Storing a car outside over winter isn’t ideal, but I understand; I am a collector of old cars, and I just don’t have the room to store them all indoors. Weather is obviously the main challenge, but it isn’t the only one.
How to store a car outside over winter? Take care of these seven things, and your car is well prepared for winter storage:
- Fill Gas Tank
- Use A Gas Stabiliser
- Change Engine Oil
- Check Anti-freeze Strength
- Remove Wheels and Store Indoors
- Remove Battery and Store Indoors
- Use Breathable Car Cover
That hit list works for me; I haven’t had any major problems. In the spring, I refit the battery and fire them up. I have a few other tips for you, and I’ll give you a list of the products I like best for storing your car outside.
The first job, fill up the gas tank; this prevents condensation from forming, which causes poor running or a no start come spring.
I don’t know if you noticed how quickly gas goes off today, especially in extreme conditions. Using a gas stabilizer will prevent it from going stale; it’s simple to use, just dose the fuel tank with a measure of stabilizer and drive the car to get it throughout the whole fuel system.
Oil & Filter
Change the oil and filter, old oil will contain moisture, and you don’t want that in your engine over winter. The oil type will be marked on your oil cap, quantities vary, of course, but the average-size engine (2000cc) will take about a gallon of oil.
When changing the oil filter, smear the seal with fresh oil and tighten it by hand only. If your oil bung has a crush washer, go ahead and change it, the parts store will have one to suit.
Getting rid of the waste oil and filter can be a problem; log on to www.earth911.com for a local disposal center.
Check your coolant level, but you’ll also need to check its strength, get this wrong, and you could be looking for a new motor. You’ll need to invest in a tool to check the actual strength of the antifreeze or just change it out if you haven’t in the previous three years.
I use a Refractometer, it can test coolant strength and battery electrolyte, so it is a flexible bit of kit and simple, so unless I drive across it, I’ll have it for years.
Two other options worth looking at:
- The Turkey baster is perfect for coolant testing, simple to use, simply made, and inexpensive, so it’s my number two choice.
- Dip-strips are easy to use, but they’re single-use and don’t store very well.
Remove the wheels from the car and take them indoors because tires develop flat spots from sitting in one spot for too long. Flat-spot tires will feel like all four wheels are out of balance, basically un drive-able.
Even resting the chassis on blocks of timber takes the load off the suspension and tires, but I like to take the wheels off; it discourages any enterprising thief.
The battery needs special attention, this is the one component most likely to fail during winter storage, and batteries aren’t cheap. If your battery is new, your warranty may be void if it’s stored in a stationary car without a battery maintainer.
I remove the battery, take it indoors, clean the terminals, and hook it up to a charger. If your battery is a wet battery, you’ll need to check the battery electrolyte level. You’ll know a wet battery; it has large refill plugs across the top.
The battery maintainer, also known as a smart charger, turns itself on and off charging the battery as needed. This is an essential kit; they’re cheaper than a new battery.
And finally, the car cover, don’t skip here because this is the main line of defense. A top-quality car cover is made from a breathable material. It allows moisture that’s trapped under the cover to escape and, at the same time, keeps the body dry.
Covering your car with plastic is the worst thing you can do; it will trap the moisture and cause corrosion. So spend big on the cover; it’ll pay off later.
Additional Tips For Winter Car Storage
Storing your motor outdoors can mean rodents; your car will look very appealing to small hairy creatures in minus conditions.
The wiring, air filter, cabin filter, and hood insulation are very popular with our furry friends. They seem to find the wiring insulation irresistible; damage can be extensive and may require a repair specialist.
The solution is to use rodent bait in the engine bay along with the chassis and at the rear. Placing steel wool in the tailpipes and in the air intake prevents lodgers, but don’t forget to remove them come spring.
Close off all internal vents and turn on the air recirculate before shutting off the power; this closes all access through the heating system. Place a small amount of fabric freshener in the car; it keeps the interior fresh.
I place a large sheet of construction insulation under the car; it helps stop dampness from rising and attacking the undercarriage.
This one is obvious, wash and wax your car, dampness is the enemy, and a well-waxed body will repel moisture.
About the Author
John Cunningham is a Red Seal Qualified automotive technician with over twenty-five years of experience in the field. When he’s not writing about car repair, you’ll find him in his happy place – restoring classic cars.
How often should you start a classic car? A classic car should be driven once a week; take it for a 30-minute drive. Just starting a classic car is OK for charging the battery but hurts the oil and exhaust system; short trips cause condensation – the enemy.
How do you store a classic car? A classic car should be stored in a garage, preferably heated. If you don’t have a garage, then a breathable car cover is the next best thing; avoid plastic as it traps condensation. Keep your gas tank full and use a gas stabilizer and battery maintainer.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.