So, the winter weather is upon us and it is time to put our pride and joy down for the season. Unless of course, you are fortunate to live in a place like California…
For those readers in California, let me explain. It gets cold and it gets icy. When it does, they put this terrible gravel and salt mix on the ground — or sometimes a chemical spray — to keep the ice away and our roads safe(ish). Not only is driving a car dangerous as it is and increases the odds for an accident, but the gravel/salt/chemical mess does no good to our classics in terms of paint damage and rust.
Therefore, for about six to eight months of the year, those of us in cold climates store our cars away waiting for warmer days and safer driving conditions. Well, also more enjoyable as well if you happen to own a convertible classic!
Let’s get to it… the top 5 tips for storing your classic car in the winter (or for any reason to be honest):
1. WASH AND WAX
First thing is to wash and wax the car.
Timing is obviously key when thinking about storing your car. Wait too long, and you could hit a rainy season or early cold snap. Go too soon and you’ll be kicking yourself that you missed out on some great driving days! I’ve ended up doing both over the years, but at the end of the day I preferred getting it done on a nice day and missing a few drives than too late in the season and rushing or doing a poor job due to weather.
When it comes to washing, I do the following:
- Park the car close to where it will go for storage – example: in front of your garage door that will store the car
- Wash the car thoroughly with a high quality car soap and cloth. I actually use this glove wash mitt that works wonders.
- You will want to make sure you spray water in the wheel wells and under the car. You want to get all the dust and road grime off the car.
- Clean the wheels, tires, you name it… get it cleaned!
- Shammy the car dry to remove all the water spots. I use a real leather shammy, but I know there are other synthetics on the market people like. At the end of the day, you want to make sure no water drops are on the paint to attract dust.
- Optional: Use a clay bar on the entire paint surface to removal all dust and dirt. Mequiar’s has a great kit. I always do this before I do any waxing or when I want to make sure I have a totally clean car.
- Water seems to get everywhere, so what I do is I open the doors, truck, and hood and give it a couple hours to air out and dry. You don’t want water trapped anywhere for the season. It also sucks when you hit a water droplet while waxing. Big mess.
- Now you have two choices: a) Wax the car with a very good wax. Carnauba wax being one of the better choices. b) Spray your car with a quick detailer like ones from Meguiar’s. Wax is the better choice, but if you are in a rush for time, the spray detailer can put a decent seal on your car’s paint.
Now you have a very nice, clean, and protected car. For bonus points you can also take the extra time and detail the entire car. Vinyl roof, interior, vacuum the carpets, engine details, sky is the limit!
2. FILL AND TREAT YOUR FUEL
In days gone by, fuel had lead in it and would last for months if not years. However, we discovered that lead was… well… not a good idea. Today’s fuels burn much cleaner and keep us healthier. Unfortunately, they also don’t last as long and as a result can become “bad” over time which can also impact your car’s fuel system.
First, fill your tank to entirely full.
I personally use high octane premium gas (94 octane), but the choice on what fuel you use is your business. Regardless, it needs to be totally full. Why you ask? Well if you have say half a tank of fuel, you can get condensation in the tank over time. This can cause rust and well… water… in the gas tank. Neither is what we want in our car’s fuel system!
Second, treat your fuel.
As mentioned, not much lasts these days, including our fuel. So with a full tank you need to treat it so it lasts throughout the season. STA-BIL is pretty much the go to additive for this purpose. 30ml treats 2.5 gallons of fuel, and it comes with a handy applicator that helps you measure and put in the exact right amount based on your gas tank size.
So in short, fill your tank full and make sure to treat it to it lasts and doesn’t cause damage.
Now we have a clean car in the driveway with fuel that has been treated. Next, you want to start the car, let it run for a couple minutes so the treated fuel runs through the entire system so all the fuel is treated throughout. Finally, it is time to back it into place where you will be storing the car for the season.
3. LIFT THE CAR – SAVE YOUR SPRINGS AND TIRES
I’ll be honest, this is a bit of a preparation step for the next step… however, it does have its own value!
Parking a car in one spot and not moving it for months does two things. It puts flat spots in the tires (bad) and it can wear out the front springs and rear leaf springs (very bad). This gets worse when it happens more on one corner of a car than the other, or just makes the car ride strange. The solution is quite simple, take the weight off!
You will need four jack stands that will be used up for the entire season during storage. So if you have other projects that need some stands — make sure to buy some more!
It is not necessary to lift the car up super high in the air, in fact just the minimum height to get jack stands under the car works! However, we will be doing a bit of work under there — so make sure it is high enough to get under.
Also, it is best to put the jack stands on the frame. If you put them on the rear differential you won’t be solving the issue — since the leaf springs support the rear differential.
4. CHANGE YOUR OIL AND CHECK YOUR FITTINGS
No matter if you have 10 miles, or 1,000 miles on the car since the last oil change… you need to change it.
Fuel mixes with the oil and degrades it. That is why you have to get an oil change based on mileage or time, whichever comes first. The last thing you want to do is keep bad oil in your car. It is not good for the seals or the engine components. Plus, why not have the car ready to go in the Spring with some fresh oil!
While I am in there changing the oil, or waiting for it to drain, I check all the fittings. Hose clamps, valve cover bolts, belts, any nut and bolt I can get my hands on. Things come loose, they are old, why not check it all so it doesn’t become a problem later on the road next year.
Ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.
With the oil changed and the fittings tight, it is time to disconnect the battery and put it on a trickle charger. I leave my battery in the car when I do this, but some may prefer taking the battery right out of the car and keeping it charged on your bench.
5. COVER IT
Ok, we have a clean car. Fuel is full and treated. It is up on jacks to keep the suspension and tires good. We have all the oil changed, fittings tight, and the battery is on a slow charge for the season.
Last, but not least, it is time to cover it.
This is not an easy decision as there are 101 car covers on the market. Personally, I like the California Car Covers and I have one with custom stitching for my 1969 Super Bee. The one I use is an indoor dust cover as I do not store my car outside in the elements. It also allows the car to “breath” so I don’t have to worry about any trapped water I didn’t get or the interior starting to smelly musty.
The best way to do this is with two people. I roll it out inside my house on a clean surface, then with my helper take the front of the cover while he takes the back. We shake it out to make sure there is no dirt on it. We carry it ensuring it doesn’t touch the floor and end up with dust and dirt on it. Then we put it on the car gently making sure that all the sides are covered and it is on properly.
Your car is now ready for a nice long nap…
Some people like to also do something that is called “fogging a motor”. The theory here is that if you are going to store a car for prolonged periods of time — perhaps years — then you want to prevent rust from forming on areas such as the cylinder walls.
The process involves cranking the car with the ignition system and fuel system disconnected while spraying lubricant into the carburetor. Cranking the car will move the pistons, this movement will create vacuum, this vacuum will suck the lubricant into the cylinders, this lubricant will protect the cylinder walls.
Engine has been fogged.
I am sure I will get a lot of opinions when it comes to what people use (or even the process), but I have used WD-40 in the past with success. The longest period I have stored a car with this method is two years.
I hope these top 5 tips have helped you store your precious car!
Please leave your comments. I would love to hear how they worked for you, or other tips you have for storing our classic car that would help the readers!
Modern Rodder Team