Storing your Classic Car for Winter
Prepare You Car for Winter Sleep
Much of the country will begin plunging into the cold, wet world of winter in just a few weeks, and many classic-car owners will put their treasures away until spring. Those of you in the warm states can feel free to gloat. But if you’re going to put your car into winter hibernation, do it right to minimize problems later.
If you have a dry, nicely sealed, climate-controlled garage, you’re already ahead of the game. Fill tires to proper pressure and put wood planks or carpet remnants under them. If all you’ve got is a dirt-floor barn or shed, put a plastic vapor barrier under the car, too.
To a full tank of gas, add fuel stabilizer. (Follow directions, including running the car for a few minutes to get the product into the fuel lines, carburetor or fuel injection.) If possible, use ethanol-free fuel. A full tank reduces air, which can carry moisture.
Give the car a fresh oil and filter change. Make sure to check the anti-freeze, not just the level, but the condition, too. If in doubt, change it.
Put the car away clean, dry and waxed. Clean the interior, too. The last thing you want to discover come spring is a rotting piece of a hotdog that you bought at the last car show of the season. Put open baking soda refrigerator deodorizer packages in the cabin and trunk. Make sure all windows are closed. If your garage will expose the car to freezing temperatures, make sure not to leave items in the car that can freeze or burst, like a can of soda that might have rolled under a seat. It happens.
Keep Out the Critters
Mice, rats and other critters can do enormous damage to stored vehicles in a short time, and you might not discover it until the spring. No matter how sealed up you think your garage might be, don’t take a chance with desperate, shivering rodents trying to get out of the cold. Make sure windows and door gaps are sealed. Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil eraser, and rats a hole the size of a half-dollar.
Keep an eye on your garage space for signs of rodent activity and consider using a rodent repellent. Fresh Cab is a botanical product that uses a pungent balsam fir aroma to drive away critters away but will not harm you or pets. The manufacturer says it can be used in a vehicle, but be aware the concentrated Christmas tree scent can be intense in a confined space.
Some car owners put steel wool in the tailpipes and block off the air intakes. Just don’t forget to remove that stuff before starting the car!
The easiest way to handle the battery is to leave it in the car with a trickle charger on it. You can also remove it and put a trickle charger on it, but that becomes a hassle if you need to run the car. Tip: if you store the battery, forget the old-as-the-hills myth of never leaving a battery on a concrete floor. With a modern battery, the battery’s tough plastic case will prevent any current from flowing through it.
There is a different and good reason not to store the battery on the floor: someone could trip over it, or – be honest about your age – you could hurt yourself picking it up.
Convertibles should be stored with the top up and properly latched. Use a high-quality car cover, one that’s designed to breathe to let air pass up and out of it. A cheap plastic tarp can trap moisture and can scratch the car.
Finally, if you plan to store your car at another site, you might need to inform your insurance carrier. There’s a whole procedure for waking up your car in spring. Watch this space in a few months.