Winter storage for your car

The days are getting grayer, the hours of sunlight are waning and that means it’s getting closer to time to give our toys a rest. A long winter’s nap as it were. If you have a car you don’t drive in the winter it will soon be time to prep it for its nap.

There are two types of winter storage: first is where you still drive the car on nice days and second where you don’t drive it at all until spring. If you simply don’t drive the car as much things are much simpler. Begin by keeping the fuel tank full and treating the fuel with a stabilizer like Sta Bil, Stor and Start or similar products. We like BG Products Ethanol Defender kit. Good places to find many of your storage products are marine and farm supply stores as both are involved with seasonal equipment.

An interesting part of the BG kit is that it also includes isopropyl dry gas which, regardless of brand, should be used in all cars at least once every month year round. If the car won’t be driven make sure the car is driven about ten minutes after the chemicals are added to mix the products with the gas and get the mix into every part of the fuel system. Don’t want untreated gas turning into goo inside your injectors.

Driven or not driven if it is time for a brake and clutch flush have it done before the car sits. Sitting and moisture in brake fluid can do a lot of damage to metals and plastics in a modern system, including the ABS pump. Brake fluid is hygroscopic meaning it both attracts and absorbs water from the air. Brake fluid in any system using it should be flushed and new fluid installed every two years regardless of miles. Contrary to the idiots on the Internet there is no such thing as a completely sealed brake system.

Next any service that’s due should be completed before you store a car. That truly does mean any service because one of the prime reasons for changing any fluid is due to moisture contamination. Although oil and water don’t mix naturally inside an engine or transmission with moving parts nothing is natural. To prove the point put some oil and an equal amount of water in a container and then using a paint mixer or an electric drill whip it. You will find that the rapid agitation causes the two to mix quite nicely. Same is true in an engine, transmission, power steering pump or differential. The rapidly moving parts cause the water to be mixed into the lube and it disappears out of sight but it’s still in there.

One of the worst areas for this is in the engine. Never store a car with the thought that you will change the oil in the spring for a fresh start. Used oil has moisture in it and that combines with chemicals left over from combustion to form various acids like sulfuric and hydrochloric among others. When an engine is shut off, oil remains between the bearings and crank or cam shaft. If that oil has been used it will have acids present which left sitting against soft bearing metals can etch bearing surfaces. Etching reduces life expectancy and can lead to several long-term problems. So always store a car with new oil don’t wait until spring.

If you will not be driving at all here’s where things get interesting. As I mentioned make sure all services are performed then fog the engine or put oil in the cylinders. Whichever you choose depends on the complexity of the engine and the difficulty of removing the plugs. Older engines are easy to fog because you can remove the air filter easily and spray fogging oil into the carb. Newer engines not so much as you may have to be careful of air temp sensors, etc. so removing the plugs and spraying fogging oil directly into each cylinder may be your best bet.

Fogging oil in the cylinders by whatever means is a good idea for long term storage to prevent corrosion and pitting of cylinders, rings, valves, pistons, etc. Pitting is the result of moisture from condensation on metal parts inside the engine.

Then comes tires which should be off the ground to prevent flat spotting. This can be done by raising the vehicle and placing it on jack stands but — unlike what most folks think is appropriate the springs should be compressed not relaxed. To keep the springs under tension place your jack stands as close to the wheels as possible.

Of course we don’t want to forget the battery for either short of long term storage so every car that isn’t used nearly daily should be equipped with a battery maintainer to keep the battery charged and working. Never a trickle charger as they overcharge batteries and eventually kill them. Maintainers charge the battery like the alternator on the car does and shuts down like the alternator does when the battery is fully charged. This has multiple benefits in that it exercises the battery, doesn’t overcharge the battery and keeps the battery fully charged and ready for service. It also can greatly extend the life of the battery in the process.

Naturally there are many more things you can do like use a car cover, clean and wax the car prior to layup and the list goes on but these are the really critical item and also the items lots of folks miss.


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