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Hot Rod Hibernation – Winterizing Tips for Rods, Customs, and Classics

Depending on where you call home, there might be a couple prime autumn days for a cruise in the crisp fall weather, but there’s no denying it – winter is on its way. Some of you may have even seen some snow flurries by now. Shorter days and cooler weather mean it’s time to look into Hot Rod Hibernation and take care of the annual tradition of winterizing your hot rod or custom.

For those of you that live in fair-weather states, this is no time to boast about driving your rods year-round. There’s actually something calming or even promising about preparing your car for a little time off the road. Plus, it provides a perfect time for winter maintenance and upgrades. And come springtime, there’s nothing like pulling the car out of the garage for the first time of the year. Hibernation can actually be refreshing!

We reached out to several companies for tips about preparing your car for a safe winter slumber so it’ll be ready to go when the spring flowers bloom. Take a look to see how they can help.

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, california car coverCalifornia Car Cover

The Customweave Cover from California Car Cover combines polyester knit with Lycra/Spandex technology to hug your car while protecting the paint and sheet metal from garage dust and grime. The inside felt liner is 100-percent cotton terry loop for the softest protection against the paint which when combined with the outer polyester layer, provides enough bulk to protect against minor ding and dents.

California Car Cover

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, prestone coolant, prestone, engine coolant, antifreezeCooling System Prep

At the top of the winterizing list is your hot rod’s cooling system. If your vehicle isn’t going to be stored in a heated garage, it’s crucial that you make sure your coolant is up to handling the freezing temperatures.

Antifreeze actually plays an important role in cooling and lubricating the engine and water pump so you should already be running it in your radiator. However, when it comes to below-freezing temps, it is an absolute necessity. Remember, when water freezes it expands, and even a cast iron engine block will fall to the physics of freezing water.

The folks at Prestone recommend running a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. In extremely cold areas, the mix can be adjusted, but you should never surpass a 70/30 antifreeze-to-water mix. To make things simple, Prestone offers a pre-diluted blend that also has the company’s Cor-Guard inhibitors to prevent the spread of corrosion through the cooling system. When adding antifreeze, don’t forget the reservoir tank!

Even during the summer months, you should be running antifreeze to ensure a clean, well-lubricated cooling system. In the winter months, it is imperative to run antifreeze to ensure the cooling system cannot freeze. Always run a 50/50 blend of antifreeze and water or go with a pre-mixed blend from Prestone.


Fuel and Oil

It may seem odd to fill up the gas tank before parking your car for several months, but it’s the right thing to do. A topped-off tank means less area for air, where moisture gathers and separates within the tank. However, due to today’s fuel blends with additives and biofuels, you need to be even more vigilant and consider the added protection of a fuel conditioner such as Lucas Oil’s Safeguard.

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, lucas lucas oil, ethanol fuel conditioner, ethanol eliminatorEthanol, which attracts moisture, is the most common supplement in fuel these days, which can introduce even more moisture not only in your gas tank, but into the carb and even the engine oil. Ethanol is also very corrosive to common carburetor components made from zinc and aluminum and the issue is multiplied during long periods of storage. Add in fact that it is also harmful to rubber hoses, gaskets, floats and many other fuel system materials, and you can surmise how your spring startup might go if you don’t prepare.

Lucas’s Safeguard Ethanol Fuel Conditioner with Stabilizers is a formulated blend of corrosion inhibitors that battle against ethanol and its moisture-attracting qualities. By adding a bottle when you fill up, Safeguard will add protection to the fuel lines and carburetor and help prevent varnish and gum formation in the fuel system.

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, lucas, lucas oilWhen you fill up your tank before putting your hot rod into storage, be sure to add a bottle of Lucas Oil’s Safeguard before driving it home. Safeguard will prevent the buildup of moisture from today’s ethanol blended fuels to keep the fuel system clean and ready to go come spring.

Another service that may sound backward to perform at storage time is to change the oil and filter. Once you think about all the combustion and minute deposits the oil has picked up through the summer, it makes sense. One final suggestion from Lucas is to pull the spark plugs and spray their Penetrating Oil directly into the cylinder and rotate the engine through a cycle. This will help prevent moisture and will add lubrication to the engine parts come the first spring startup.

It makes sense to change your oil before storing your car. The used oil has picked up combustion properties and deposits over the summer, so having fresh, clean oil pumped through the engine for storage ensures a clean engine.

Lucas Oil

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rodTire Protection

The tires on your car or truck are an important part of your comfort and safety, not to mention quite an expense, so it’s a good idea to take them into consideration when storing your vehicle.

