Storage Problems. Again.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse damp rid
Rob Siegel

I’ve made no secret of my strategy that the legs of the tripod of my ability to own 13 cars are a wonderful understanding and tolerant spouse, affordable insurance through Hagerty, and affordable storage. Regarding the storage leg, I’ve written pieces about how I progressed from having access to the two-car garage at my mother’s house … to moving to Newton (Massachusetts) to a property with a rusty corrugated metal one-car garage, to building a three-and-sort-of-four-car garage … to leeching off the fact that for years my engineering job had me working in a cavernous warehouse where I could stash cars … to renting five affordable, individual 24-hour access roll-up garage bays … to losing those and thinking that the solution was to sell our house in the suburbs and move to a car-centric property … to accepting that that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon … and, finally, finding other affordable storage in a giant but somewhat odd warehouse 70 miles away in the town of Monson on the Massachusetts/Connecticut line.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Monson warehouse arrangement. On the positive side, it’s cheap—$70/month per car—and expandable. If I happened into another car I couldn’t pass up, I’d have somewhere to put it. But the downsides are significant. It’s far less convenient than having individual garages with my roll-up doors. And once I’m inside, I sometimes find my cars are blocked in, and I have to find someone who works there to move the offending vehicle (it’s not a dedicated car storage facility). Plus, the landlord rents over-winter storage to RV, trailer, and boat owners, so once the big boys roll in, my cars aren’t going anywhere until spring. Additionally, traffic on the Mass Pike (I-90) has stepped up considerably in recent years, so the drive that Google Maps says should take a bit over an hour is rarely accomplished in less than 90 minutes; it can be two hours if I get caught on a leaf-peeping or college move-in weekend.

Still, $350/month to store five cars is dirt cheap—less than half what I’ve found anywhere else—and the hour-and-a-half-ish drive time is sort of workable, so I continue to go with the devil I’ve come to know.

But now there’s a new factor.


It was a very wet summer here in Boston, with drenching rain causing catastrophic flooding in parts of central Massachusetts and Vermont. One of the times I was out in Monson, I found that one of my cars—which are parked in two rows near one of the warehouse walls—was being directly dripped on. I looked up and saw where the leak was causing insulation to pull away from the ceiling. I moved the car one space forward to get it out from both the drip and the potential dropping of insulation, but I didn’t really think too much of it. Big old metal buildings like this often leak. The storage cost is cheap. You get what you pay for.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse drips
Water dripping on the cover of one of the BMW 2002s a few months back. Rob Siegel

But when I went out there a few weeks ago to swap cars, there were numerous puddles of standing water inside the warehouse, including one spreading under several of my cars. When I pulled the cover off the car I wanted to drive, I was greeted by a substantial bloom of mold on the seats and steering wheel. Concerned, I uncovered and examined all five cars.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse water
This may not look like much water, but it spread under several of my cars. Rob Siegel

All of the cars had some degree of mold, ranging from near-trivial to no no no no NO! I realized that, on some of the cars, I’d left the windows cracked open, and I found that the correlation was pretty clear—the car with the smallest amount of mold was the furthest from the water and had been left with the windows all the way up. The moldiest car—my ’74 Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special—was sitting in a puddle with the windows rolled partially down (it gets a little mousey-smelling inside the Lotus if you leave it with the windows up).

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse seat
Poor Lolita. Rob Siegel

For years, I’ve left a 10-ounce refillable DampRid moisture-absorbing container on the floor of each stored car. These containers have a plastic sink-strainer-like basket that sits in the top. You pour the humidity-absorbent white flakey DampRid crystals into the basket. As the crystals get saturated with water, it drains through the basket into the bottom of the container. As I moved from car to car and emptied the water out of each container, I realized that all of the crystals were gone. In other words, I’d gone too long without visiting the cars and refilling the DampRid containers with fresh desiccant, and the amount of humidity from the rainy summer, the leaky roof, and the water on the floor had overwhelmed them and used them up. So of course the cars were moldy.

