Wrenchers LLC in Detroit, Michigan, professional vintage car and classic truck restorers, know that Michigan doesn’t provide the best climate for year-round classic-car driving. When they talk with their customers, they always get asked about how to store a classic car in winter, and they offer a myriad of tips. These are their top seven.
It’s important to keep your vintage car in as good a condition during the winter months of vehicle hibernation as it is in the summer months when you’re taking to the highways and byways.
How To Store A Classic Car In The Winter: 7 Tips
The decision and the timeline to store a vintage vehicle or classic car for the winter months is a personal decision. Some owners opt for the “traditional” ending of summer – Labor Day. Other owners watch the weather and take advantage of the non-snow time to keep driving until ice and snow “force” them to store the car for the winter months.
When you own a vintage car, you need to understand that overwintering it is more than just backing it into a garage and bidding it farewell for a few months. Winterization of a classic car or truck is a responsibility that you should take seriously if you want your car to come through the storage season unscathed.
The time you spend now will help ensure that when you turn the key in your car next spring it fires up and the engine purrs like a well-oiled machine.
This list assumes that once you winterize your car, it won’t be taken out and driven on those occasional breaks of winter that Detroit, Michigan seems to enjoy.
- Thoroughly wash, clean and detail your vehicle, inside and out. After you’ve gotten all the dirt and debris off it, wax it and polish the chrome. Don’t forget to clean the tires and treat them with a tire-dressing to keep them from drying out and cracking in the winter months. Convertible owners should clean the fabric, treat it and keep the top up during the storage to prevent the fabric from shrinking and potentially ripping in the spring when you start it up again.
- Don’t forget to clean the interior of the car. Vacuum it. Polish the leather. Wash the windows, too. Add some silicone/desiccant to help prevent moisture (you can get this at a hardware store.) Make sure the vehicle is thoroughly dry after you’ve cleaned the interior.
- Store the vehicle with clean oil. Perform a complete oil change because used oil is loaded with residue and contaminants that could damage the engine during storage. Top off all other fluids. The cooling system needs to contain the proper blend of antifreeze. Some car owners, who don’t have access to temperature-controlled storage, use an engine block heater. Consider changing the brake fluid if it’s a couple of years old.
- Storing a classic car indoors in a temperature-controlled space is ideal, but storing it inside, out of the elements, even if it’s not heated, is better than leaving the car outdoors. The vehicle should be stored in a structure with a concrete floor, not dirt (because of moisture issues). Sweep the floor and lay down a sheet of plastic tarp; this acts as a moisture barrier between your car’s underside and the floor.
- Remove the battery from the car, and if your car is stored in an unheated space, bring the battery indoors for the winter. You could also use a high-quality battery tender to ensure the battery retains a charge but doesn’t overcharge.
- Top off the gas tank and add a fuel-stabilization fluid. The fluid protects the tank, fuel system and the engine from over-wintering corrosion. Plan to drive the car for about twenty minutes after you’ve added the fuel-stabilization fluid to ensure it’s circulated through the gas.
- To protect the tires, put the vehicle up on sturdy jack stands. Resist the urge to store your vehicle on cement blocks, as this can, and will, damage the vehicle’s undercarriage. That being said, there is also controversy that storing a vehicle on jack stands can also place strain on the suspension. A solution some car owners choose is to remove the wheels or to help eliminate some of the weight when the vehicle is on the stands.
Keep in mind that even if you have a heated storage space, critters will be looking for a home for the winter and will do what they can to get into your stored car. Use steel wool to plug engine intakes and exhaust pipes. Check the car occasionally to make sure no mice or squirrels or other furry pests have made your car their winter home. Look in the interior, trunk, under the car and even inside the engine compartment to ensure they’re not nesting there and destroying your vintage car or classic truck.
If you have any questions about a frame-off restoration or are looking for further insights for protecting your classic car or truck, give us a call or stop by our shop.
At Wrenchers LLC, we are classic, antique and hot rod enthusiasts, and that shows in the craftsmanship of our vehicle restorations. Whether you choose a full frame-off, traditional restoration or custom work for your vehicle, our experienced restoration professionals listen to you and work on your vehicle with the same care they take with their own. When your keys are handed over and you slide behind the wheel after your car has been restored, you will be hitting the road in the vehicle of your dreams.