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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

12 Tips for Storing Your Classic Car for the Winter

Hard to believe that 2021 is coming to an end! That means another winter season is upon us. Fall is almost over which means you better take your classic for a final spin around the block before the snow hits.

Once you have had your fill of cruising your classic for the year (if that is even possible), it will be time to put your classic car or truck into hibernation once again. To help you prepare your classic for a long winter’s nap, here are 12 tips for storing your car for the deep chill.

1. Wash & Detail –

Time to remove the grime and dirt buildup from your classic. Give it a thorough wash including the undercarriage. Once you feel you have your vehicle cleaned, it is time for a healthy coat of wax to help protect it all season long. We suggest you take the time to also polish up all the chrome surfaces, but don’t buff off the chrome polish until you are ready to take the car out next season. Lastly, you need to vacuum out and clean the upholstery. You don’t want to leave any crumbs behind that could attract any critters.

2. Store Indoors –

We certainly hope you have indoor storage for your classic. Somewhere safe and dry so the winter elements aren’t able to cause any damage. Many recommend parking your classic above a thick plastic tarp. Concrete can wick moisture from the ground that can eventually reach the undercarriage and other parts of your car. Especially if it is fresh concrete less than 2 years old that has not had time to fully cure. Either way, the thick plastic will help create a barrier between any rising moisture and your classic car.

3. Grease & Lube –

If your vehicle has lube fittings, carefully fill the universal joints. Then pack the front wheel bearings with fresh grease and give the suspension and steering some fresh grease as well. This is something that should be done as part of your regular maintenance routine anyway and this is the perfect time to do it.

4. Bleed the Brakes –

One of the best ways to maintain your brake lines during the winter is to bleed the brake system completely of the old fluid and replace it with new fluid. Doing so will help prevent brake system deterioration.

5. Drain the Fuel –

Depending how long your winter season lasts, you may want to drain your fuel system entirely. If you do drain the tank, be sure to run the engine as well to get rid of fuel in your lines. Fuel can break down after 5-6 months or so and can cause some damaging effects to your carburetor and valves. If you only plan to store your car for a few months, then you can use a fuel stabilizer to delay the fuel from degrading.

6. Change the Oil –

Fresh oil is key to maintaining your vehicle’s performance and should never be skimped on. That is why we suggest changing the oil before it goes into storage. Fresh oil will store better during the cold months. We also suggest changing it again in the spring, just to make sure it is as fresh as possible. Nothing is more important to your motor.

7. Drain the Cooling System –

To ensure your radiator does not freeze, drain all the water from the radiator and leave the petcock open and the radiator cap off so that air can properly circulate through the system during the winter. Don’t simply rely on antifreeze to do its job. You should also remove the heater hoses and drain any water from the heater as well.

8. Disconnect the Battery –

Place your battery on a shelf or other dry place off the floor for the winter. Be sure to attach a trickle charger to it so that it keeps its charge throughout the winter. If the battery terminals have any corrosion buildup, use a wire brush and a mixture of baking soda and water to thoroughly clean them. Once the terminals are free of contaminants, apply a thin coat of grease on them to prevent water from getting to the metal.

9. Raise it Up –

Place your classic onto jack stands and remove the tires for storage. Leaving the car parked with the tires on the ground during storage can create flat spots and it is also unnecessary weight on your suspension. Let the jack stands do the heavy lifting during the winter. Stack your tires on their sides with a piece of cardboard in between them to help prevent scratching or scuffing the wheels and tires.

10. Depress the Clutch –

Clutch plates are notorious for sticking together during winter storage. To keep yours from doing so (assuming you have a manual transmission), you can put a 2×4 board against the clutch petal and the frame of the front seat. Don’t place it against the seat cushion as it might stretch it out and leave a lasting mark in the fabric or leather.

11. The Small Details –

There are a couple other tips to help your classic car or truck survive winter storage. Roll down your windows just a little bit to let air circulate inside the car. This will help to prevent any nasty smells from forming. Place a few open boxes of baking soda in the car to help absorb excess moisture and also combat any odors. Cover up the carburetor with a plastic bag to keep any moisture out. Finally stuff a rag up the tailpipe to keep any critters from crawling inside your exhaust system. Just don’t forget to take it out after winter has passed. It can be an embarrassing reason why your car won’t start. It is a good idea to write down all the steps you took to prepare your car for storage and leave that list on the front seat. This will make remembering all the things you need to reverse come spring much easier.

12. Cover Your Car –

The last thing you should do to protect your classic in storage is to cover your vehicle to protect it from dust and any other elements. Cotton flannel covers are preferred as they breathe well and are ultra-soft against your paint job. Polyester cotton blends are not so great as they trap heat and don’t breathe very well. They tend to trap moisture. Never cover your car with plastic. Condensation can form on the plastic keeping the water right against the body of your car. Make sure you get a material that can breathe.

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