11 November 2014

The First Flakes Have Fallen: It’s Time for Winter Storage Preparation

For many, the first snow of the winter has already fallen, and winterizing the beloved collector vehicle has suddenly become top on the priority list. If the car is simply parked in the garage for an extended period of time without preparation, you may return to a dead battery or — even worse — a damaged engine, flattened tires, or electrical or interior damage from rodents. The following steps will prevent any springtime heartbreak:

Wash and Wax – It may seem fruitless to wash the car when it is about to be put away for months, but it is an easy step that shouldn't be overlooked. Water stains or bird droppings left on the car can permanently damage the paint. Make sure to clean the wheels and undersides of the fenders to get rid of mud, grease and tar. For added protection, give the car a coat of wax and treat any interior leather with a good conditioner.

Car Covers – Even though your classic is stored in the garage in semi-stable temperatures and protected from the elements, a weatherproof car cover will keep any spills or dust off of the paint. It can also protect from scratches while moving objects around the parked car.

Oil Change – If you will be storing the vehicle for longer than 30 days, consider getting the oil changed. Used engine oil has contaminants that could damage the engine or lead to sludge buildup.

Fuel Tank – Before long-term storage of over 30-days, remember to fill the gas tank to prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel tank and to keep the seals from drying out. You should also purchase a fuel stabilizer to prevent ethanol buildup and protect the engine from gum, varnish and rust. The fuel stabilizer will prevent the gas from deteriorating for up to 12 months.

Battery Care – An unattended battery will eventually lose its charge, resulting in having to purchase a new battery in the spring. The easiest, low-tech solution is to disconnect the battery cables — the negative (ground) first, then the positive. You'll likely lose any stereo presets, time and other settings. If you want to keep those settings and ensure that your battery starts the moment you return, purchase a battery tender, also known as a trickle charger. This device hooks up to your car battery on one end, then plugs into a wall outlet on the other and delivers just enough electrical power to prevent the battery from dying.

Parking Brake Tips – For general use it is a good idea to use the parking brake, but don't do it when you leave a car in storage long term; if the brake pads make contact with the rotors for an extended period of time, they could fuse together. Instead of risking your emergency brake, purchase a tire stopper or two — also called a chock — to prevent the car from moving.

Tire Care – If a vehicle is left stationary for too long, the tires could develop flat spots from weight of the vehicle pressing down on the tires' treads. This occurs at a faster rate in colder temperatures, especially with high-performance or low-profile tires and in severe cases, a flat spot becomes a permanent part of the tire causing a need for replacement. If your car will be in storage for more than 30 days, consider taking the wheels off and placing the car on jack stands at all four corners. This step requires more work than simply inflating the tires to the recommended pressure, but it can save you the disappointment that a set of destroyed tires would cause.

Repel Rodents – A solid garage will keep your car dry and relatively warm, conditions that can also attract unwanted rodents during the cold winter months. There are plenty of places in your car for critters to hide and even more things for them to destroy. Prevent them from entering your car by covering any gaps where a mouse could enter, such as the exhaust pipe or an air intake; steel wool works well for this. Next, spread mothballs or cotton swabs dipped in peppermint oil along the perimeter of the vehicle as a rodent repellent. Instead of stinky mothballs, a product called Fresh Cab has been a part of my personal success in keeping the rodents away. For a more proactive approach in conjunction to the prior suggestions, lay down a few mousetraps, but make sure someone can check the garage regularly for casualties or you will have to deal with a smell much worse than mothballs.

Maintain Insurance – You might be tempted to cancel your auto insurance when your vehicle is in storage in order to save money. If you remove coverage completely, it would be a major loss if a fire started, the weight of snow causes your roof to collapse, or if a theft occurred. Even if just collision coverage is temporarily removed, the car would not be covered when another moving object (for example: a tractor or motorcycle) rolled into it, or if the car were to fall of its jack stands. If you have classic car insurance, namely with Hagerty, the policy covers a full year and takes winter storage into account in your annual premium, so you don’t have to worry about your car over the winter months.

