vehicle storage and seized pistons

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Dec 30, 2005
Ottawa, ON, Canada
If a vehicle is not used (engine not started) for 6 months straight and pistons may become somewhat seized, then would a thinner oil (such as 5W20) help start it and release pistons afterwards? Or would it make virtually no difference at all? I have an older 10yrs, 120K km Honda Civic that is used during summer only. During winter I take out battery and cover it, leave it outside. Most of the winter we have around -25C/0F temperatures. I just put in the battery and tried to start it, but it wouldn't turn over. I could see power draw because light inside would dim. Battery was charged, then I replaced it with a new one. Even with the new one it took few more tries to release the pistons. Once pistons were released it fired up easily. I am considering 2 options to avoid seized pistons. Option 1 Still store it outside as before, but remove battery at last moment (before snow covers it, around mid December) so that I can run the engine. Use thinner oil for storage (0W20 or 5W20). Then return battery when snow melts, some time in March. That way it is idle for about 3 months. Option 2 Store in garage and run engine once or twice per month. However my winter car would end up outside and I'd have to clean snow, etc. So I wonder if thinner oil would make any difference and if the 3 month idle period is Ok? Engine was never opened, no major repairs yet. Opinions? thanks
Option 3 Pull the fuel-injection fuse (if it has one) to kill the fuel injectors, then turn it over for a second once a month. Charge battery as needed.
Before putting it into storage next winter do the following: Remove all 4 spark plugs. Pour about a tablespoon of oil down each plug hole. Crank the engine for about 2 or 3 seconds. Replace the spark plugs. This will keep everything lubricated. Yep, it will smoke for a few seconds when you start it next spring but it will quickly clear up.
Fogging spray works well too. It stays in mist form for longer amounts of time.I use it in my Jetskis over the winter.
What Axe Man said. I would be tempted to use auto trans fluid to soak rings. I put a little oil into the lawn mower and string trimmer in the Fall also after running the fuel dry. Pull them over once a month and they fire right up in the Spring. P.B. (down near Windsor, ON)
Check the Lube Control website. I think their LC20 mentions engine storage as one of it's benefits. Also, Kano labs, makers of Kroil have some products that will help. I use Kroil personally, but I think they also have other products they recommend. I store my convertible for the winter by removing the plugs and giving the cylinders a shot of Kroil. I also change the oil just before I store it. I use my regular oil which is 15W40 diesel and have never had a problem.
Your pistons became siezed after the car sat outside for 6 months?? Or did I miss something? I have cars that have sat outside for years and still easily turn over when I put a battery in them
6 months shouldn't cause seizure,6 years and concern would be justified maybe. I wonder if there is a starter problem? I have seen high mileage starters get "sticky" from vehicle storage. I suppose the starter bearings lube had become stiff. I would also be worried about the possibility of stagnant fuel and it's effect on injectors etc. Storing the battery inside a garage is a good idea(with a trickle charger). Depleted batteries freeze much easier. Don't store non SLA batteries in an unventilated or living area! [SPAZ!] Hydrogen gas go boom! [Eek!] If it were mine I would change the oil ond filter, treat the fuel with Stabil and MMO and run the engine a few minutes on this mixture before the long winters nap. Oil weight is debatable IMHO. Thin oils will flow more quickly, thicker will tend to cling to parts better. Thin probably wins though. The MMO should leave a slight film of lube through the entire fuel system and some should make it's way to the piston/ring area as well. SLA= Sealed Lead Acid. Good luck Rickey
Maybe the head gasket is slowly leaking coolant into the cylinders. This would cause rust to form around the pistons over 6 months.
Thanks for all the tips. Axe Man, I found this advice in a snowblower manual, so I did it for it. Didn't think of trying the same procedure with the car. Good tip. thanks Jeepster_nut, I will lookup "Fogging spray"; never heard of it before. Thanks. Rickey, I admit I don't know if it is piston rings or starter. Good point. I'll search for some info on starter and see if I can lube it. It is rather old, 10+ years. I use fuel stabilizer before storage (put it in just before the last 20+ km commute). Battery is good. I charged it during winter, checked the liquied level the other day and topped it up with distilled water, the usual .... Jeepster_nut, Actually I did have coolant problems 1-2 yrs back. Since then I changed it and put in some cleaner/treatment stuff (forget the names now). It has been Ok since then. I didn't have to add coolant as far as I remember. I assumed that a tiny leak would be Ok and didn't want to spend money on fixing it. Of course, I'll be using dino, shorter OCI. Summary: Before winter pull out plugs, put in tiny bit of oil (or fogging spray), then leave plugs inside and disconnected. Considering the age of the car 11 yrs (rust) I should probably keep battery in it (with periodic charging of course) and turn over engine once or twice each month. Again thanks for all the tips.
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