Get Set to Store – Tips and Products to Prep for Long-Term Vehicle Storage
With the show and event season winding down, it’s sad to say, but for many of us it’s time to start thinking about tucking your hot rod or classic away for the winter. As a silver lining, you can consider the winter months as a time to look over your car, do some deep cleaning, and maybe make a couple repairs or upgrades. The time off will get you geared up for the spring, plus your car will be ready to roll.
When planning for longer periods of vehicle storage, it’s always smart to think ahead and do some prep work on your specialty vehicle, rather than just pulling in the garage and turning off the key. Doing some cleaning and maintenance will not only help to preserve your car or truck while it’s stored but will also ensure it’s ready to go again in the spring. Additionally, taking some protective measures while it’s stored will prevent any unwanted damage or surprises when it’s time for warm-weather cruising again.
We reached out to several companies for their recommendations, tips, and products to prepare for long-term storage and have outlined some of the basics on the following pages. While it might be a bit of a bummer to put that cool ride away during the offseason, taking the time to ensure your car is properly winterized will make your springtime prep smooth and surprise-free.
Get It Clean
One easy starting point in preparing for winter storage is a thorough and complete cleaning of your vehicle. A good wash will remove any accumulated road grime and dust from the season, and now can be a good time to follow up with any necessary polishing, followed by waxing with your choice of protective finish. Getting the paint and body clean is not just for appearances; removing contaminants will help prevent paint deterioration and help avoid small scratches from dust or debris, especially if the car will have a cover on it.
Cleanliness is important inside, too. Now is a great time to vacuum the interior to remove dirt or any leftover crumbs that might attract unwanted guests. And it’s a great time to clean upholstery after a season of use. A good cleaning will not only have you feeling pride for your ride as you put it away, it will also mean there’s less spring cleaning to do next season.
Checking or replacing fluids is a crucial step before putting a car or truck away for the winter. This is especially important for those in cold-weather states without a heated storage spot. Finding a huge puddle of coolant under your car in the spring is never a welcome surprise so taking the time to flush or at least refill the radiator with a quality anti-freeze is imperative to surviving sub-freezing temps.
This can also be a great time for an oil and filter change. Changing the oil followed by a good long cruise to get everything warmed up and lubed will help to ensure there’s a good protective oil film on crucial surfaces, which is important for keeping your engine healthy from the inside out. Some enthusiasts will also pull the spark plugs and fog the engine with oil or other lubricants, and then rotate the engine through a cycle to provide lubrication and surface protection from moisture.
Also, it is recommended to fill the fuel tank so there’s less room in the tank for moisture to develop. On the subject of fuel, you may way want to check out different fuel additives for increased protection against ethanol and other corrosive fuel blends that are known to wreak havoc on stagnant fuel systems, especially older ones.
Driven Racing Oil
One of the most important things you can do before storing your hot rod is to protect the fuel system from the harmful effects of today’s fuel blends. Ethanol is added to fuels across the country and can be extremely harmful to carburetors and the entire fuel system, especially when in storage. Driven Racing Oil offers Carb Defender Fuel Additive to help keep your fuel system clean and ready for the spring.
Adding a bottle of Carb Defender to your full fuel tank and running it through the system will help protect against corrosion and induction deposits. Special corrosion inhibitors work to prevent the moisture that Ethanol-blended pump gasoline attracts. These additives control combustion chamber residue, plus they clean and protect surfaces of the fuel system and intake tract. Get defensive!
Lube and Fuel
It may seem odd to change the oil before storing your car, but Lucas Oil recommends doing just that, then adding their High-Performance Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer with the fresh oil. This lubricant is a 100-percent petroleum product formulated to eliminate dry starts and reduce friction on critical internal engine parts, making it perfect to coat your engine’s internals prior to sitting still for a few months. It’s safe to use with conventional or synthetic oils and for optimum results, they recommend replacing 20-percent of the vehicle’s oil with their Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer.
While you’re at it, Lucas also offers a Fuel Stabilizer that prevents fuel degradation causing gum and varnish deposits. This Stabilizer will help keep the fuel system clean and ready to fire up come springtime.
Turn, Turn, Turn
Some people like to lift some or all the weight off the tires and suspension components while their car is in storage, so they sit their car on jack stands. If you have bias-ply tires or some big dollar tires, that can a smart move to prevent flat spots. You can also make the commitment to jack the car up and rotate the tires routinely, use an old set of tires and wheels for storage, or use temporary rollers like Guniwheels. Even when it’s in storage, it can be helpful for a car to roll and maneuver, so wheel dollies or similar garage equipment can come in handy, too.
Hoist and Roll
During the winter months, garage space becomes a premium and if you need to push and squeeze your car into a tight corner, Summit Racing can help with their Hydraulic Wheel Dollies. These heavy-duty dollies allow you to effortlessly lift up to 1,500-lbs per dolly!
