As temperatures drop and days grow shorter, collector car owners know it’s time to make sure their cars are protected over the winter. But classic car storage is more than simply parking and covering your car.
After all, your car represents a significant investment of time, money and energy. When spring rolls around again, you want to be able to get your car back on the road with minimal fuss. That means avoiding dead batteries, rodent damage, rust and bad gas… just to name a few.
Here are our recommendations for storing your collector car in the winter.
A Thorough Cleaning
One of the most important classic car storage tips is also the most simple: Clean your car thoroughly. Why? Because putting your car away for winter with debris, water stains or bird droppings on it may lead to paint damage or rust. Any crumbs in the interior may draw rodents, who would love nothing more than to burrow into your seats and make a cozy nest.
Set aside an afternoon and clean your car from top to bottom, inside and out. Protect the paint with a coat of high-quality wax and polish any chrome. Apply tire dressing to keep tires in good condition. Don’t forget to clean the wheels and the undersides of fenders, too, paying special attention to any grease, tar and grit.
The interior needs special care, as well. Vacuum every nook and cranny to remove any crumbs that may have fallen in between seats. Condition leather and vinyl seats.
Finally, leave some desiccant packs inside to soak up moisture. If your car is a convertible, be sure to leave the top up and treat it with a protector.
Check (and Change) Fluids
Check your car’s fluid levels, including oil, coolants and fuel. When storing your collector car in the winter, avoid leaving used oil in place. Used oil contains contaminants that may cause build up, or even damage your engine if left to sit more than 30 days. Play it safe and get an oil change.
At the same time, check your transmission and brake fluid. Top them off or, if it’s time for a change, go ahead and do it now. In the spring, you’ll be ready to simply drive out of storage.
Next, check the cooling system. You may want to flush the radiator, but even if not, check to ensure you’ve got the right mix of antifreeze. You don’t want to risk an engine block crack! Check the freezing point with a hydrometer and, in colder climates, consider an engine block heater.
Fill Up the Tank
Now it’s on to the fuel system. Fill the gas tank all the way, adding a fuel stabilizer. Then take your car out for a 20 minute drive to distribute the treated gas throughout the system.
This will help prevent rust, varnishing and build up, which is especially important with today’s ethanol-rich fuels. Ethanol tends to attract moisture, and a full tank makes it harder for moist air to collect.
Tend the Battery
When a car sits for long periods, its battery will slowly lose charge and die. If you don’t want to purchase a new battery next spring, disconnect it. (Negative cable, first, then positive cable.) Remove the battery from the car and place it in a safe place, such as on a plank of wood on the floor or on a shelf. Don’t store it directly on concrete, as temperature fluctuations may cause the battery to lose charge.
You may choose to connect the battery to a trickle charger. Trickle chargers plug into a wall outlet and provide a constant, low charge that keeps the battery topped off. Choose one with an automatic shutoff to prevent overcharging.
Keep rodents away by plugging the exhaust pipe, engine intakes and other access points with steel wool. Spreading dryer sheets or soap shavings inside and around the car will help deter these destructive little pests.
Be sure that your classic car storage space is sealed to prevent rodents from entering. You may want to lay traps or spread mothballs around the car.
While it may seem like a lot of work, protecting your classic car over the winter means protecting your investment. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and know that your classic car is cozy and safe.