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How to Winterize Your Classic Car: A 5-Step Checklist to Prepare Your Car for Storage

Red, classic American car on the road in the snow.

With the cold weather fast approaching, consider storing your classic car for the winter. But how do you ensure it’s safe, secure, and protected from the elements? Read on to find out everything you need about winterizing your classic car for storage. We all know how cruel Mother Nature can be during the colder months. That’s why many owners of older cars store them for a few months once the leaves start changing colors and everything begins to cool down. Storing a vehicle indoors instead of leaving it outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures protects it from the elements. Winter can bring frost, rain, snow, and salt, which can damage the vehicle, especially when combined with other measures such as installing a cover or canopy in tandem.

1.      Check your storage space

Before you do anything else:

  • Take some time to inspect the storage space thoroughly.
  • Ensure that the area is dry, clean, pest-free, rodent-free, and well-ventilated.
  • Keep your car off the ground and on a level surface, such as a concrete pad or driveway. Remember that storing your vehicle on a concrete floor with a tarp underneath is not a good idea, as the moisture in the tarp can seep into the concrete, causing damage. Ideally, you’ll want to store the vehicle on a wooden floor.
  • While storing your vehicle on a wood floor is ideal, it may not be practical. You can buy stands and tire protectors to keep the tires from developing flat spots and absorbing moisture from the ground.
  • Protect your vehicle with a quality car cover.

2.      Change your oil and filter

Before you put your car into storage for the winter, be sure to change your oil, use an oil that contains zinc, and replace your filter. It’s a simple step that can help extend the life of your engine. These additives contain a compound that clings to metal surfaces, keeping them from rusting as quickly as they would otherwise, thus helping to protect your engine. That way, you can feel confident that your engine will be in tip-top shape when you start it up again in the spring.

As with your oil change, adding engine oil will help minimize the amount of rust that forms on your engine. However, you can also add a metal additive to help further keep your engine in good condition. You’ll want to add a metal-inhibiting oil to your engine, transmission, and axle. You can also pour the metal-inhibiting oil directly into the fuel tank if you plan to run your engine periodically during the cold months. Again, doing so will help reduce the amount of rust and corrosion in your fuel system.

3.      Check and add brake fluid

Since your car’s braking system won’t be getting much use during the winter, it’s a good idea to check the level of your brake fluid to ensure it’s not getting low. If you need to, add more to avoid a low-pressure situation that can lead to excessive/fading/squealing braking. Another thing you can do to protect your brakes is to apply synthetic brake fluid, which will help keep the internal parts of the brakes from rusting. Discover the best brake fluid for classic vehicles.

4.      Install your battery tender

If you park your classic car outside, you should consider investing in a battery tender to keep your battery healthy during the cold months. You’ll also want to disconnect the terminals each time you park for the night and before you put your car into storage. Finally, add distilled water to your battery and check the electrolyte level at least once per month. Learn more about different types of battery tenders. Following these steps will help ensure that your vehicle starts up again when it’s time to begin driving again.

5.      Ensure you have the correct antifreeze type and mixture

Making sure you have the correct mix of antifreeze is essential when you plan to store your older vehicle in a cold climate. You should have about a 50-50 mixture of antifreeze with water, which should give you protection down to -34 degrees Fahrenheit. The green-colored antifreeze is the most common type used in classic cars. Be sure to run your engine, let it warm up then recheck to make sure it’s full of antifreeze.

In conclusion

As you prepare to store your classic car for the winter, you may have questions about how to winterize your classic vehicle properly. Luckily, you can take some simple steps to keep your car safe and secure during the winter months. First, check your storage space. Then, change your oil and filter, check, and add brake fluid, install your battery tender, and add engine oil (and possibly a metal additive) to protect your car from rust. You’ll want to check under the hood occasionally, start the engine and let it run until it’s warmed up. Drive the car if you can to ensure everything stays in good working order.

You are welcome to visit Wilson Auto Repair to learn more about classic American car and truck repairs and restoration. We’ve worked on more than 68,000 vehicles, and we can’t wait to fix up your classic car so you can drive it proudly.

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