In many parts of the country, we are quickly approaching the dreaded (at least for car guys) winter months. This is when we put all of our beloved cars, trucks, and motorcycles away for the winter. Although this article was written towards those of us with cold winter months, these tricks and tips can be used all the same if you are simply storing something for a prolonged period of time.
The first thing you want to keep in mind when storing a car (especially if it is for winter), is the possibility of rodents making your vehicle their new comfy home while it’s parked. The longer it sits unmoved, the more comfortable they make themselves. Below I will touch on some good tips to do before storing your ride that will keep those pests out.
Fact: Pests can, and will fit in the smallest, darkest ( safest to them) spot they can find on a vehicle. So what I’ve made a habit of doing, is to scope out the exterior, interior, and engine bay of your vehicle for any small holes, or “pockets” in your vehicle that a small rodent could fit in. They love any spot that has fabric, sound deadening, or paper. A good hint for stopping mice/pests before they even get into your vehicle, is to put some scented dryer sheets on the tops of your tires, and on the floors of your car. Not only does this leave the vehicle smelling fresh when you pull it out of storage, the mice also dislike the scented bit, and they will not stay in the vehicle.
Next, I usually take plastic bags with some rubber bands, or zip ties and cover any openings in the engine bay where they could hide. The big spots you want to hit are your openings for your intake/air cleaner, openings for your fresh air/heater blower motor, and any openings in the firewall. Some things like the firewall, you can simply use a couple pieces of painters tape and cover the holes. Also don’t forget to go to the opposite end of your engine, to where your exhaust exits the car, and put a plastic bag over the tailpipe(s)…shooting walnuts and mouse nests out of your exhaust on first start up is not an exciting way to start the spring show season! Doing the above things, also help keep moisture from getting into the engine as well, which also is key! The last sure-fire way to stop any rodents that may make their way into your vehicle, is to leave a couple packets of rodent poison on the floors inside the car, and in the trunk.
After you cover all of the spots those pesky rodents can call home, make sure you make a list for yourself, and leave it in the car (or nearby). This way you don’t forget any of the spots, and possibly cause an issue once driving it the first time again after storage!
Another thing you want to do is to make sure your drivetrain is prepped and ready for storage. Anyone with cold winters should make sure that their coolant is up to “snuff”, and can handle the sub-freezing temperatures. You can find these testers for cheap at most any auto parts chains. Simply squeeze up a sample of the coolant, and check to see what temperature your coolant is good until. If the reading is anywhere near the cold temps you get during winter, I suggest either draining the cooling system for the winter, or refilling with fresh coolant. The problem with having coolant that isn’t good for low temps, is that when liquids freeze, they tend to expand.. which means something has to give. I’ve seen freeze plugs pop out, heads crack, cooling system hoses split, and even heard of blocks cracking from this happening. Don’t let a 5 minute check, cause you a major issue in the spring! The same applies to your windshield washer bottle, at the least drain the questionable fluid out of there and refill, or at least leave it empty until spring.
When storing your vehicle over the winter months, often times the battery can be weakened from the lack of charging by the alternator or generator. If you don’t plan to start your car periodically when storing it, You can take some quick, easy precautions while it is stored. The first thing I tend to do is to actually remove the battery and set it on the workbench. I then install a good trickle charger or battery tender. We offer a nice selection of battery tenders (some even on sale right now!), that can do either a single battery, or even your entire fleet of batteries (if you are like me and have numerous “summer cars”).
If your vehicle isn’t fully restored, and has some patina to it, you may want to check the battery tray after you remove the battery. Often times moisture and corrosion (which obviously leads to rust), can hide under the battery. I usually hit any spots of corrosion/rust with our Rust Converter, then seal the converted rust with our Rust Encapsulator, and follow up with a top coat of Flexible Sealer and Sound Deadener.
Sometimes it isn’t necessary to remove the battery from the car for storage. In these cases it is a very good idea to install a battery quick disconnect to your existing battery. These allow you to simply unscrew a small knob, and it cuts out any power drains that your vehicle may have (a clock or radio for example). After disconnecting the battery, I do the same as when I remove the battery, and I hook up a battery tender, to ensure a fresh battery in the spring.
Another important item to consider (and often overlooked) is the possibility of having issues from old/stale gas sitting in the fuel system while the car is stored. I suggest to fill the vehicle up with the highest grade fuel you can find, then add some of our Fuel Guard fuel additive to the tank of fuel and take the car for one last “cruise”. Our Fuel Guard will help stop the fuel separation, corrosion, and other harmful side effects of the high ethanol content in modern day fuel. This is very important, as many people are having gumming issues in their carbs, rubber fuel line deterioration, and fuel turning “bad” in as little as a couple months. This formula will help fight these negative side effects, and avoid the need to rebuild your carbs, or replace fuel lines and fuel the car has in/on it currently. I can’t stress enough, how important this step is!
A good tip to keep that musty smell out of the car and also keep the moisture in the air low in your vehicle is to install some sort of anhydride bag or similar. These bags are the same as those little packets that say “Do not eat” that come in many boxes of new items you buy at the store (new sneakers comes in mind for me!). They soak up the moisture in the air, and eliminate that musty smell that is the result of it. The elimination of the moisture in the air also helps combat surface rust all over the car. I’ve also used boxes of baking soda (if it works for your fridge/freezer, it works for your car!) in a pinch as well.
When the engine is going to be sitting for an extended period of time, it is good to lube up the internals of the engine that normally would be oiled, but may become dry from sitting for extended periods of time. A good practice is to remove each spark plug, and shoot some spray lubricant down into each opening, and replace the plugs before storing. This will help keep the moisture in the air from creating surface rust on the cylinder walls while the engine sits untouched. You can see below I took some Freeze Off Super Penetrant to lubricate the cylinder walls.
Have you ever driven a car after storage, and you seem to need a tire balance, or find a new vibration that wasn’t there before storage? This can often times be from your tires getting “flat spots” from being stored in the same position with out moving for an extended period of time. A good practice is to jack the car up just enough that all of the wheels are off of the ground, and drop some jackstands under the car to allow the tires to sit off the ground while the vehicle is idle. I also like to spray the sidewalls of the tires with some sort of rubber moisturizer. I’ve used the same stuff designed for keeping rubber window seals moisturized with great success. This keeps the sidewalls from cracking so easily from dried out and sitting in the same position for extended periods of time. Another good trick if you have limited space in storage, and you may need to move the vehicle around to work on something else, or to get something blocked by your hibernating car, is to invest in a set of Wheel Dollies.
One of the last steps is to make sure any sort of chrome or polished metal bits are protected from corrosion. This is especially true if you are storing your vehicle outside during the winter, or your storage space isn’t climate controlled. I’ve found that our Metal Protect is perfect to keep your chrome and polished bits from dulling, or corroding while in storage. This aerosol is easy to use, and creates a nearly invisible coating over the metal to seal it from the elements. I use it on my vehicles that are daily driven, and it lasts 6-8 months before I even begin to think about recoating. If you want the metal protect off when it is show season again (99% can’t even detect it is there), simply wipe the parts down with most any household cleaner, and you will be left with
the original finish as you left it before storage.
I also like to take the time to give the vehicle a good wash and a nice heavy coat of wax to protect the paint while in storage. Follow that up with the installation of a quality car cover, and you have yourself a car that’s ready for the first show or meet of next spring!