The first few dreaded flakes are beginning to fall and it’s time to pull out the clunky boots and ugly, albeit warm, stocking cap in preparation for another long, cold winter. You take the time to plastic the windows, stack the lawn furniture in the garage and service your snow blower, but there’s one crucial step every classic car owner must take before the deep freeze: storing their beloved vehicle. Storing a classic car involves more than protecting it with a plastic tarp and hoping your 1966 Mustang isn’t turned into a hibernating raccoon’s nest. Winterizing involves careful planning, meticulous execution and a minor monetary investment to ensure your classic vehicle is ready for another summer of road trips and car shows.
Protecting the Finish
You spend hours washing and waxing your classic car to protect the finish from rust. Before storing your car, it’s important to remove any dirt, dust or other deposits that combine with moisture to ruin your car’s finish. Begin by cleaning the car with a product specifically designed for use on classic vehicles. Wash the entire car with a microfiber cloth and rinse off the soapy residue thoroughly before drying the car with a separate microfiber cloth to prevent streaks. Wax your car with a mild carnauba product, according to the package directions, before turning your attention to the car’s interior. Pick up the garbage and vacuum off any surface before covering your vinyl or leather seats with a solvent-based product designed to repel moisture.
Check Your Levels
The levels you should pay particular attention to are the coolant, oil and gasoline. Fill your coolant reservoir with a precise mixture for your make and model. It’s not necessary to change the oil and filter before storage, but don’t hesitate to top off the motor oil reservoir with the correct grade for your model. Lastly, there is one step that many classic car owners overlook, which can ruin your post-winter driving plans. Before storing the vehicle, fill the fuel tank with fresh gasoline and throw in a fuel stabilizer for good measure. A full gas tank doesn’t allow for moisture formation, which in turn cuts down on the threat of rust.
The Ideal Environment
By far, the best place to store your vehicle is a wooden or brick, temperature-controlled storage unit. Unfortunately, this is a pricey way to keep your classic vehicle safe, so chances are you’ll have no choice but to turn your garage into the car’s home for the next three to five months. Before pulling the car in, sweep the floor to remove any dirt, dust, insects or rodent droppings. Lay a plastic sheet on the ground where you plan to keep the car and move onto the next winterizing step.
Don’t Forget the Battery
Without getting into the specifics of how a modern, lead-acid based automotive battery operates, just know the unpredictable temperature fluctuations of winter can greatly shorten the life of the unit. Your best defense against a ruined battery is to simply remove it before storing the vehicle. Take out the battery and keep in a warm, dry place. That way, it will remain viable for much longer.
All You’ll Ever Need is Four Sturdy Jack Stands
There’s a simple prescription for keeping your classic automobile safe during the winter: four sturdy jack stands and a breathable car cover. Both of these items are available at discount auto parts stores–and the safety of your vehicle is worth this $100-$200 investment. Storing the vehicle on jack stands relieves spring tension, which can save your tires from uneven wear. Drape a breathable cover over the car—which (unlike a plastic tarp) allows air to circulate around the vehicle without exposing it to dirt and dust. Before leaving your garage, give the foundation a good once-over to ensure no animals can get in and if at all possible, don’t open the door again until spring.