32 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Bobby Allison St. Catharines(Not Alabama) November 13, 2014 at 18:07
    All excellent advise and l do all of this every year especially the jacks which leaves the wheels and springs to hang,giving longer life to tires and suspension.
  • 2
    Jere Henley New Hampshire November 25, 2014 at 13:50
    Avoid owning a 'mothball' vehicle, Fresh-Cab rodent repellent works great.
  • 3
    Drew Fitch Maine December 3, 2014 at 15:50
    I'm hesitant to store my GTO in my basement garage with a full tank of fuel. Anybody have suggestions on a good way to store with no gas in the tank?
  • 4
    John Merz Michigan December 3, 2014 at 15:57
    I've also heard and used dryer sheets to repel rodents. No mothball smell in the spring.
  • 5
    Todd Arnone Hanson, MA December 3, 2014 at 16:12
    One of my favorite rodent repellent tricks is to use (new) dryer sheets. Put a few in the trunk, engine compartment, over the wheels, glove box and under the seats. The little critters don't like the smell, and when you uncover your baby in the spring, it won't smell like grandma's fur coat!
  • 6
    Tom Grand Rapids, MI December 3, 2014 at 16:46
    I have (2) vehicles that I store actually in more of lean-tos than garages through (8)Michigan winters and have not had issues. I park them on a plastic tarp after spraying the entire tarp with WD40. I also put dryer sheets inside all over the place. Works like a charm
  • 7
    Ken M Canton Ohio December 3, 2014 at 17:19
    Own an 80 Spitfire & 04 Chrysler Crossfire;these cars are in winter storage,we have done ALL of the above.one good thing to remember about tires.Its better for all systems to get the car excersized by occasionally backing them out of the garage starting the engine bringing it up to temps & moving it back up the driveway 2 times on a nice day instead of the trouble jacking the car.THATS the best way in my mind set. Ken
  • 8
    TONY E htfd Ct December 3, 2014 at 17:57
    I've been using dryer sheets. I wrap a little block of wood up in them, and place them all around the car, and a few inside. Seems to be working.
  • 9
    Mike Luchia Turner Valley, Alberta December 3, 2014 at 18:17
    Great to know Hagerty has taken winter storage into account when calculating rates. Hagerty is the best choice in insurance I've made for my 79 Trans Am SE.
  • 10
    Rick Grover Massachusetts December 3, 2014 at 18:54
    I use Bounce fabric sheets in my classic and my motorhome so far so good and the smell of bounce is much better than moth balls
  • 11
    Ian Kamloops, BC December 3, 2014 at 19:05
    A good engine storage fogging oil is also a good idea to prevent surface rust from condensation on the internal engine parts. Easy to use and readily available from any auto parts store.
  • 12
    Jerry Lisewych Chelan, WA December 3, 2014 at 19:21
    Great info on above, esp with controlling mice. Traps are good, I've used them with great effect. Place one or two in the trunk, and one in the passenger footwell. Check every few days. But, ... never ever use D-con or any of the killing agents. A dead stinky mouse is much worse than a cigar smoker.
  • 13
    Dan Seymour B.C. Canada December 3, 2014 at 20:00
    Over the last 3 years I included sheets of bounce on the floor in the cabin as well as sheets of bounce in the trunk. This has kept all the little critters like spiders etc out and when I take it out of storage in the spring the car smells nice.
  • 14
    Bob Arper Bremerton, WA December 3, 2014 at 22:38
    Good advice except for those of us with 6 volt systems since the 6 volt battery tenders are hard to find. Any idea where you find "Fresh-Cab"? Fortunately I don't have a rodent problem but it would be nice ensure that I don't.
  • 15
    Bruce Smith Canada December 3, 2014 at 23:30
    where do you get fresh cab?
  • 16
    Graeme Reynolds Markham ON December 3, 2014 at 23:42
    Regular scented Bounce sheets are also a good rodent repellent and come spring, your classic smells fresh
  • 17
    Kurt Taylor Hangtown, CA December 4, 2014 at 13:53
    WD-40 sprayed on a plastic tarp is a serious fire hazard. I wouldn't recommend it!
  • 18
    p johnson rochester hills mi December 4, 2014 at 13:56
    I've always (40+ years) taken the car out during the winter, as long as roads are dry and no slush, its the best thing you can do, take it around the long block, keeps everything working. The worst thing you can do is let her sit!
  • 19
    Steve Maryland December 4, 2014 at 06:12
    I place dryer sheets in the glove compartment, trunk, under the hood and on the floor of my vehicles to repel rodent occupancy. Nice aroma.
