You’ll need to brush up on a few pre-transport tips before shipping your car. To protect your car’s exterior, interior and mechanics, you’ll need to clean and examine your car prior to sending it off. While it might take a little time to prepare your car for transport, it can save you a lot of time and money.
Really, pre-shipping car preparation is vital to your vehicle’s protection. A lot can happen in transit, including nicks, dents, scratches and even under-the-hood breakdowns. You’ll need to make sure your car is clean, first, to easily spot any damages inflicted during transportation. Then, you’ll need to check for leaks, small damages and potential mechanical issues. While many car transportation services are flexible, most will not conduct service unless the proper precautions are taken. More importantly: Your car may be in danger if it isn’t prepped for long-distance transportation.
Check out the guide below, and prep your vehicle for the long road ahead.
1. Physically Secure Personal Items
Before prepping the actual vehicle for shipment, you’ll need to make sure your personal items are secure. The only items acceptable during shipment are vehicle accessories and permanently installed items. Anything mounted on your vehicle’s rear deck, console, dash or doors can be left alone. You will, however, need to remove the following items:
- Portable telephones
- Loose radios
- Tape players
- Radar scanners
- Power boosters
- Trick tailgate nets
- Auto roof racks
2 Secure Personal Items with Insurance
You might’ve secured your removable items, but you’ll still need to protect your vehicle’s interior. Remember those mounted items mentioned above? Well, you’ll need to safeguard them with auto transport insurance.
Get Proof of Insurance
First, ask your shipping company for proof of insurance. By law, auto transport companies must maintain a valid insurance certificate. They should also be able to present it upon query. Next, obtain any special agreements in writing. By having a physical copy, you can protect your car if something unforeseen occurs.
Double-Check with Your Auto Insurance Provider
Then, double-check with your auto insurance provider about their travel insurance coverage. While it’s highly likely you’ll need a separate plan, some umbrella coverage policies offer travel protection.
Get a Pre-Possession Inspection
To secure the best coverage possible, get a pre-possession inspection completed. While mandatory by itself, a pre-possession can protect your car if specific features are accounted for. Take photographs, record your vehicle’s condition and refer the information back to your own insurance provider.
Prepare to Complete a Bill of Landing
You’ll need to fill out a Bill of Landing to secure your vehicle’s details upon arrival. Any damages, here, will be recorded and used to secure fiscal reparation of damages. While not strictly part of the preparation process, you definitely need to prepare for a Bill of Landing ahead of time. Otherwise, your car transport company won’t be liable if damage discrepancies exist at the end of your car’s trip.
3. Clean Your Vehicle’s Exterior
A deep exterior clean is necessary to secure a vehicle’s safety during transport. Because vehicle shipping inspections are performed at the travel’s origin point, any discrepancies with paint quality, scratches, dings or other damages will be noted. Both the driver and auto transport representative must be present at the origin point, so you’ll need to make sure your vehicle is completely clean before signing off on service.
This is an important step, as the above-mentioned Bill of Landing will cover pre-existing damages. Before accepting your car for transport, your provider will carefully document any and all damages.
Look at your service provider’s stated “First Available Shipping Date,” and give your vehicle a good wash before this day. Clean your vehicle’s exterior with regular automotive soap, and give it a good waxing, too. Then, do a close-up sweep and note the following:
- Paint chips
- Cracked plastic
While scratches and dings can occur during transport, pre-existing abrasions can actually worsen during shipment. For this reason, you’ll need to take photos of any pre-existing damages. If these damages become worse during travel, photo evidence will protect your wallet.
4. Protect the Paint
Once you’ve conducted a general “clean sweep,” you’ll need to dig a bit deeper. Too few drivers understand how fragile automobile paint is, and too few protect their investment with sealant. Before diving into pre-travel tech maintenance, you’ll need to make sure your vehicle’s outer shell has ironclad protection.
