to follow, but waiting any longer ensures the job gets tougher as the battery gets weaker.

– Change the oil annually. Oil goes bad sitting in a crankcase, and you want a healthy motor when you get back home and spin it up to 9k revs.

– Even though it’s garaged, I’d step on the brake pedal every month, ensuring the brake pistons don’t rust shut in the caliper. (Which may not apply here, some calipers have phenolic pistons.)

– Crank up the tire pressure to over 50psi to help prevent flat spotting. Disregard this information if the tires are already 2+ years old, they’ll be plasticized garbage when you get back.

– Get a cheapo car cover to keep accidents inside the garage from scratching the paint.

– Put a small box of baking soda (the smarter design of the refrigerator pack works nicely) in the cabin to keep moisture or funny smells from the interior. Replace every year, at the latest.

– You mentioned lifting the car: that really keeps rodents in the garage and out of your interior. Mouse traps are a great idea, too. But I’ve heard that raising a car without compressing the springs fatigue them bad enough to merit replacement. This isn’t my forte, so I’ll blindly suggest getting eight jack stands: four for the chassis and one for each control arm.

– Fill up your tank, and put fuel stabilizer in there too. Read the instructions to see how much is needed for your tank.

– Have your father-in-law drive the car every month. Then you (he) can worry about and 2, 5, 6, and 8, and disregard everything else.

And with that, thank you for your inquiry. And thank you for your service to our country.

[Send your technical queries to [email protected])

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25 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Lonesome Honda S2000 and the Army’s Korean Expat...”

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I agree having dad or other take it out once a month for long run is best.

  • avatar

    put it up on 8 jack stands and then ask someone to drive it once a month? That’s not going to happen. Especially since that someone doesn’t care about the car anywhere as much as you do to spend the time doing that. You’re lucky if they’re simply willing to garage it and drive it once a month. Otherwise, you’ll have to accept the fact that it may never be the same after a long deployment. That’s why every Navy guy returning here (Norfolk, VA area) after deployment goes out and buys a new Mustang.

  • avatar

    I disagree with some of this advice. For a car going into storage of 6 months or longer: change the oil, drive it just long enough to get it up to operating temperature, park it in the desired spot, and DO NOT attempt to start the car nor hand-crank the engine again until you are getting the car out of storage. Another oil change should not be required when you get the car out of storage. Freshly-changed oil does not go bad just sitting in the crankcase if you’re not running the engine while the car is stored.

    The bearings and crankcase will still have a film of clean oil protecting them while the car sits. If you hand-crank the engine, you’ll wipe this film away, increasing the risk of damage when restarting the engine. If you idle it in the garage, you’ll build-up condensation in the crankcase if you don’t get it up to temperature, and foul the engine up with carbon and possibly sludge even if you do get it up to temperature.

    Remove the battery from the car entirely. Car batteries will go bad from just sitting, and they release corrosive gasses. If the car is sitting, especially under a cover, there is no fresh air circuilation so the gasses will settle and may cause corrosion around or under the battery tray. Whoever is looking after the car might as well put the battery in one of their vehicles when they need one. In the meantime, make sure to put it on a bench charger once a month. Letting a car battery go flat will reduce its lifespan. You should also wash the case of the battery with a solution of baking soda and water once removed from the car to neutralize any acidic deposits on the outside, and sprinkle some baking soda in the car’s battery tray as well.

    When covering the car, make sure that the cover and any straps do not hang down all the way to the floor. That is an invitation for rodents to climb up and get into the car. Leave the windows closed.

    Flip the sun visors down. If rodents do manage to get into the car, they like to nest up in the headliner, using the sun visor as a “floor” for their nest. (This tip comes from the owner of the building where we stored our cars for years.)

    Filling the gas tank is excellent advice, to minimize the pocket of air in the tank. Any moisture in the air in the tank will eventually condense during temperature changes. This is even worse if you’re forced to fill the tank with gas containing ethanol. The ethanol will slowly bond with the water, separate from the gasoline, and form a sludge in the tank.

    My grandparents, parents and I have all stored our summer cars for 6 months at a time following this procedure with excellent results. My dad stored a car in his garage for over 10 years this way. The only complications were that he had to drain the gas tank, and when he started the engine all the hydraulic lifters had collapsed. 10 minutes on high-idle in the driveway to pump-up the lifters and it was as good as new. The torque converter had also drained-down over time, and the excess of trans fluid in the pan caused it to leak out of a seal, probably at the shifter linkage. Once he refilled it and started driving it again it was fine. (This minor problem is common to the Torqueflite 727. Many people mistakenly believe that they need to rebuild their 727 because they see ATF on the floor after long-term storage.)

    A plug-in noise-making animal repellant device is a good idea, if the car is stored somewhere that the sound won’t annoy people. These can be found at TSC or other farm supply stores. Don’t buy an “ultrasonic” one; those don’t work. Rodents have a range of hearing similar to humans. If it’s not annoying to you, it won’t be annoying to them either.