For a long hot rod hibernation, it is best to lift the vehicle to get the weight off the tread. This is especially important for bias-ply tires which are very susceptible to flat spotting (radials can also flat spot over time). The ideal plan is to remove the wheels and stack them on a shelf or in the corner of the shop. If you’re stacking a set of whitewalls, be sure to place some cardboard between the tires to keep the white clean. By storing the wheels off the vehicle, you also have a chance to inspect the brakes, bearings and seals for maintenance.

If you can’t remove the wheels over the winter, check out the FlatStoppers from Race Ramps. These lightweight ramps feature a concave, tire-shaped area that spreads the weight of the car throughout a larger contact area of the tire to help prevent the tires from flat spotting.

These FlatStopper ramps will help reduce the chance of damaging your tires during long periods of inactivity. They’re lightweight, strong and easy to drive right up onto and help distribute the vehicle weight across a larger contact area of tread (available in widths up to 14-inches).

Race Ramps

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, 4 post lift, car liftHoist it Up

Having a hoist in your garage has a number of benefits. First, a four-post lift, such as the heavy-duty models offered by Advantage Lifts, basically doubles your garage space. Not only is your classic stored up in the air out of harm’s way from bicycles, grocery bags, or mice, but you’ll be able to use the space below it for snow blowers, snowmobiles, or better yet, another classic car! Plus, wintertime maintenance is easier!

Advantage Lifts

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, california car coverKeep it Dry

With little or no air circulation in the interior, it’s easy for mildew and corrosion to occur. A simple and effective solution is a Sta-Dri pouch from California Car Cover. These little pouches will reduce humidity and moisture for more than three months!

California Car Cover

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, oil dry, oil 2 soilThere will be Fluid

It’s a fact: Most hot rods will leak some sort of fluid over the winter months. To help with oil cleanup, Oil2Soil is an effective and all-organic absorbent that will safely clean oil from any surface and won’t leave an oily sheen or residue. The peat moss material will encapsulate the oils and won’t release them back into the environment, creating an eco-friendly alternative to clay-based products.


hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, showcase, car bubblePut it in a Bubble

To ensure that your classic comes through winter storage unscathed by moisture, scratches, or wire-chomping rodents, the best place to park it would be in a bubble, such as the ones offered by Car Capsule! These capsules are made from a tough 10-mil polymerized vinyl with an even thicker base material that is impervious to oil, gas and antifreeze. A high-pressure electric fan keeps the air changing several times an hour so moisture cannot form and the temp stays consistent. Plus, you get to look at your car all through the winter!


hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rod, battery saverKeep Up the Volts

When it comes to car batteries, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it. To keep your battery in tip top shape it’s wise to connect a device that will keep it fully charged during winter storage. Battery Saver offers a versatile 25-watt Pulse Maintainer that is ideal for long-term storage for 6- or 12-volt batteries. The device also has an Auto-Pulse cleaning technology that improves the battery’s condition with continuous use. If you have a vehicle with dual batteries, the microprocessor-controlled Saver will keep both at their peak charge.

Battery Saver

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rodMice Be Gone

Mice love to use foam and fabric to build a nest up under your dash while nibbling the wiring. Mothballs help keep them away, but leave your car smelling, well, like mothballs. Speedway Motors suggested a MouseBlocker, which emits a screeching noise frequency that mice hate and avoid at all costs. The compact unit simply plugs into a 110-volt outlet and will even keep the mice out of your garage!

Speedway Motors

hot rod hibernation, hot rod storage, storing classic car, storing hot rodGet It Done!

Sure, winter puts an end to cruising, racing and Sunday drives, but this also gives you time to work on your hot rod! In fact, you really have no excuse to avoid getting that new intake setup installed, converting to power steering, or upgrading to four-wheel disc brakes over the winter. You’ll have several months to maintain, upgrade and fine tune your hot rod so when spring blooms, you’ll be ready to hit the road! Here’s a list of perfect winter update ideas:

• Step up the stopping power with a four-wheel disc brake conversion
• Have you been considering an EFI swap? There’s no time like the present!
• An overdrive transmission will lower those highway rpms for long hauls
• Suspension upgrades, from new bushings to a set of sway bars or coil-overs
• It might be freezing outside, but this is a perfect time to add air conditioning
• Tear into that dash to upgrade the instrumentation or wiring

Todd Ryden is first and foremost a car guy and admits to how lucky he is to have been able to build a career out of a hobby that he enjoys so much. He’s owned muscle cars and classics, raced a bit and has cruised across the country. With over 25 years in the industry from the manufacturing and marketing side to writing books and articles, he just gets it.