After you’ve cleaned your vehicle’s exterior, purchase some paint sealant. Paint sealant creates rigid shells created from multiple synthetic chemicals. These chemicals, when combined, will safeguard your vehicle’s paint from sun damage, abrasions, chemical damages and temperature changes.
Looking for the best paint sealant? Well, you have several options to choose from. That said, several options stand out above the rest:
- Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant
- Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze
- Chemical Guys WAC JetSeat Anti-Corrosion Sealant and Paint Protectant
Make sure you seal up your vehicle at least two weeks before shipping it. The sealers above can last up to 6 months, but it’s important to make sure the application holds before transportation begins.
5. Clean Your Vehicle’s Interior
Next, you’ll need to clean your vehicle’s interior with utmost care. Sure, you’ve already taken out loose items, but you should take the time to care for lesser-known areas:
First, remove any air fresheners. While they’re important for your vehicle’s smell, they can heat up, leak and cause small chemical damages if left inside for too long. Remove any spare change, too, as your vehicle may be transported up ramps—which may cause coin spillage. Surprisingly, even small items can scratch your dashboard, center console or windows.
It may sound gross, but your seatbelts are exposed to a lot of sweat, grime and dirt. Before transporting your vehicle, you should scrub your seatbelts with seatbelt cleaner. Don’t worry, quite a few products exist—and they’re incredibly effective at reducing harmful materials which may otherwise damage your interior during long travels. Surprisingly, many seatbelt-cleaning materials can be used to clean household surfaces and clothing. Consider using one of the following products:
- WD-40 Specialist Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant
- Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner
- Meguiar’s EZ Clean and Spray Rinse
Clear any small items, crumbs, dirt or wet areas from your vehicle’s seats. Check the cracks, and take a wet paper towel to any problem areas.
6. Double-Check the Trunk
As a final clean-up step, make sure you check your vehicle’s trunk. As stated above, all personal items should be removed prior to transport. In fact, transporters often refuse a car transport if any personal belongings are present—even in the trunk. Your transporter is not licensed to transfer goods, which will result in a penalty for having electronics, or other items, in the back.
7. Remove Parking Passes and Toll Tags
You’ll need to peel off any toll tags, parking passes and sticky permits, too. During transit, vehicle tags can be charged continuously, resulting in multiple costs. Additionally, they can be targeted for theft. Parking passes and toll tags are surprisingly valuable in the wrong hands, so don’t take any chances.
Peel and Scrub
To remove your parking stickers, peel them from the corners. Work your way back, carefully rolling each sticker. If a sticker leaves a residue, use household scrubbing cleaners to remove it. Alternatively, apply baby mineral—or even vegetable oil—and let the spot sit overnight. Apply hot water to remove it.
Or, simply purchase some WD-40 to remove a sticker’s adhesive film. Make sure to clean it, after, with Windex, water and soap. While WD-40 may create a slick surface, soap and water can clean the area.
You can remove hard-to-peel labels, stickers and passes with a razor blade, too. Gently slide the razor’s edge between sticker and glass. Be careful, and avoid scratching any surfaces. After the sticker is removed, apply either WD-40 or soap to lift the residue.
Clean with Windex
After lifting the sticker, removing the residue and drying the surface, you should clean it again with Windex. Spray Windex over the area, and clean it with warm water and dish soap. Windex, alone, will lift any materials used to lift sticker residues.
8. Check for Fluid Leaks
Now that you’ve cleaned up, packed up and have double-checked your vehicle’s cleanliness, you’ll need to focus on the deeper hardware. First and foremost: Check for fluid leaks.
Before your automobile can be transported, it needs to be checked for the following:
- Gas leaks
- Oil leaks
- Transmission fluid leaks
- Brake fluid leaks
- Windshield wiper fluid leaks
- Coolant leaks
At least two weeks before sending your vehicle off, place either newspaper, cardboard or aluminum foil beneath your car. Then, check for stains, puddles or spots once per day. If any exist, take your vehicle to the shop immediately. Make sure to check the material, as oil and gas, in particular, are easy to spot.