    We’ve never bothered to do this, but you might want to stuff a wad of steel wool in the end of the tailpipe. I’ve heard of rodents nesting in the exhaust system of some stored cars.

    PS: Don’t forget to wash the car to remove any tree sap, bird droppings, bug splatter and dirt which could damage the paint finish while it sits. Vacuum the interior and remove any traces of food that may attract animals. It’s also a good idea to remove things like car blankets that would make good nesting material.

  • avatar

    I leave my corvette parked for close to 8 months out the year. Here is what I do:

    1.Fill the tank with gas and just put a tiny amount of fuel stabilizer in it

    2.Over inflate the tires just a bit to prevent flat spots

    3.make sure there is nothing near the car that can fall over and scracth it (ie ladder, weed eater, etc)

    4. Start the car every couple of weeks, back it out of storage and let it run for awhile, if you can, take it for a a quick drive. While I know people say not to do this I have never had a problem with it.

    5. Place a couple of mouse traps around the car, I also put a dryer sheet in the glove box and in the back hatch, this helps keeps mice away.

  • avatar

    If your car is in the mid-Atlantic I will happily volunteer to drive your 240 hp, 2800 lb convertible once a month while you are serving our country. It’s the least I can do.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Automakers and dealers have had new cars sitting in storage compounds for a year or more. I doubt they are doing anything special to keep them in good shape.

  • avatar

    Stop worrying about your Honda S2000.

    If you are spending 2 years in Korea you will be coming home with a new Korean wife and your current father-in-law will have long since had a “fire” in his garage and your S2000 will be toast.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t jack it up. Think about this way: cars with normal lives spend all their time on the ground. Their suspensions are never unsprung. If the concern is for fluid in the dampers, have someone sit on the front of the car, then the back, once a week or once a month.

    Or best yet, have them drive it for 20-30 minutes every month. That gets the engine cranked up and also prevents condensation from developing in your exhaust (which is what happens in cars that are warmed up to operating temperature then shut off – but I don’t know how big a deal it is). That’ll work out the brakes, suspension, engine… and if your family is good with instructions, have them run the A/C during those drives too and roll down the windows and put down the top.

  • avatar

    NN : put it up on 8 jack stands and then ask someone to drive it once a month? That’s not going to happen.

    And that’s not what I said anyway.

    Good advice on removing the battery too, I forgot about that one. I’d get a new battery and tires when you come back home.

  • avatar


    Fatigue of metal comes from alternating stresses with or without a constant stress. I’d like to hear how springs could fatigue if you relieve the load on them and there is no other load cycled on and off as happens in ordinary driving.

    I think somebody’s been pulling your leg….

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t
    1. jack it up-more trouble than it’s worth.

    2. run it at all-the oil service life starts to decline with every combustion stroke.

    I would;
    1. inflate tires not because of flat-spotting, which modern tires are less prone to do, but because you don’t want the tires to slowly deflate (and they will) so you are mashing down the sidewalls.

    2. cover/stuff the exhaust and the air intake with aluminum foil-steel wool is a magnet for
    moisture and subsequent rust.

    3. store it with the top at least unlatched (covered of course). It will relieve the stress from the top frame pushing on the vinyl ‘fabric’.

    4. put the battery on a Battery Tender and leave it connected 24/7. leave it in the car connected as usual, the hydrogen gas produced is minimal, and this float charger will not boil over the battery acid which a regular charger can do.

    5. Fill the tank and make sure you use fuel stabilizer.

    6. store it with the tranny in reverse. (factory recommendation for long term storage.


  • avatar

    Sell it. It’s not like you can’t buy another car after 2 years and it’s going to depreciate anyway. I worked overseas for 5 years and was so glad I sold my car before departing. Even with super low mileage and garage storage it would not be worth half what i got for it. When I returned I bought a used car that was newer for less money than I sold my car for. Plus the interest I earned on the cash.

    Cars are basically disposable.

  • avatar

    I would not jack up the car but follow some of the advice given above if you want to keep the car. I had a Miata that I kept while working for two years overseas and I’m afraid GS650G is right – consider selling the car as it will depreciate while you’re away and you can always buy another one.

  • avatar

    +1 for GS650G = Sell it.

    Been there, done that … I go with the recommendation to sell it, particularly if you’re still making payments on it and are required to keep insurance on it while it’s parked.

    I ended up spending a lot of money on a car that I never saw or got to drive again…. a friend finally got a great deal in it… after he got the mouse’s nest out of the air cleaner.

    Oh, if you must keep her (and I understand) – another vote for putting it to sleep rather than starting it once a month. Every time you start it, all the other things you’ve done to protect it get undone…. after the first 2 or 3 months it gets started but then the protections aren’t reinstalled, and finally she’s not even started.

