With the leaves beginning to change color, the days getting shorter and colder it is fast coming time to put away that classic car, at least for the winter anyways. Storing your classic car for the winter is a common practice for those that live in those states that endure the snow and freezing conditions that just make it impracticable to drive a classic car during those winter months. However, if we don’t store the car well even for just a few months it can turn into a costly event.
One of the biggest items overlooked is filling the gas tank to the top. When fuel sits in the tank it will off gas, this means the chemicals used in the fuel will begin to leave via evaporation. Some of these chemicals can be corrosive to the old steel gas tanks. This means that if the fuel tank is only half full, and the top half of the tank is exposed to both the chemicals in the fuel evaporating and air this can result in corrosion forming in the top half of the tank. This of course leads to rust contaminating the entire fuel system if the car is restarted with out first cleaning out the tank.
By filling the tank completely to the top, it limits the amount of area that can be exposed to both the chemical off gassing and effects of air being present in the tank. Of course, using a fuel stabilizer like Sta-bil, will make the whole fuel system last a lot longer. I also recommend during the driving season to use some two-stroke oil with every second or third tank of gas. Pouring in 5-8 ounces of oil will help to keep the fuel system and upper cylinder components lubed and in good shape.
Sitting in one place for months at a time can play havoc on the tires. When the car is left to sit and not move the tires can often develop flat spots. Depending on the age of the tire and the length of time that the car is sitting can result in the tires having to be replaced. There are two ways of dealing with this issue, the first is to inflate the tires to their maximum pressure. This pressure can be found on the sidewall of the tire. This will help when storing the car for short periods of time, but if the car is left for a very long time it will still suffer from flat-spotting.
The other and best way to preserve the cars tires is to not only inflate the tire to its correct storage pressures, but to also raise the vehicle and place it on jack stands. This is really the best way to store the car, especially if the length of time in storage is going to be long. By raising the car on to jack stands it takes the load of the vehicle not only off the tires but also the vehicles suspension as well.
Exterior and interior
When its time to put the car away for the winter make sure to clean it first. Leaving bugs, tree sap, and other road debris on the paint can eat into the finish. Always make sure to wash and wax the car before storing it, it also means that the car will be clean and ready to go when its time to start driving it again in the spring.
The same goes for the interior of the car. Make sure that the interior is wiped down and clean. This will help the car better weather the time in storage. If you are in an area of the country that suffers from high humidity and the car is not left in a conditioned space, you might also consider using a dehumidifier like the “Weupe” brand bags. These bags will absorb the humidity in the vehicle and can be re-used by heating them in the microwave for a few minutes until the indicator goes from pink to blue.
Fluids and service items
Before storing the car, it should be fully serviced. Change the oil and make sure all the fluids are in good shape and all fluid levels are at the correct level. You should change brake fluid every two years due to its hygroscopic nature.
For the oil change, it is best to take care of this at the end of the driving season. Because classic cars often don’t get enough miles on them to actually hit mileage intervals. This way the vehicle is ready to go in the spring and you can start driving immediately. It is also good to do at the end of the season, as oils will retain small particles of debris in suspension from normal operation. These particles will come out when the oil is drained.
However, if the vehicle is left to sit for 3 to 4 months all the particles that were held in suspension will tend to settle in the oil pan or the bottom of the engine. This debris will generally not come out on an oil change after the car has been sitting. This means that they will just begin to mix into the new oil immediately contaminating it.
The best way to keep the battery alive is to make sure that it stays fully charged. The best way to do this is by using a battery tender. First make sure that the battery is in good shape, and the cells are all full. On my cars the battery tender is hard wired to the car. Then I just plug it in and the battery tender will maintain the battery so that it remains fully charged.
A battery tender is not designed to recharge a flat battery. Rather it will maintain the battery in a fully charged state. This means that the small current draws like the clock in the car that slowly pulls the battery down won’t have that effect. By keeping the battery fully charged at all times will also prolong its life. In my cars, I get an average of 8 to 10 years out of the batteries.
So, a little bit of work upfront before storing your classic car for the winter will pay off in the long run. Not only will the car be ready to go in the spring for the driving season it will also help to preserve and maintain your classic cars value and condition.