Car left unused in long-term storage - how much to get it back on the road?

Hi guys,

Need some advice. I was posted overseas a couple of years ago and left my car behind - 2004 Ford Focus ST170, 24,000 or so on the clock. Had it from new, well maintained & serviced up to May 2008.

I left it in the care of somebody as a second car, and they promised to give it a runout at least once a month, keep it ticking over etc. I didn't want to sell it as I would have only got a very poor price, and would have needed to buy again on my return.

For the last year, for health reasons, they have been unable to keep the car ticking over. Which means it has been sat completely unused in an uninsulated garage for the last year, and will be in the same condition for another 9 months or so. It's not even been started up and the battery is long dead.

My plan now is to contact a garage a month or two before my return to the UK (mid-2011), and arrange for it to be recovered and put back in a roadworthy state. How much work do you think this will entail?

I looked into long-term storage etc before I came out here, and was advised that a number of things would need serious maintenance on my return if it weren't in regular use (hence the fact I left it with someone as a second car). They mentioned things like (I think) seals corroding, brakes system deteriorating, tyres (obviously).

I'm guessing it will cost me a good couple of grand to get it back on the road? What work is it likely to entail? I know you can't say without checking over the car, but in general - what kinds of things will a garage need to do? I want the car back in a good state, and want it to serve me for many more years to come.

Grateful for any advice / pointers / tips / price estimate! Please save your breath on other solutions like "get somebody else to take it on for you" or "batter them for not looking after it properly". And as for selling it - well, I would have to get it in a roadworthy state beforehand, in which case why sell it?

Thanks in advance, car maintenance experts! :)
Battery will probably take a charge and be okay,change all your fluids and do an engine flush prior to oil change.If the tyres are a decent make with good tread they should be fine.If you have a garage that you know and trust should be straight forward,if not I would ask around.Cost should not exceed the cost of a major service.I had left a car standing for two years outside,saved the battery and two tyres(changed two due to tread) and then did the above,ran the car for a thousand miles on a average oil then flushed and changed oil for a superior one.
From my experience of having left motorbikes to rot for a similar amount of time I have found that as long as they are in a garage not that much needs to be done. If you take it to a garage they will see the pound signs and do a lot of work that you probably don't need. I would change the oil, drain the petrol tank (if the petrol smells off) and take if for a drive letting everything warm up slowly. When it is service time change the coolant and the brake fluid. Modern cars, and modern lubricants and fluids, are a lot less time-sensitive than old stuff. The fuel injector nozzles may have gummed up and need cleaning out, but if that has happened you will know about it when you try and drive it. The brake discs have probably corroded, but no more than if you left it in your drive in winter for a month, and driving it about will take the glaze off. The tryes may have developed flat spots from sitting in the same position for a long time, but I think that's a bit of a myth.

Forget about it until you come home and then put on a new battery, drain and replace the fuel and oil and take it for a drive - but go slowly at first!
Was given a Honda Civic (98 - Beautiful work-horse) that had been sitting in his garage soince 2007, by a friend. Aside from the mechanical issues that fatsplasher has mentioned, you're probably likely to have a good amount of rust and have the seats smelling of mould.

Make sure you check the wheel bearings as well, ours rattled like a tommy gun for about a week before we realised what it was. Good luck!
A bit of a catch 22, if you pre arange a garage there is every chance they will see ££££. However if a rat or the like has had a go at your wiring it would be justified!

I believe your best bet is to have the car booked in for a major service but a couple of days after your return so you can check the car over before it goes in. The old battery is probably well dead after all that time and even if it can be recovered the plates could be shot, spend £60 and put a new one on. As a performance car do pay attention to the tyres, not worth your life to save £££, but they 'might' be OK. If you have pre-booked the service you should only be without it for a couple of days and you also have peace of mind.
Ford Focus? Performance car? What's a Corsa - sports supercar!