    THEN the mice and the corrosion move in.

    Finally, Top up and latched down. Not that it matters…. you’re going to have to buy a new one when you revive her anyhow because (insert any one of the 12 reasons Tops get damaged here).

  • avatar

    Following up on a comment I read. Assuming tires still have tread and are not otherwise damaged, should you replace them if they get too old?

  • avatar

    I think sell it makes the most sense.

    Second most logical procedure would be to let your father in law drive it as much as he wants.

  • avatar

    “- Crank up the tire pressure to over 50psi to help prevent flat spotting. Disregard this information if the tires are already 2+ years old, they’ll be plasticized garbage when you get back.”

    Either don’t buy Russian tires or preferably don’t give advice on matters you don’t understand or haven’t even thought through: I don’t discard 5+ year-old tires that are run every day. Why would an unused tire be any worse off? Even the uber-conservative Rubber Manf Assoc (to cover their ass) suggest tires should be replaced at 7 years. Have you ever seen an old tire become “plasticized garbage”? Where do you get these ideas? Are you just trying to start controversy?

    • 0 avatar

      My newly-acquired ’99 Miata has cracking in the rubber on the sipes of the tires. They seem to drive and grip great, but it is slightly disquieting to see, and there’s a good chance I’ll replace them far before they’re worn out for this reason (and gives me an excuse to get the tail out on curves without guilt; hey, the tires have to be changed anyway). Build date of the tires is 2007 with virtually as-new tread, and the car saw a very pampered, garaged, low-mile life. They’re Yokohoma S-Drives – a highly respected tire in the Miata world.

  • avatar

    Sell a beloved S2000?! What ‘car guy’ would ever say that?

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    “- You mentioned lifting the car… But I’ve heard that raising a car without compressing the springs fatigue them bad enough to merit replacement..”

    No, the coil springs are quite happy to be left unloaded.

    But, your suspension bushes and balljoints may not be, and the boots on your driveshaft and steering rack will definitely have an opinion on this.

  • avatar

    I have a Nissan in storage now, I’ve done it before with a 2000 Mustang and a v-twin motorcycle, and my father does it with his Vettes (94 and 70). Some have been inside, some outside, some urban, some country, but the procedure has always been the same:

    -Change the oil
    -Fill the tank
    -Add Stabil
    -Wash it
    -Drive until at operating temp, park, disconnect battery, and cover when cool
    -Leave it alone until it’s ready to come out. If storing for longer than 6 months, pick a nice week every six months, and have someone drive it for a week. April and October work well.

    Never seen flat spots, sagging suspension, stressed convertible tops (Stang and ’70 Vette are verts), seized calipers, any of that. My friend just took out my Nissan after sitting for 7 months, he said he connected the battery, turned the key, and drove away. He’ll give me the receipts when I come home for X-mas.

    To those that advocate selling, I tried, and while I didn’t go the ebay route, I did try others, and selling nice niche vehicles in a depressed economy isn’t easy

  • avatar

    Mike66 above gives some pretty good advice.

    Set it up properly, and just leave it be.

    My two cents worth (as a guy who regularily stores motorcycles and an MG).
    – heat up the engine (so the oil flows well), pull the plugs and squirt some oil in the cylinders. Crank the engine (if the oil is warm, it will flow to the bearings quickly and you won’t lose the oil film on the bearings)
    – one nice things about motorcycles is the ability to drain the carbs. I have found that 99% of my problems came from plugged carbs
    – put out lots of Warfarin (rat poison), inside and out

    I seldom need more than three turns of the key to get a vehicle stored after some fairly long storage. I bet that S2000, if it is set up properly and has an electric fuel pump, would need no more than two turns of the key to start up and purr.

    Oh, and don’t sell it. You would kick yourself in 10 years.

  • avatar

    Thanks for all the advice y’all, well most of them any. FYI, no chance of coming back with a second wife; one is all I can afford. :P I think I’ll fine because my dad’s ’66 Vette is keeping it company down in the garage and I’ve asked him to do some of the things mentioned on this thread.

  • avatar

    Tosh : I don’t discard 5+ year-old tires that are run every day.

    Depending on how aggressive you drive, how performance oriented the tires are, or how wet it gets in your area, that’s pretty dangerous advice. Tires dry rot, get hard, and eventually crack. If you want to risk your life, have at it.

    This is a Honda S2000, the advice might be different if he was parking a Town Car. But he’s not.

  • avatar

    Tosh: Have you ever seen an old tire become “plasticized garbage”? Where do you get these ideas? Are you just trying to start controversy?

    And for the record, if I didn’t see late model performance cars turn 3-5 year old tires into rubbish, I wouldn’t mention it. Granted the S2000 may not see the trashing of a track or a high-hp vehicle like a Ford GT, but tires take a beating and their performance drops significantly after use…and continues to get worse as it sits for a year or more.

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