Depending on where you live, it might be necessary to safely store your classic car or truck during the cold winter months. The best time to begin preparation is a little bit before winter starts and things get too cold, probably late October to early November for most folks. But if you’re running a bit behind schedule, the second-best time is “as soon as possible!”
There are a lot of problems that can occur in a car when it doesn’t move for a long period of time. You want to avoid a dead battery, bad gasoline, damage to the exterior, tire problems, animal infestation, rust, fluids, and moisture accumulation, just to name a few potential issues. These guidelines will apply to just about any vehicle that you put into long-term or seasonal storage, but are especially critical for vintage cars.
This guide will give you some winter storage tips for your classic car or truck, to help you better weather the cold months. With just a little bit of preparation and some extra preventative measures, your ride will look and drive great when it finally gets warm enough to take it out again.
Where Should You Store Your Classic Vehicle for Winter?
Most of us don’t have private warehouses with air and dust filtering, so you’ll probably be keeping your vehicle in your own garage. Although it likely isn’t climate-controlled, it’ll work just fine for your classic vehicle’s winter storage. Ideally, it will have a concrete floor, which is great for preventing moisture build-up. Things get a little more tricky if you don’t have a garage to work with.
The next best thing is generally going to be a carport. The overhead cover will help you avoid direct sunlight, and you’ll still hopefully have a hard asphalt or concrete surface beneath your car. You really want to avoid leaving your vehicle on grass or dirt, which can cause serious damage to your underside due to the accumulated moisture. No matter where you store your car or truck, a plastic tarp underneath is a helpful barrier against moisture.
Preparing Your Classic Vehicle for Storage
Before you even think about putting your classic car or truck into its hibernation spot, you want to make sure it’s in very clean condition. Wash and detail your vehicle inside and out. This should include a wax job as well, for extra protection. For metal like chrome or aluminum, including hinges, treat it with a protective spray to prevent oxidization and rust. Be sure to get your wheels and tires very clean as well. You shouldn’t have to leave anything in your cabin, but be extra sure to remove any snacks that you may have in an emergency kit or stowed in a door pocket! The last thing you want is anything that will attract rodents or other animals.
It’s also important to take a look at your vehicle’s fluids. You’ll most certainly want to change the oil before putting the car into storage. Give your cooling system a proper blend of antifreeze as well. As a final step before putting it in the garage, add a fuel-stabilization product to your gas tank and then fill your tank up. Take a 20-minute drive, and then refill the tank again. Having a full gas tank will prevent the interior walls from being exposed to air, helping to prevent rust.
We also recommend connecting your battery to a battery tender. If you don’t have a battery tender, at least disconnect the battery to prevent drain over the months and store it separately. Be sure to plug your exhaust tips and any other openings to keep animals from getting inside your vehicle and causing damage.
Leave your parking brake disengaged while the car is stored to avoid it getting stuck in the cold and to prevent the rusting. Jack up your vehicle and put it on a good set of jack stands (do not use wood or cinder blocks). Putting your vehicle on jack stands is less crucial if you’re using modern radial tires instead of bias ply, but still recommended to keep them in tip-top shape by preventing misshaping and uneven tire wear from sitting in one spot. Slightly rolling your car into a new position every now and then is a workaround if you don’t have access to jack stands.
Finally, put your vehicle under a high-quality car cover. Some enthusiasts might opt to use some sort of bubble cover or vacuum-sealed storage wrap, but most drivers will do just fine with a good, breathable cover from a brand like Covercraft or Coverking.
Actions to Take While Your Classic Vehicle Is in Storage
Enthusiasts will debate back and forth about whether your car should be driven during the winter, even when properly stored. You’ll be fine leaving it undriven for a few months and can leave it be as long as you’ve taken the proper preparations. If you do choose to fire it up a few times while it’s in storage, use care to avoid exhaust fumes in a non-ventilated area, make sure you remove the car cover and any exhaust plugs, and let the vehicle run long enough to get warm. This guide assumes that your vehicle will remain more or less untouched during its hibernation of about three months or so (longer storage may require additional prep).
With that said, you should periodically give the brake and clutch pedals some pressing to ensure that they don’t get stuck. Remember not to operate the handbrake. And go ahead and give your fluids a periodic check, in addition to checking for any signs of animals. Beyond that, your car should be ready to sit in its hibernating state for a few months and be just about ready to go when you take it back out in the spring
CJ Pony Parts offers some great products to help you get started on your winter storage mission. No matter what type of classic vehicle you drive, ensure that it is safely protected during the cold months.
Sources: Hagerty | ClassicCars.com Journal | Cars.com
Image Credit: Chevrolet