I had other constraints on my time and wasn’t able to spend the entire day dealing with the issue, so I did what was efficient and possible. First, there are no assigned marked spaces in the warehouse, so I pulled the cars that were sitting in water one row forward. Next, I keep a gallon of DampRid crystals in the trunk of one of the cars in Monson that I use to refill the containers, but I had nothing to clean the mold with. So I drove to a local hardware store, bought some cleaning wipes, refilled the containers, and wiped off most of the mold. On one of my 2002s, the mold had only bloomed on the hard surfaces of the steering wheel and center console, but on others it had settled onto the rugs. My Bavaria had visible rust blooms on the floor. Fortunately, both the aftermarket Coco mats, as well as the original snap-in floor carpet pieces, were easily removable, so I took them with me for cleaning.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse wheel
The mold on the steering wheel and center console was easily wiped off Bertha, my ratty ’75 2002. Rob Siegel
Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse drops
The rug on the Bavaria was jarring, but it’s easy to deal with. Rob Siegel

My ’79 Euro 635CSi, however, had a large ugly rust bloom on the passenger-side rug, and it’s a newer-style one-piece rug that can’t be removed without disassembling much of the interior of the car. I wiped the mold off with the cleaning wipes and resolved to come back soon and do a more complete job.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse dampness
This was gravely concerning. Rob Siegel

When I got home with the Bavaria’s removable mats and rug pieces, it was easy enough to blast the mold off with a pressure washer and leave them to dry in the sun, but the Monson mold event jarred me. I joke that I don’t consider myself a “collector” because a) I don’t chase investment by buying the most expensive cars in the best condition possible, and b) I sure as hell don’t have climate-controlled storage. But seeing my cars coated in mold in leaky storage was enough to make me think that I’d crossed the line from quirky automotive accumulator to negligent hoarder. I again began pounding on Zillow and doing a deep dive into looking for car-centric properties, but I stopped, as my wife and I never fully agreed on where we would move, and so we’ve stayed put where we are just west of Boston. And that’s OK. Part of my secret to happiness is not craving things I can’t have—don’t ask me about Italian exotics or what some ridiculously mint low-mileage car went for on Bring a Trailer; I pay zero attention.

About a week later, I returned to the Monson warehouse with a second set of five DampRid cannisters and some mold treat/block spray. My plan was to double up on the moisture-absorbing capacity present in each car and spend the better part of the day cleaning them and driving each one to get some fresh air inside. When I got there, I found that two things had changed. First, the puddles had largely dried up. Second, when I checked the existing DampRid in each car, I found that unlike the previous week where the crystals were gone and the canisters had only water in them, this time there was a crust on the DampRid, but no water. More important, I didn’t see any new mold. In other words, with less humidity and ample desiccant, the mold was kept at bay.

Nonetheless, I followed through with the plan. I went through each car one by one. I used the mold cleaner/blocker spray as per the directions—spray it on and wipe off any existing mold. I took each car for a glorious windows-down 30-ish-minute autumn drive, which obviously was not exactly hardship. When I returned to the warehouse, I sprayed the mold cleaner/blocker again to lay down a protective layer. I paid particular attention to spraying all the rug surfaces.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse lotus
Lolita seemed positively giddy to get out in the air and sunlight. Rob Siegel

But during all the uncovering-covering action, I noticed something else. One of the covers had evidence of a brown tarry substance dripping on it. I looked up and could see drips of it forming on the undersides of the insulation batting hanging from the metal roof. It was everywhere, but it was worse at the edge of the roof near where it had been leaking.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse drips
Sort of like that stuff that dripped on Zorg’s face in The Fifth Element. Rob Siegel
Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse roof leaks
Hoooookay …” Rob Siegel

I took two actions. The car with the goo on the cover was the last one that I had parked near the warehouse wall, so I moved it forward. Next, I noticed that many of the other cars in the warehouse had disposable clear plastic covers over them. I always regarded these as a poor substitute for a real indoor cover, but I suddenly understood their utility in helping prevent anything that might drip from the roof from getting through a porous cover and onto the paint. When I got home, I jumped on Amazon and found dozens of choices. I selected the pack that had five covers for $35. The next time I’m out in Monson, I’ll lay them on.

Rob Siegel storage problems at warehouse cars
The owner of the cars on my left is smarter than I am. Rob Siegel

So, I’ve walked myself back from the ledge. I’m not a negligent hoarder. The mold was mostly due to the biblically wet summer, proximity to standing water, and my leaving the cars for too long without changing the desiccant. The simple measures of moving the cars forward, doubling-up on the DampRid, buying a $7 plastic cover for each car, and a commitment to a once-a-month trip to Monson to check on the cars should get me through ’til spring, at which time I can re-evaluate the whole thing again.