  • 20
    joe leto medina ohio December 4, 2014 at 08:23
    where can I get the fresh-cab? Thanks
  • 21
    Dan P Indiana December 4, 2014 at 08:42
    I agree with all this advice and I do most of them while my classic is in an unheated garage. One other thing I recommend is hanging one of those damp rid bags to absorb the moisture inside the vehicle. I usually only have to replace it once during winter storage. It also leaves a pleasant smell behind.
  • 22
    james e Raleigh, nc December 4, 2014 at 08:57
    I would add that desiccant in the interior of the car is a great idea. Even under a car cover in a heated garage, a lot of mildew can form. I have a box of big desiccant packs that I got from a computer device assembly company (they just throw them away) that I keep on the floorboard whenever a car is stored under cover.
  • 23
    Rich Patti Massillon OH December 4, 2014 at 21:14
    Nice reminders, I appreciate the tips and timely suggestions. Last year I took someone's suggestion and just put squares of cardboard under each tire and occasionally took the car out for a spin, just to change the tire orientation with the floor, seemed to do ok. Also tried Bounce fabric softner sheets in several locations in the car to repel the rodents. No evidence of them and made the car smell nice. Any thoughts?
  • 24
    Debruch Pittsburgh December 4, 2014 at 11:13
    Consider this if you plan to let the suspension hang in storage: When those rubber A arm bushings are installed, they are installed at normal ride height. If you let the suspension remain at full extension, the bonded rubber bushing will be fully stressed and most like will tear or at least degrade faster than normal.
  • 25
    Scott Roberts Anniston ALABAMA December 5, 2014 at 12:36
    As always thanks for the info.Have always used dryer sheets,never had a problem .Hopefully will keep working.
  • 26
    Duane mrazek United States December 6, 2014 at 21:21
    You can get 6 volt battery tenders at Summit ,they have both.I put about 40psi in my tires and put wax on all chrome parts and ,before I drive it in the spring I lower tire psi and wipe wax off it comes right off.
  • 27
    Phil Chicago December 6, 2014 at 09:34
    I've used Fresh Cab for years and works well. I get it at Menards. You should be able to get it on-line through them.
  • 28
    Dave Gilbert Burlington, KY December 8, 2014 at 12:04
    Good tips. I begin with putting 6 mil plastic on garage floor, then a layer of old carpeting. Next inflatable car capsules are put on the carpet, another layer of 6 mil plastic (in case of fluid leaks). Cars are driven in, batteries disconnected, battery tenders hooked up. Then a good quality car cover over each car. The capsules are zipped shut, new filters installed on the fans for the covers and the capsules are inflated. Off course all the other tips done previously, (stabilizer in fuel, fluids topped off, etc.) When the cars come out of storage in late March or early April, still clean and ready to go. I used to put the cars on jack stands but with suspensions hanging it did not do the shocks any good. I simply put extra air in the tires and if flat spots develop, they will vanish when driven in the spring. Seems a bit of overkill I know, but storing two old T-Birds this way for many years and no problems. Even with heavy rain that washed a layer of mud onto the floor last spring left the garage a mess, but the cars were clean and dry. Threw away the old carpeting and first layer of 6 mil plastic, cleaned the bottoms of the car capsules and they were ready for this winter.
  • 29
    Jon Elwood Central Oregon December 9, 2014 at 14:40
    Also dryer sheets and original Irish Spring soap helps to keep mice away. We put them in the motor compartment, trunk and front and back floors, just remember to remove the soap when you start up again...
  • 30
    Will Myers Lima, Ohio December 10, 2014 at 22:21
    I agree with Mr. Johnson--I take my 5 clasics out for a short drive whenever possible during the winter. I beelieve in keeping them running. All the other suggestions sound great! I'll use the dryer sheets also. Great tips, thankyou!
  • 31
    Tom Vaughn Norman, OK January 3, 2015 at 13:35
    You can get Fresh Cab at Tractor Supply Co, Ace or TrueValue Hardware.
  • 32
    Thomas Novellino Acton Maine March 21, 2015 at 09:41
    Thank You for the great "Winter Preparation Tips". There was great advise, few things I am now considering. Great Sites, from Hagerty Insurance Co. Thank You Again.

Join the Discussion