5 things to know before putting your car into storage

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The dreaded storage season has finally arrived for many vintage car owners. It’s the time where we collectively consider moving to the desert and then don’t for one reason or another. Some of us pack up and move, but most of us hunker down and spend a weekend prepping our beloved rides for a months-long hibernation.

Plan for projects—or don’t

Kyle's garage
There is still some extra space here, but not much! Kyle Smith

Are you going to work on your ride over the winter? If yes, be sure to lay out a plan and store the car in a manner that allows you to get to the parts you plan to work on. nothing is more annoying than shuffling sideways between your nicely painted door and a shelf while carrying tools because the small amount of extra space on the other side seemed nice as you were parking the car.

Write out your to-do list and be sure to position the car in a way that makes sense for those projects. Nothing is worse than having to push your car out into the weather just to turn it around and push it back in. Set yourself up for easy work on or around your car the first time.

Be sure you are the only one checking in over winter

Rodents are always looking for a cozy place to make a nest, and a vintage car is full of nooks and crannies that make delightful homes, especially once the rodent does a light remodel. Take the carpet from over there, and the insulation from under that, and suddenly a comfortable home is where ever they want it. The time to get really worried is when they decide to re-wire the place so they can have a nice cozy fire to snuggle up with. Whether you prefer the fabric softener sheets or Ivory soap method, do something to prevent rodent residents from checking into your classic over the winter.

Protect from moisture

Plastic sheet under Austin Healey
My garage floor is unsealed, and therefore I keep the moisture rising from the concrete from causing corrosion by parking on a plastic sheet over winter. Kyle Smith

The devil is in rust, that’s why it’s red. That rust requires moisture to set its unflinching grasp on your steel parts, and that moisture can appear from underneath–especially if you are parked on a dirt floor. Moisture can rise through a concrete floor easily too, as many older slabs are not sealed to stop it. Test your floor by taping down a one-foot square piece of plastic. With tape around all the edges, you can see just how much moisture is coming up through the slab and could end up condensing on the cool steel chassis of your car.

Seal it out by parking on a large plastic sheet, like the ones used as drop-cloths by painters. You can tuck the edges up to the bumpers and close it into the door sill to remove the trip hazard walking around it. this will also give the rodents no access to the underneath of your car, at least not without leaving a trail or marks you can follow.

Tend to it or disconnect it—or both

Battery disconnect switch
Kyle Smith

Your car’s battery is sometimes both heart and brain, and with something that important you need to take care of it. If you have a car that won’t be damaged if the battery is disconnected, I recommend doing so. Install an easy battery disconnect switch that will allow you to keep the battery on a tender but stop the current from going to any of the car’s systems. This helps me sleep at night knowing that no short will appear in long winter storage and burn my garage to the ground.

If your car of choice needs the battery to stay connected, be sure to use an appropriate battery tender so the battery does not go flat from lack of use.

Cover it up, but don’t bury it

A car cover is something I personally did not have for many years, mainly due to being cheap and not having nice enough cars to protect and also too frugal to spend the money on a cover. I have now come to realize the error of my ways. A good car cover will protect the finish of your car from more than just dust and small scratches. Moisture can escape out of a good cover but is not allowed in, keeping your interior fresh and mildew free. If you store your convertible with the top up, a cover will go a long way in keeping that pain-in-the-butt to clean fabric top in great shape.

With a cover on, it is very tempting to use your car as a shelf to store a few things for the season. Even with the protection for scuffs and scrapes a cover provides, stacking on your car is never a good idea. Keep your Christmas tree stands and camping gear up on a shelf. Your car makes for a poor shelf.

In the end, it’s all about taking the time right now to prep the car for a happy spring. You can spend the time to take care of the car now, or you’ll be spending the time in the spring to deal with what happened over winter. If you have additional tips, leave them as a comment in the Hagerty Community below.

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