After all, this property is waiting for me in western Massachusetts:

Rob Siegel storage real estate dreams
The car storage in the ridiculous house owned by the estate of Yankee Candle founder Michael Kitteridge. Rob Siegel



Rob’s latest book, The Best Of The Hack Mechanic™: 35 years of hacks, kluges, and assorted automotive mayhem is available on Amazon here. His other seven books are available here on Amazon, or you can order personally-inscribed copies from Rob’s website,

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    OK Rob, so you’re not a negligent hoarder — all those trips and chores are anything but negligence.
    But you’re still a hoarder.

    A little off topic, but on the left side of the Lotus in the last shot of the Monson warehouse, is that a Renault 15 I see? Don’t these two cars share the same engine?

    Series 1 and 2 Europas have a Renault engine, though I’m not certain whether it’s exactly the same engine as in the Renault 15. But Europa Twin Cam cars like mine have a Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine with a Ford 1558cc block (very similar to a Formula Ford and a Kent block) and a Lotus twin-cam head.

    Rob, sorry to hear of your mold issue but did you not just go through the routine to have all the cars inspected? That is a logbook mild in cashier period of time. Does the warehouse not have any ventilation? Also and this is important, THOSE CLEAR PLASTIC COVERS TRAP MOISTURE… you may come back and each of your fleet of 2002’s will be a pile of rust and two chrome headlight rings on the floor of the warehouse. Oh and I concur with all your friends and readers you are a hoarder, but that is ok because everyone has a shortcoming or two…..

    Rob I really really hate Apple Auto Correct, misspelling are one thing but sounding like an idiot is another…. Part of the above should have read “That is a lot of mold for a short period of time”.

    I’m prone to both typos and sounding like an idiot sometimes, but one thing I do not do is blame the device I’m typing on. This is because there is always one last thing we should all do before clicking “post comment”- READ what we wrote, then correct those autocorrections! It’s not a crime to screw up when typing – and there are plenty of examples of me doing just that right here on this site – but to put the blame on software is skirting the real issue: proofreading is something we should all do before sending something! 😉

    Yes, I agree. I’ve learned two things from reading this article:
    1) Never trust spellcheck to do your proofreading for you
    2) Rob is a hoarder who has more cars than he knows what to do with

    Although, he’s not the only one with that affliction.

    Yeah, I hear ya. It’s sometimes frustrating to think I’ve read something closely and found no issues, then read it later after I’ve sent it, only to find glaring errors. I’m guessing it’s the Humbleness Gremlins messin’ with me!

    Can’t believe I’m just seeing this. I have discovered the same problem on my e30 and B2 this year, after not having it before. (Same garage storage) the e30 wiped right off but returned. The B2 has cloth interior and bot so easy to clean. I was told to crack the windows to allow air movement. No bueno the over this wet New England summer!
    Along the lines of “this thread is useless without pictures” let us know what spray mold cleaner/preventer you used so I can buy some along w Damp Rid please

    Ditto on the plastic covers, you’re actually trapping more moisture and creating humidity, covers need to BREATH!

    Ditto on desiccant pouches vs damp rid. I’m not aware of the product you cited but 25 years ago I bought 5 or 10 pounds of silica gel (used for drying flowers) and a yard or two of muslin and sewed up my own pouches, placing them right on the seats and carpets. I never had to deal with the moisture situation you had but it was an old poultry barn and I didn’t know what to expect. Anyway, after winter storage, the pouches could be dryed in an oven or microwave and very reusable.

    Right on! Silica gel works, sometimes too well as it doesn’t ‘turn off’ and can burst its packaging, making things worse. CarSorb uses natural clay and once it is saturated, it’s done and can be tossed in the trash. Same principal as silica gel.

    I have two cars that I seasonally park in an enclosed lean-to along my garage, and I use what’s called the Car Jacket. Basically, it’s a tarp that you zipper shut and fully enclose your car. I’ve used them for over two decades, because they work. With fresh desiccant each fall and a full gas tank with Sta-Bul, the cars are essentially ready to run in the spring. At worst, sometimes I have a fuel smell for a few days inside a car – but it beats mouse pee or mold. They also made a product called the OmniBag, which is how they got their start, but that was essentially a BIG poly bag you rolled your car into. Effective, but a pain if you don’t have at least two people to hold the bag open while you push the car into it. I can easily do the Car Jacket routine myself.

