Car Storage Procedures in the Winter

Store your vintage or summer car for the winter after preparing the engine, exterior and interior.

Properly preparing your car for winter storage can prevent major repairs in the spring. Rust, mildew, moisture, cracking rubber, mice, rotted brake lines and more are the enemies of any stored vehicle. Careful preparation, however, will keep these enemies at bay. By taking simple steps, like applying silicone grease to the car’s rubber weatherstripping, you can avoid the job of replacing auto parts in the spring. Invest some time before storage and reap the rewards when the snow melts.

Degrease and Scrub

Spray degreaser on the vehicle’s undercarriage and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before rinsing with water. Wash the entire car after degreasing, and scrub bird droppings or tree sap from the finish to prevent damage to the exterior during storage. Clean the interior and pitch any food wrappers or crumbs, which attract mice. Stuff steel wool into crevices to keep mice from entering. Vacuum the interior, apply leather or vinyl cleaner and protector, and polish the interior chrome. Finish the cleaning by waxing and polishing the exterior.

Under the Hood

Change the oil and run the vehicle afterward to distribute the oil. Fill your gas tank and add gasoline antifreeze, which absorbs moisture in the gas tank, plus gas stabilizer. Drain the radiator and pour a 50-50 mix of water and antifreeze into the radiator. Check other fluids such as the transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid. Remove the spark plugs, add oil to each plug’s hole and replace the plugs. Use a clean rag dipped in rubbing alcohol and wipe off any dirt on the inside of the distributor cap.

Rust Prevention

You can take several steps to prevent rust caused by moisture. Cover the crankcase ventilator valve outlet, tail pipe and carburetor air cleaner with paper bags secured with twine to keep moisture away from the exhaust system. Lay a big sheet of plastic on the garage floor and drive the car on top for extra moisture prevention. Use a dehumidifier if the storage area is damp. Fill large burlap bags with shredded newspaper and lay the bags all around the vehicle to absorb the moisture.

Temperature, Tires and Battery

Store your car on jack stands and remove the tires. This removes the weight of the vehicle from the tires and keeps mice from climbing the tires to access the interior. Place each tire in a black plastic trash bag and set the tires aside. Remove the battery and put the battery on one or two wooden boards in addition to attaching a 12-volt float charger to maintain the charge. Finally, keep your stored vehicle in a garage, out of the sunlight, where the temperature remains a constant — above freezing and below sweltering.