Ready to store your classic car for winter? The time is coming again soon. Be sure to take all the right steps with our tips for winter car storage!
Colder months are ahead. It’s sad, but true. It may seem too early to even think about, but Fall is going to hit before we know it. Then, the drop in temperatures. If you have a classic car, you probably already know the days of driving it are limited and the days of storage are ahead. That’s why we came up with this list of tips for storing your classic car for the winter.
Whether you own a classic car for the joy of it, for the investment, or a little of both, you’ll want to be sure it’s in good condition and stored properly. If you found a deal too good to pass up and just recently purchased a classic, there’s more to owning it than you may realize. If you already own a classic, you’re probably already set up with some form of winter storage, but are you doing it correctly? You may not even know about some of these storage tips, so take a look below to be sure you’re doing things the right way. Better to be safe than sorry, especially when it involves a classic car!
First things first. You have to figure out where you’re going to store that 1971 Ford Thunderbird or ‘66 GTO. You can always put it in a larger shed, a barn, or your garage. However, there are probably some better options. A residential garage is fine, but ideally, it will be a heated garage that is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The same rules apply to a detached garage or barn. There are actual classic car storage units, too. These do, of course, cost money, but they are climate-controlled and made specifically for storing a classic. Paying a monthly fee to a storage facility may end up being cheaper than storing your car somewhere exposed to the elements and then having to make repairs once spring or summer hits.
This one is pretty obvious. You don’t want a bunch of dirt, mud, or any other kind of grime clinging to your car for the next nine months. Before putting it into storage, do a little detailing. Whether you do it yourself or take it to the shop or detail the classic yourself, make sure it’s clean before putting it away. Hopefully your vintage car is in good enough condition that it doesn’t have any rust, but if you see some signs of it starting or have trouble spots, we have an entire article that tells you how to get rust off of your car.
After you’re done cleaning the outside, be sure to give the interior some TLC, too. Grab some cloths, cleaner, and a vacuum for this job. A thorough sweep through the inside will help keep those seats, the carpet, and the dash looking good for when you’re ready to take your car out of storage. A lot of the classics have leather seats so you may want to click over to our article on proper leather upholstery care before you start detailing.
Changing the oil filter is important. So is changing the oil itself. It may be the most important part of the entire checklist. Leaving dirty oil in it for several months can lead to premature rusting in the engine compartment. Get rid of that corrosive liquid so it can’t do any damage over the winter. After changing the oil, it’s also good to let the engine run for a few minutes. You could drive it around for a few minutes as well. A running engine helps circulate the clean oil before it goes into storage. This is a good time to lubricate any cylinders or ditch older brake fluid for a newer bottle as well.
Another liquid to concentrate on is gasoline. Leaving the fuel tank low can increase the chance of moisture buildup, so simply filling up the tank can help prevent that. You can also add fuel stabilizer to the tank if you prefer. As we said in our Do Fuel Additives Work article, gasoline loses some of its luster after about 30 days of sitting untouched in the tank. Stabilizer can prevent performance issues once you start the car up again.
There are two options here: you can leave the battery in your car or remove it entirely. While dirty oil can cause corrosion, the battery itself can corrode, so you can’t just leave it in the car without taking a couple of extra steps. You can leave it in the car if there’s power in your storage space. Simply hook the battery up to a battery tender (or trickle charger). This can keep the battery functioning if you’re planning to start your car every now and then while it’s in storage. The tender should have an automatic shutoff so that you avoid overcharging it.
Removing the battery entirely is your second option, and it may be your best option if you plan to keep your car in storage long-term or if you don’t plan on starting it while it’s in storage. Once you remove the battery, you can store it in the same location as your car as long as it’s in a temperature-controlled environment. You don’t want to let the battery freeze. Besides being kept somewhere warm, the battery should be kept somewhere dry and off the ground. Then, it should be good to be used again in the spring.
When there’s no activity in a particular space for a certain amount of time, there’s always the possibility of mice, squirrels, and other rodents getting into that space and making it a home. Unfortunately, your vintage model could be one of them. Thankfully, there are several ways to minimize the welcoming environment. Blocking any entry points is key. You can plug the exhaust pipe with steel wool or you can put the steel wool into a plastic sandwich bag and then put it into the exhaust pipe. Close all the air vents, too. Lastly, make the entire area an unwelcome environment for critters of any kind. That means keeping the storage area clean of debris, food crumbs, and other areas rodents may want to snuggle away in.
There are mixed opinions on using jack stands for winter storage after filling tires with air, but many people choose to do it. If you don’t plan to drive the car, using jack stands can relieve weight from the tires and bearings as well as prevent flat spotting. Plus, you won’t get any ground rot that you would if it is parked on a stone or dirt surface. If there’s ever a leak that makes its way to your storage space or garage, having your car lifted may just prevent some water damage, too. You can add a small piece of plywood underneath the stands if you’re concerned that the jack could leave indents on the floor surface.
However, the concern is that using stands could damage the suspension. Many successfully store their vehicle parked on a normal garage surface. To counteract flat spots, they inflate their tires to the maximum recommended pounds per square inch (PSI). Another solution would be using jack stands and then taking the wheels off so that there isn’t unneeded stress on the suspension.
A high-quality, soft car cover can do a lot to keep your classic car in good condition. Good car covers can reduce dust accumulation and prevent small cosmetic damages like scratches. Car covers are even more important if the storage isn’t in a climate-controlled area. The covers shouldn’t be plastic, though. Material that breathes is best for long-term storage because the plastic tarps will trap condensation, potentially leading to rust on your vintage vehicle.
A custom-fit cover is even better than a universal fit, but it really depends on how much money you want to spend. The looser, universal covers work fine. A fitted cover is just an extra step for those who want to go all out on winter storage, though they are recommended for any outdoor car storage. The tighter fit of breathable fabric will prevent excess precipitation from getting into the car from below.
Just like the jack stands, there are opposing viewpoints here. AAA says that if you have stored your car properly, there’s no need to start it during those three, four, five, or six months of winter. Letting the engine run every week or so doesn’t actually help the vehicle and can contaminate the engine oil. Basically, you can let your car hibernate in peace before pulling it out in the spring.
Some, however, do prefer to start their car every so often so long as the engine is warmed to an operating temperature. Furthermore, they recommend taking it out on a 15 to 20-minute drive so that all the fluids can fully circulate. If you’re storing your car for the winter, then taking it out on winter roads and getting it full of grime and ice melt (only to have to clean it again) doesn’t seem like the best idea. Either way, running it in place for a few minutes every other week doesn’t actually help maintain the vehicle.
If you want additional tips for when nicer weather arrives again, then click on our How to Inspect Your Tires article, How to Replace Your Car Battery piece, and our look at How to Fix Paint Chips on Your Car. We’ve even got a Spring Car Maintenance Checklist for you.