    Oh, Rob…. You can run, but you can’t hide. Your wife is right to oppose a move to the boonies, in my view (we tried it at my wife’s suggestion and she ended up driving the move back into the city, because we were spending more time at our tiny 400-square-foot condo in town than at our 6-acre spread). When mold starts growing in your cars, it’s time to find better (drier) storage, even if it costs more. The mold will almost certainly come back otherwise. Take it from a wet-coaster who knows from mold. If there is power, a 60W marine device that spins a little fan and puts out a very small amount of heat prevents mold and mildew in stored boats, RVs, and cars. Fewer cars in fewer spaces, drier and with power, closer to Boston, might still cost more than you are paying, but wouldn’t it be worth it to keep the mold fairy away? Maybe I just have a special horror of mold… At this point, despite your vigorous denials, I’d say you are either a hoarder or a shlimazel, and each condition has a specific remedy…

    AG1962, I wouldn’t say that Rob is an inept person that fails at everything, he is not inept, just self taught, by trial and error. He is cheep, but resourceful. His friends say that he wants to be thought of as a successful BMW owner but does not have the financial recourses to live his desired status. In the Great State of Texas we would say Rob is all hat and no cattle but not inept….

    Sorry, but I believe that “all hat, and no cattle” would be a person who talks endlessly about, well, just about anything without actually owning or experiencing the thing they’re describing. to me, it would appear that Rob has both the hat and the cattle.

    A shlemiel is an incompetent fool. A shlemazel suffers from endless bad luck. Rob is more mazel then miel because he tries. Here is a good way to tell the difference. Biden falls while climbing up and down stairs because he is an incompetent fool (schlemiel.) If the staircases collapsed under him each time he would be the unluckiest president ever (schlemazel.)
    Also: You can still miss the typos when proofreading. The brain is doing/seeing things slightly differently when typing and proofreading. When we proofread our own work we sometimes pass over the typo because we know what we meant to say and, thus, “see” what we meant.

    Rob, hoarders don’t sell stuff. You do.

    And all your vehicles run and drive, and are even road legal – also not indicative of a hoarder.

    I can’t use the second reasoning on myself though. So maybe I’m half-hoarder.

    Remember, mold is a grouping of living organisms that continue to degrade the substrate upon which they grow, and may also produce health hazards for you in addition to the degradation of the various soft and hard surfaces. Get your cars out of there and find better storage. Dampness is the enemy. You don’t necessarily have to have a garage-mahal but safe, dry storage is a necessity if you wish to do right by these cars.

    Rob — love your stories. I can relate to you much more than most of the others who write about their vehicle experiences although I enjoy them all. I have long wrestled with wanting to find some space to rent to store cars. I have 4 now — 2 drivers, 2 fun cars — and I can’t keep any more and still use my driveway and garage. Your story keeps me sane on the issue!
    Keep ’em coming!

    This makes me glad I’m only storing the one car. It lives in my detached garage/workshop. It has a dehumidifier running all summer long, and winter time it’s heated to a minimum of 5 degrees (or 41 degrees for you all south of the border).

    These two things also keep my tools and spare parts from rusting, as well as keeping all my various sprays, paints, and the TV/computer from being destroyed.

    If I were to move where I had more space, a concrete pad with a metal roof would likely suffice for car storage. If you can keep the rodents out, then not much else should happen being stored on concrete with good air flow. (someone please correct me if I’m wrong)

    Oh gosh, Mold. Not something I have ever enjoyed dealing with. I had a detached garage with it that was a major project. No thank you!

    Rob, merely wiping off the mould and using a high pressure wash isn’t a cure for mould. It’s been my experience that once it’s present it’s almost impossible to get rid of. Mould spores are easily spread by the lightest puff of air.

    I suggest you move the fleet to dryer climes and park them in the bright sun for a a couple of days. Also, you should liberally use white vinegar to wipe down the areas where the mould was. Let it saturate the stitch in the seats to kill any mould that you missed and the sppores that are likely present. Do the same for your carpets and mats. After rinsing and drying, use a good leather conditioner on the lether items. (A good rinse it probably all you need for vinyl upholstery.)

    BTW, you may be a border-line hoarder but so am I. 10 cars, trucks & motocycles here in Australia and and two in Mom’s (very dry) garage in the U.S. waiting for transport.

    I probably have mentioned this every time this general subject comes up, but I have two general rules – (1) all of my cars are stored on home turf, and (2) if I ever encounter one with a dead battery, it’s hard decision time. This has safely held me at 5 for some time.

    You’ve been doing this (writing) long enough to take some comments with a heaping grain of salt. This article cut a little too close to the bone, as I smiled, winced, empathized and cheered you on, but this is why so many of us enjoy what you do and write about. I have every confidence you’ll get this sorted out and look forward to you sharing the outcomes with us. Good luck.

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