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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Maintaining and Enjoying Your Classic Car During Winter Storage


Winter weather has set in for most of us here in the US and you likely have already put away your classic car or truck for the season. Hopefully, you found our guide useful for storing your classic vehicle this winter. Now that it is all put away does that mean you shouldn’t enjoy it for the next 3-4 months? Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, storing your classic car for months on end can create mysterious problems with your car that did not exist when you put her into hibernation. Plus, taking your classic for a spin you get the enjoyment of the drive and will not have the craving for a cruise all winter long.

Letting your classic car sit all winter can cause seals in your transmission to dry up and leak. Little rodents might try to set up a winter home of their own in your precious ride as well (although we have an article to keep rodents from nesting in your vehicle). However, one of the biggest reasons to drive your classic this winter is to keep a film of motor oil on internal engine surfaces to help protect it from oxidation and corrosion. The thin oil film helps prevent the internal engine parts from rusting by keeping air and corrosive agents away from them. If oxygen cannot reach the metal, then it will remain protected. Unfortunately, after only three weeks or so this film will no longer be present, and damage can begin to occur.

You now know that firing up your classic is going to help protect it, but there is one catch. You will need to run the motor until it warms up to normal operating temperature. Then you are going to have to let it run at least twenty more minutes to burn off all the crud that may have built up in the system. It can actually do more harm than good to only fire it up for a few minutes and turn it off. Doing this will actually encourage the crud and sludge to build up in the engine.

So, when should you take your classic car for a spin? Well, if you live in some of the northernmost states you might not have much choice in the matter and need to take advantage of any days Mother Nature gives you. Salt and ice are two of the biggest elements that you need to avoid when deciding to take your prized possession out for a wintertime spin. Be sure to choose a day when the temperatures are not below zero and the roads are dry. You may want to scout out a route with your daily driver before venturing out because just a few quick trips around the block are not going to cut it.

Once the weather is cooperating and you have found a dry route to take you are going to need to reverse some of the steps you took when putting your car into storage. At a minimum be sure to check your tire pressure, the charge in your battery and the levels of the cooling system. You might want to make a list of the storage steps you have “undone” so that when you are done with your winter cruise you will have an easy time storing your classic back to winter storage ready.

When you first fire up your ride be easy on it. Do not rev the engine while it is warming up. Just allow the car to operating temperature before backing it out of the driveway. Be sure the garage door is open before starting the engine to avoid getting sick from exhaust fumes. Once the temperature needle starts to creep towards normal operating temperature you are ready to go for a ride. Be really easy on the car for the first five to ten minutes as the transmission and rear end also need some time to warm up their lubricants.

After ten minutes your heater should be producing some good heat out of its vents. This is when you know it is safe to take the speeds up a little bit. Try to take your car out on the highway for some of the drive so that you can reach some higher speeds. When you are sure that your classic is fully warmed up you should give it a little gas to help blow out any carbon buildup… blow out the cobwebs so to speak. Just be sure to stay within the legal driving speeds to avoid any tickets.

Once your vehicle has had the chance to stretch her legs and burn off any buildup it is probably wise to take it back and put your classic in storage. Why run the risk of exposing your car’s body to salt any more than you have to. As a matter of fact, if the weather permits, you should probably give your car a quick hand wash to get rid of any salt or grime that you picked up out on the road. Another coat of wax wouldn’t hurt either. Do not wash the car however if the temperatures are below freezing. You will have to wait until the weather warms up.

Classic cars and trucks were built to be driven and if you can take it out every few weeks during the winter months you will find that it will be more ready to fully hit the road once spring arrives. Plus, it is fun to see the look on other driver’s faces when they see you rolling your prized possession in January.

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