What to Look For
- Oil will appear as either a light brown or black stain. It’ll have a medium consistency.
- Transmission fluid will appear to be either red or light brown. It will leak from the vehicle’s center.
- Brake fluid will appear to be pale brown. It is very slippery, and it has a thin consistency.
- Coolant fluid will be brightly colored, spanning across green, red or yellow.
- Gasoline will reflect a wide array of colors. It is most commonly recognized by its smell.
You should examine your vehicle’s reservoirs, too, alongside any dashboard warning lights. Make sure your vehicle is parked on level ground as you search for leaks, and don’t forget to check your automobile’s engine oil dipstick. Detecting a coolant leak, above all, will be difficult. Read this article to properly root out, reduce and remove any coolant leaks at least two weeks prior to shipping.
9. Check the Battery and Tires
As the shipping date closes in, you should make sure your vehicle’s battery and tires are in good shape. While your provider will be diligent about interior temperature conditions, rapidly changing temperatures can cause issues for some vehicle tires.
Fill up your vehicle’s tires to the manufacturer’s standards. If your vehicle is being transported to a hotter climate, reduce the air pressure a bit. Because hot air expands, your vehicle will be safer with a little room to spare.
Go to your local tune-up shop, and tell them to examine your auto battery’s charge, levels and overall health. If your automobile has a bad battery, a transportation may result in it dying. A battery is charged by a vehicle’s constant use, and a lack of use can, in fact, reveal charging issues.
10. Prepare for On-Loading and Off-Loading
On the shipping date, prepare your automobile by folding back its mirrors. Additionally, retract its antenna. Any external additions should be measured and accounted for, including spoiler light additions, fog lights and bike racks. Your vehicle may come in close contact with ramps, loading dock traffic and even other vehicles. If at all possible, reduce any items which “stick out” from your vehicle’s main body.
Then, disable your vehicle’s alarm. If you’re unable to locate your alarm, examine your vehicle’s owner’s manual. This manual will have detailed instructions. You should notify your transport provider of any alarm functions, too, to prepare a car for shipping.
11. Mark Down the Mileage
As bizarre as it sounds, you should take care in marking down your vehicle’s mileage. No, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to joyride your vehicle during transit—but it is possible that your vehicle will need to be moved, several times, before it arrives. If it is, you’ll need to have a back-log of mileage to determine any long travel distances.
You can also secure your vehicle’s health by rooting out mechanical issues derived from incredibly long mileage recordings. Take note of any onboard mechanical issues, and inform your auto provider of transport concerts before your service begins.
12. Lower Your Gas Tank
Experts believe it’s important to reduce a transported vehicle’s gas tank to 25 percent. A full tank of gas will increase your vehicle’s weight-thus boosting your travel costs. Gas can also degrade the tank around it, over time, if not used. You won’t need a full tank, anyway, as your car’s transit will be provided for.
13. Get an Extra Pair of Keys
Make a copy of your ignition key. If you’re sporting a remote-open key, you’ll need to talk to your manufacturer. Remote keys often carry a chip in the blade, and the chip must be copied via your provider. Keep your spare key on you during the day of your vehicle’s departure, and take good care in securing the main key for the transportation service.
14. Lock it Up
Finally, lock up your vehicle just before service begins. Check all on-board glove box compartments, installed safes and trunk containers. Roll up all windows, and make sure the back seats are fully secured before sending the vehicle off.
Always keep cleaning, repair, fluid check and transaction paperwork. To prepare a car for transport, you’ll need to secure both ends of the journey. Don’t worry: Your provider has years of experience. They understand the steps required to prepare a car for shipping, and they’ll likely give you their own checklist of safety items. Contact your provider if you’re in need, and query about delivery times, delays and advanced shipping safety options.