How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter Storage

prepare car winter storageOwners of classic and sports cars usually put them in storage during the winter to protect them from harsh weather. If you are planning to store your vehicle until spring, you need to take some steps to prepare it so it will be ready to drive again when the weather is warmer.

Store your vehicle in a safe and dry location. If you do not have room in a garage, a portable garage or carport is a good alternative.

Check the engine oil. If it is dirty and you have reached the limit on the number of miles since your last oil change, you should change the oil before you put your car in storage. If the oil is in good condition, you can change it in the spring when you are ready to take your car out of storage.

Wash and detail your car to remove any dirt and contaminants before you store it for the winter.

Fill the gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer, such as STA-BIL. Allow the car to run for five minutes so the fuel stabilizer can flow through the fuel system. Check that other fluids, especially antifreeze, are at the recommended levels.

Inflate your tires to the maximum PSI level. This will keep them from developing flat spots.

If the car has a manual transmission, put it in neutral with the parking brake disengaged on a level surface. If it has an automatic transmission, put it in park.

Roll the windows down an inch to allow air to circulate and prevent moisture buildup inside the car.

There is some disagreement about what to do with the battery when putting a car in storage for the winter. Some people recommend removing the battery and putting it in the house on a piece of wood connected to a battery maintainer/tender. Some newer cars need the battery intact to preserve the computer’s memory. If you leave the battery in, you can keep the hood ajar and connect the tender to the battery.

Rodents often make their winter homes in vehicles in storage and can chew through wires. Put a ball of steel wool in the exhaust pipe opening and air inlet, dryer sheets inside the cabin and trunk, and moth balls around the outside of the car.

Many people recommend putting a tarp or plastic sheet on the ground under the car to act as a moisture barrier.

Use a tight-fitting, high-quality cover that will let the car breathe.

If you have a newer vehicle, you can cancel the liability and collision insurance coverage while you have your car in storage. You should keep comprehensive coverage that will cover damage caused by theft, fire, and weather. Classic car policies usually do not allow owners to temporarily suspend some coverage.

If you follow these steps, you should not need to start your car during the winter. If you choose to do so, remove the cover, steel wool in the exhaust pipe, and battery tender cables and open the garage door. Let the car warm up to remove condensation and let oil circulate through the engine. Follow the steps above to prepare your car for storage again.

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