If you live anywhere that actually has a true winter, it is time to get ready to store your car for the season. This may be as easy for you as just parking it in your garage and putting it under a car cover, however for others, this involves taking it to an off-site collector car storage facility. Regardless of what the actual location is there are a few steps you should follow before putting your car away for the year. Included in each section are some examples of my favorite products. You can click the links to purchase any of the items mentioned.
Wash and Wax
The first step to follow is to give your car a thorough wash and wax. You can do this yourself or hire a detail person to do it for you. If you are doing this yourself, be sure to use quality products, as the quality of these products differs vastly (contrary to popular opinion). My personal choice of products, and one that was recommended to me by multiple Concours preparation specialists, are the car care products from Griot’s Garage. They literally have a product for every stem in the process. In addition, if the paint on your car is either new or close to flawless you might want to consider a ceramic coating. Also don’t forget to clean the interior as well, and if the car has a leather interior condition it with a high-quality leather care produce. Griot’s has a number of these.
Fix What is Broken
Often things will go wrong with a classic car and it may not seem serious at the time, so they do not get attended to while you are driving your car for fun. The winter is a perfect time to either have these items repaired or repair them yourself. Doing this while your car is laid up for winter will make it that much more enjoyable during driving season.
Fill It Up with Fuel
Be sure that your car has a fresh, full tank of fuel before storing and adding a stabilizer. If possible, I would recommend finding a place that sells non-ethanol gas and use that for storage, as ethanol fuel is corrosive and can cause serious damage to your fuel system when left sitting. Ethanol can also separate which leaves you with water in your fuel, something that is bad for any car. For stabilizers I personally use a product called Startron. Regardless of the fuel type you use, I recommend adding a stabilizer.
Change the Oil and Filter
Even if you have done it recently, if you expect your car to be stored for 3 or more months, change the oil and filter immediately before storing it. This can also be a great first project to try if you haven’t changed your own oil before. No matter what kind of collector car you have, I practically guarantee this is something that will not only be easy but will increase your personal connection with your vehicle.
Check/Change the Coolant
The owner’s manual for your collector vehicle (you do have one, don’t you?) you will likely state that the manufacturer recommends changing out your coolant every year. The cooling system is the single most important system of your engine, and most mechanics recommend you do this annually as well. This process is especially important for cars that have aluminum parts, such as the water pump, cylinder head or the complete engine.
Change the Brake Fluid
This must be the most overlooked and forgotten item, and not doing this can cause serious damage to your brake system. Many modern manufacturers recommend that you flush and change your brake fluid every two years, but with an older car you should do this every year. Completing this will insure you have fewer issues with your brake system. Brake fluid is a chemical that is hydroscopic. This means that it can, and often does, attract water. Water in your brake system can be damaging to every single part of your brake system and can require -at worst- a complete brake system rebuild.
Use Anti-Flat Spot Ramps
When a car sits unmoving for a few months you can develop what are called flat spots on the tires. This is where the fire deforms where it sits on the ground. While this is not always a permanent problem ad many tires will not permanently deform like this it can and does happen, especially with bias ply tires. If this happens and the condition is permanent the only solution is to buy a new set of tires. You can avoid this by parking the car where the tires rest on little ramps that are curved and help prevent these flat spots from forming. Griot’s again makes a nice set of these that cost as much as a single tire will cost to replace.
Cover Your Car
If you do not already have one, get yourself a truly high-quality car cover. I say high quality because, similar to how cleaning products differ, so do car covers. A poor-quality car cover can scratch your precious collector car. I use either factory covers for new cars or those from California Car Cover.
Most collector car insurance companies, and you should at this point have your car insured under a specialty collector car insurance carrier, need to know where your car is located. If you move your car off site, you should notify them where the car is located. Also, you should not remove your insurance from the car when you store it. This can make for coverage gaps and could prevent your car to be covered in the event that something happens while it is stored. This is a cheap economy and while many do this is it is a risky practice.
Keep the Battery Charged
A lot of people just disconnect their batteries on their classic cars during the winter. To me this is not the best solution. I use battery lender trickle chargers on all my collector cars and motorcycles and have been happy with the results and have had to replace very few batteries over the years.
If you follow these steps when the snow melts and the salt is off the roads your classic vehicle will not only be as good as when you parked it but possibly better than you remember.
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