(I've got a Ford Focus, the wife drives it. After she killed her Mazda 6 through NMD, that is better than she deserves, the Fenian biatch!))
believe it or not but most new cars are left sitting outside for anything up to a year, I have in the past picked up vans and trucks that have been outside for years and with the use of a power pack to start them, had no real problem,check the tyres, get it running, followed by a full service. the strangest thing was an M48 Bundeswehr panzer that had been sat at Castlemartin for years , even getting that running did not cost a thousand pounds,just take a fitter with you when you go to pick it up
Change the battery, start her up and see what happens! It will probably run like shit due to old fuel. Run it to as close to empty as you dare and then fill it with fresh fuel. You should notice an immediate improvement. A bottle of fuel system cleaner in the mix would probably help as well. As a minimum, change oil and filter and flush the brake fluid. If the brakes are very badly corroded you may need to replace disks and pads. Tyres may need replacing but are unlikely to be a priority. Unless you have major issues, you should be able to do it all yourself. Either way, there should not be any major issues as long as the car was in good condition when put away.
I've just had an MGB put back on the road after it had lain in various garages around the country for the past 13 years. I looked into storage and was told that all I needed to do was drain the fuel, remove the batteries and put her up on blocks. Did all that, and after all that time all she needed was new batteries, a new fuel pump and the timing checked -passed MOT first time! Now sadly she needs new carbs and a new hood - which is going to set me back about a grand...................

So, bottom line is that most cars are more durable than we give them credit for.
An old tip from my late dad.

Assuming it is a petrol vehicle, unhook the HT lead so that the spark plugs will not operate.
Then turn the engine over for several revolutions to get the oil circulating.

This will save unnecessary wear on unlubricated components in the engine after a long stand.

By the way, I hope you left the handbrake off because they have a tendency to seize on after a few months.

I have stored vehicles in a garage for up to two years and have never had any problems apart from the handbrake thing.
Whilst all the advice here is pretty good, i would certainly have the engine oil drained. Whilsst some of the old sweats and even newer types will say oils are good these days, they are - but they are still shiiit when it comes to todays fuel's - believe me there are still serious concens about emulsification in crankcases from "good oils" and bio contents from fuel. If you can get the engine flushed through before starting good and then get the oil back in there - the idea of starting over without leads in sounds 'sound' although not so sure what the ecu will make of it - probably not too much of an issue. as for the fuel - drain it - don't bother trying to run it through -it will be off this i can guarantee you - don't stick any fuel system cleaners through as you may disolodge something far to soon into the filter and or injectors which is not good - allow it to run through well BUT FILL UP with a SUPER unleaded (optimax type) fuel, it will contain additives that will gently clean the system and not try and thrash it through some cleaners are far too 'good' and can cuase damage elsewhere.. the car will ned to run for a period of time relearning MPG's, timings etc.

I know new cars often sit for a long period of time with no issues, but this is due to having new oil, special first fill fuels, and being...well new! you can drain and flush the system yourself but best to get a garage to do it effectively. duno about tyres, you can get them stuck on to a balance machine and they'll be able to tell if they are knackered or not.
Now sadly she needs new carbs and a new hood - which is going to set me back about a grand...................
Re-building a pair of SU carbs is very easy. Get a carb rebuild kit for about £50 from MGOC, I even managed to do it a few years ago, and it took an afternoon. The main problem was the hard time off the Mrs for using the kitchen table / sink! Do invest in a decent carb-balancer (not the Gunson one) to get them set up, though. It's worth the extra expense in the long run. Weber Carburettor Specialist, Weber Authorised Dealer, Fastroadcars, Weber Carbs, Fuel Accessories, Fastroadcars - CARBURETTOR SYNCHROMETER WEBER DCOE
I seriously wouldn't bother getting a garage to pick it up, they will just view it as a licence to print money.
A new battery and a decent service will do the trick and check the tyres out for being mis-shaped but thats about it.
Probably best to chuck a Jerry Can of fresh fuel in it to encourage it to start better but its not as if its anold knacker.

I've pulled cars out of storage after 10 years or more, fired them up, serviced and MoT'd then straight back on the road and you seldom have serious issues.
Nobody's mentioned tyres beyond flat spots. If you have the chance, get soemone to jack it onto blocks for you then inflate the tyres to recommended levels, that should do. If they do deflate under load during storage, the walls crack and the weave shows, which is dangerous and an MOT failure. Otherwise, I have seen traders simply get in laid up cars (three years) and fire them up then wash them.
guys, all that advice is fantastic, thank you very much. sounds like it is not the disaster i feared!

btw right_grumpy - ST170 i would not class as a performance car! not to be confused with RS / ST200 / ST220, which are. got 6 gears though, which makes it quite economical for motorway driving. it's pokier than a normal focus, but certainly not high performance :)

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