Preparing Your Classic Car for Winter or Extended Storage


With winter approaching, it's time to start thinking about prepping your classic car for extended or winter storage. The destructive elements of winter can wreak havoc on cars, so if you're not planning on driving your classic car during the colder months, it's a good idea to put it in storage. Some people believe simply parking their car in the garage during the winter is enough, but it's not. A classic car needs to be properly prepared for storage before being put away; otherwise, you may find a number of things wrong with it when you're ready to start driving it again in the spring. It’s a bit more involved than slipping a car cover on your basic Hyundai.



Preparing Your Car


The best time to start preparing your car for storage is during the fall — you don't want to wait until winter is actually here. Instead, start when the weather gets chilly. Some people do participate in classic car shows in the fall, so simply look at the calendar and decide which show is the last one you'll do for the season. Then start preparing your car for storage after that. Once you're ready, here are some of the things you'll want to do before you store your vehicle.


    • Clean your car and give it a good wax - The first part is obvious — you don't want to put away your car while it has dirt on it, do you? After all, you won't be storing your summer clothing until you've washed it first. Also, don't forget to vacuum and clean the interior while you're at it. You certainly don't want to leave any food or other things in your car that could decompose over the months and create a foul odor inside. Once your car is as clean as you can get it, give it a proper wax job. Apply a coat to all of the chrome and painted surfaces on your car. Make sure you use a high quality wax, too. Cheaper waxes may not breathe as well during the change in temperatures.

    • Check the fluid levels - You'll want to check the oil, coolant, and fuel levels. First, the oil. You may be told that you need to replace the oil before storing it, but some experts argue that all you really need to do is make sure the oil level is correct and be sure to change the oil and the filter in the spring. For the coolant, make certain you correctly mix you're the proper amount of coolant and fill the radiator. If you don't, it's possible ice could get inside the radiator seals and cause a mess. Finally, your fuel system. Gasoline that sits too long will clog up the fuel system. Mix in a fuel stabilizer and start the car for a few minutes so it works its way through the car's fuel lines. Fill up the tank, too, so there's no air space for condensation to form.

    • Make sure animals can't disturb your car - Critters hate the cold, and they're going to be looking for some place to hide during the winter. Your classic car is going to look like an amazing home for them, so you'll want to make certain they can't get in it. Seal the windows and doors to your storage area, and put down some traps just to make certain no animals get near your car. You may want to cover the exhaust tips, too, so nothing can get up inside.

    • Disconnect the battery - Your car's not going anywhere, so you can remove the battery and connect it to a trickle charger. If you don't have a charger, store the battery on a shelf or place it on a piece of wood on the floor. Don't put your battery directly on the concrete floor. If you do, as the temperature changes in the concrete, the battery will actually lose charge. A piece of wood will serve as a barrier to protect the battery.

    • Put your car up off the ground by using jack stands - Make sure they're rated for heavy-duty long-term use, and put some padding between the car's frame and the stands. This will help relieve some of the tension on the springs and will prevent the formation of flat spots on the tires. Be sure your jack stands are sitting on secure points so nothing bends or breaks.

  • Wrap your car in a high quality car cover to keep it protected all winter long - Some people use a plastic tarp, but this cheap alternative is not the same. Tarps don't fit snugly around a car; instead, they have to be tied down. Even then there will be gaps between the car and the tarp. They also don't let rising air move through the material. This actually can cause corrosion. On the other hand, a quality car cover is designed to breathe and let air pass up and out of it. They help remove air, dust, and moisture, which limits the amount of corrosion that can occur.


Unique Storage Needs


Some cars require unique storage needs. If you have one of these classic cars, be sure to add these things to your to-do lists:


    • Convertibles with soft tops - Some people aren't sure if they should store the car with the soft top up or retracted. Most people recommend storing convertibles with the top up. First, if you store the car with the top down, it makes it easier for mice and other creatures to get into the car. Second, the vinyl can get warped if it's rarely used, and it may even rip if it's not often used because it will shift over time. Third, whichever way you go, try not to raise or lower the top while it's cold outside. The cold weather can cause some parts to become brittle, making them more likely to break while in use.

  • Convertibles with hard tops - If the car is being stored in an unheated area, many people suggest removing the hardtop and storing it in a climate controlled location. This will help protect the headliner and keep it in good shape. Be certain to wrap the car in a car cover, though, in order to protect the interior and keep out critters.

Protecting your classic car from the damage it can incur during the cold, harsh winters is a must, especially if you've spent a lot of time and money to restore it to its perfect, pristine condition. While a climate controlled, sealed storage area would be ideal, most of us can't afford that. However, by following these tips and keeping your car wrapped up in a good car cover during the winter, you can minimize the effects of the weather. When you get your car out of storage next spring, it will look great and be ready to go.