For owners of classic/luxury and sports cars, fall is a sad time of year as it marks the end of the driving season and get’s us thinking about winter car storage. Just about everyone with a hobby car stores their special ride during the winter months to spare it from the abuse of our harsh Canadian winters.
Here’s what you should consider when preparing for winter car storage
1. Storage location
Choose a safe and dry building to house your car during the winter. A home garage, can work just fine. If you don’t have a garage, look for a storage facility that has a concrete floor, not bare earth like in an old barn. The facility does not need to be climate controlled but should not have excessive moisture.
2. Check engine oil
Pull the dipstick to observe the engine oil. If it is really dirty and you’ve reached the mileage limit, change it before storage. Otherwise you can wait until spring and start the season with fresh oil. The most important factor with engine oil is kilometres used. Modern oil, especially synthetic, is stable for a year in the engine. Fogging the engine is not necessary unless you are storing a vehicle for longer than a year.
3. Wash and clean
Before parking your car for the final time, wash and fully detail it to ensure there are no contaminants left on the surfaces for the duration of the storage period.
4. Top up fluids
After washing the car, go for one last drive to the gas station to evacuate the water from the crevices. Fill your gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer such as STA-BIL. Let the car run for five minutes to allow the stabilizer to flow through the fuel system. Also check that other fluid levels, especially anti-freeze, are topped up.
At the storage facility, inflate your tires to the maximum PSI rating (indicated on the sidewall). I use a portable air compressor in my garage. This will prevent the tires from developing flat spots. It is not necessary to remove modern radial tires and it is not advised to put a car up on blocks and leave the suspension hanging for an extended period of time.
Leave the car in neutral with the parking brake disengaged. Automatic transmission cars can be left in park otherwise block tires to prevent moving. The car should be parked on a level surface.
Roll down the window an inch to allow air circulation and prevent moisture from building inside the cabin.
Opinions vary but I take my battery out. I bring it in the house, leave it on a piece of wood and connect it to a battery maintainer/tender, not a trickle charger. The maintainer I use is a CTEK 3300. Some newer cars require that the battery stay connected at all times to preserve the computer’s memory. In this case, it’s okay to connect the tender to the battery while keeping the hood ajar to run the cables into the engine bay.
8. Pest prevention
Rodents love to find their way into your car and make it their cozy home during the winter. This can wreak havoc if they chew wires. As a precaution, place a ball of steel wool in the exhaust pipe opening and air inlet, laundry fabric sheets inside the cabin and trunk and moth balls around the outside perimeter of the car.
Use a high quality tight fitting cover that will allow the car to breath.
10. Other considerations
It is common practice to put a tarp or plastic sheet on top of the concrete floor that you will be parking on to act as a moisture barrier. I don’t do this because my garage is sufficiently dry and my car is undercoated.
Those with newer vehicles may want to cancel the liability and collision portion of their insurance to save during the off-season. However, always maintain comprehensive (fire, theft and acts of god). Most classic car policies do not allow the option to temporarily suspend part of the coverage.
Leave it be:
A lot of people think starting a car every few weeks during storage is a good idea. Unless you intend on taking the car for a good drive, simply letting it idle is actually detrimental because condensation will build through the various systems and not properly burn-off. And don’t be tempted to take it for a drive on a “nice winter day.” After all, you don’t want to go through the entire process again. Best policy is let sleeping bears lay to rest. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and you will appreciate your beloved ride more when you finally get to bring it out of storage in the spring.
These are the steps and precautions I take for winter car storage. There are additional measures that can be taken but without going to extremes, this process has served me well through many storage seasons.
There is also a process I take when bringing my car out of storage in the spring that you can read here: Top 5 tips for bringing your car our of winter storage
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