Winter is upon us, so if you live in snow country it’s time to put the hot rod away for winter. This can sometimes be a sad time for true car-guys, but the bright side of the situation is that you can eat your Christmas dinner happily knowing that your car is tucked away from the snow, salt, and any evil sand that might hurt it. Besides, spring is just around the corner.
Here are a few tips that will make your spring time retrieval of the car a happy reunion instead of one filled with four-letter words.
1. Put it away clean
This step going without saying….so we’ll go ahead and say it anyway. Any dirt you leave on the outside of the car will harden during the cold winter months, and it will be a serious pain to take off in the spring. If you’re in a rush and can’t get this done don’t worry ; it won’t be impossible to get the crud off in the spring, just annoying. Remember, just like your mom told you, a little time invested now will save you a lot of time later.
Be sure to clean out the interior as well, mainly to remove the incentive of any mice looking for some chow. Plus, it’s always nice to hop in a clean car in the spring.
2. Store it on concrete in a clean garage
A clean concrete garage is the ideal storage location for two reasons: 1) Unlike a dirt or gravel surface, moisture can’t easily move up through the concrete into your car, and 2) unclean/cluttered garages attract varmints.
Moisture that gets into your car may cause all sorts of little electrical problems come spring time (think cap, rotor, plug wires, etc.), and every single bolt on the car that had a little bit of exposed metal will not have a nice thin coat of surface rust on it.
The varmint issue should be a pretty obvious one. The less reason they have to be near your car in the winter, the better. An empty garage with a concrete floor that only contains your car is your best bet to avoiding them.
3. Put a cover on it
A car cover will keep your car covered from the unavoidable dust that will settle on it. If you’ve been following the steps outlined so far (i.e. the car is clean and in a clean concrete floored garage), a simple cheapo breathable car cover is all you’ll need. It’s just a dust cover.
If you really can’t get it on the concrete for winter, your next best bet is to either leave the car completely uncovered (so the moisture won’t be trapped under the car cover) or to get a sandwich-bag style cover. These are more expensive than regular covers, but they’re basically huge car cover bags that you lay on the floor, drive your car onto, and then zip it up inside of. Nice and simple.
As an alternative, you can make your own using a big plastic drop cloth (to drive the car onto) and a regular breathable car cover. The drop cloth will be your vapor barrier, so tuck it up into the car cover and hold it there with duct tape (you’ll essentially build a cocoon where the drop cloth is the base, and the car cover is the top).
4. Fill the tank and change the oil
A full gas tank is a happy gas tank….and it also means that there will be no room for air in the tank (which would lead to moisture in the tank). Just fill it up at the pump and throw in a little fuel stabilizer and gas-line antifreeze (like HEET) for good measure.
An oil change is just a good method to ensure the oil pan won’t become filled with sludge. It will also make sure that the engine components aren’t coated in old contaminated oil for several months without moving. Be sure to change the oil as soon as you pull it out of storage in the spring though as moisture can build up in the crank case. It’s cheap insurance.
5. (Optional) Put it on jack stands and squirt the cylinders
For the hardcore auto storer, it used to be a golden standard to put the car up on jack stands and to squirt all of the cylinders with a little shot of oil.
With modern tires this isn’t so much a necessity anymore as the big reason to get the car off of the ground was to prevent flat spotting the tires. If you’re running bias ply tires on your car, it’s still a good idea to put the car on stands. For those of you running modern radial tires that have never had any air leakage problems, feel free to skip this step.
Squirting the cylinders with oil is sometimes done to get a little extra lubrication in the cylinder chamber. For those of you running original spec engines, this step really can’t hurt. Simply pull each spark plug out, squirt a little shot of oil in (using an oil can with a hose) and put the plug back in. That’s it.
That’s all there is to it! It’s time to tuck the car away and start dreaming of the fun next year will bring….and if you follow these steps, your muscle car will start the spring out right!
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