How to Hibernate

Put your car down for a long winter’s nap with these pointers

Winter is coming, as they say, and getting your beloved car ready for hibernation should be at the top of your to-do list. Winterization preferences are highly subjective, and while there are no hard-and-fast truths, there are some best practices to help you prepare for the dark months.

For starters, wash the car. Water stains or debris 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. Give the car a good waxing and treat any interior leather with a good conditioner.

Even though you’re storing it in a garage in (ideally) semi-stable temperatures, a weatherproof car cover will keep dust, unexpected spills, and accidental scratches off the paint.

Consider a coolant flush, so that your anti-freeze is up to snuff if the temperatures get severe. While you’re at it, change the oil. It’s one less thing you’ll have to do on that first nice driving day.

While winter storage isn’t overly lengthy, it can’t hurt to fill up with ethanol-free fuel. It’s also important to add a fuel stabilizer to your tank to prevent the fuel from separating and gumming up your fuel system. The fuel stabilizer will prevent the gas from deteriorating for up to 12 months.

A connected, unattended battery will eventually lose its charge. Your best and safest bet is to remove the battery completely and store it in a warm, safe place.

Don’t set the parking brake when you leave a car in storage; brake pads could fuse to the rotors after extended contact. Instead, throw a chock or two behind the wheels to prevent the car from rolling.

When it comes to tires, flat spots can occur if the car is stationary for too long, particularly in colder temperatures and especially with high-performance or low-profile tires. Consider placing the car on jack stands at all four corners. Place the stands beneath the suspension to keep it loaded, otherwise suspension components such as gas shocks could be compromised.

You can avoid unwanted critters by covering the exhaust pipe and air intake with steel wool. Mothballs or cotton balls dipped in peppermint oil along the perimeter also act as a deterrent. Fresh Cab or scented dryer sheets placed inside work wonders and leave the car smelling fresh. If moisture is a concern, lay desiccant bags in the footwells and trunk.

Finally, maintain your insurance. You might be tempted to cancel your policy during storage, but it would be a major loss if a fire starts, snow collapses your roof or a theft occurs. Hagerty policies cover a full year and take winter storage into account with the premium, so you don’t have to worry about your car over the winter months.

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