Each dolly features a pedal-operated hydraulic lift mechanism, so no jacks are required. To ensure smooth rolling, 4-inch diameter nylon casters are used, and the composite rollers will cradle tires up to 12-inches wide. With a heavy-duty steel chassis, the Summit Hydraulic Wheel Dollies will help shuffle your vehicles around for years to come. Be sure to check out the optional storage rack to hold a set of four when not in use!
Chances are that the tires of your classic were a substantial investment, so it’s always a good idea to store your car with the tires raised. However, if you need to work on the vehicle or be able to move it around the garage during the winter, take a look at a set of Guniwheels.
These wheels are made of a thick, sturdy steel and wrapped in airless polyurethane rubber tread. Their skinny design makes it easy to push the vehicle around the shop and are designed to leave a little more space to work around the hub if needed. The wheels feature different universal lug patterns and are available for most cars and trucks with each wheel supporting up to 3,500 pounds! When they’re not in use, the Guniwheels are easy to stack out of the way.
When it comes to automotive batteries, if you don’t use it, you tend to lose it. Batteries will lose charge during long-term storage, especially in cold weather. Whether you leave the battery in your vehicle or remove it to store separately, it’s smart to keep it charged with a battery maintainer or charger. There are a wide range of styles and options out there, so you’re sure to find one that will suit your vehicle and storage needs. Taking this extra step will ensure that your battery is well charged and ready when it’s time to cruise again.
Optima’s batteries are built tough, but to ensure long life and great performance, they recommend connecting to a battery maintainer during prolonged times of storage. The goal is to never let the battery drop below 12.4 volts and the best way to keep your Optima battery healthy is with one of their Maintainer/Chargers such as their Digital 400 model.
The Digital 400 12 Volt Maintainer/Charger will maximize the battery life and performance with a built-in battery health mode. It also offers a hybrid LED battery-charging gauge with LCD screen and a quick-set battery type selection for easy operation. The battery doesn’t need to be removed from the vehicle but always disconnect the negative cable from the post so there are no drains on the battery, then, plug-in the 400 Maintainer/Charger and walk away with the peace of mind that the battery will be fully charged and ready to crank over your engine in the spring!
Trickle and Clean
One of the most important steps you can take in storing your vehicle is to disconnect the battery or even remove it, then connect a battery maintainer, such as one from Battery Saver. This company has been charging and maintaining batteries for years and one of their most popular models is their 50 Watt 6 & 12 Volt Charger/Maintainer and Tester.
This charger features an advanced microprocessor that determines the type, size, and condition of your battery then gets busy to charge it and/or maintain the unit. The Battery Saver also features their signature Pulse Desulfation Technology to help keep the battery clean and healthy in the long term. The charger will automatically switch to maintain mode once the battery is at peak charge. As an extra bonus, you can maintain up to six batteries with one charger!
Whether it’s gleaming chrome or shiny paint, hot rodders and car enthusiasts love a little shine. And since paint and plating can be some of the most expensive elements of a hot rod build or restoration, it’s crucial to keep them protected during storage.
A good car cover can be one of the most fundamental and important products for keeping your car’s paint and finished surfaces clean and protected during long-term storage. A good cover will protect from dust and debris, bumps and scratches, and other brushes and mishaps that can happen in the garage. For a little more protection, you can even get an inflatable bubble to park your car in, provided you have the space.
Protection goes beyond the outside, too. Mice and other small critters love to make homes in engine compartments, interiors, and trunks during cold months, so make sure you’re taking steps to deter them from setting up camp in your classic.
Keep Out Critters
The insulation and wiring under the dash of your classic are perfect home building materials for mice and critters over the winter months. Speedway Motors can help keep these pesky rodents away with the MouseBlocker.
This handy device simply plugs into a standard household outlet then emits a screeching noise frequency that mice just hate, sending them scampering to find somewhere else to make a nest. There are three power settings ranging from 80db up to 105db, plus there’s an optional pair of strobe lights for added aggravation to curious critters.
Cal Car Cover
Treat your car to a plush hibernation with a Plushweave cover from California Car Cover. Made of 100-percent cotton fabric, the Plushweave has an added pure cotton fleece flannel lining to pamper and protect your paint while its ultra-dense construction helps cushion against inadvertent dings and scratches.
The Plushweave is designed mostly for indoor use but can also be used outside occasionally in fair weather such as during a car show or weekend getaway. A 3M Scotchguard treatment helps for light water repellency while remaining breathable, which aids in air-drying and heat reduction to keep your vehicle cooler. Each car cover is tailor-made to your exact needs, is available in gray, tan, or black, and is made in the USA with a two-year limited warranty.
Pamper your hot rod’s finish with a Form-Fit cover from Covercraft. The body-hugging fit makes your car look great even while covered and features an ultra-soft sheared cotton fleece that provides the softest surface you can put over a vehicle’s finish that will glide gently over its form for a perfect and luxurious fit.
The outer shell of the Form-Fit series is constructed with a woven-knit polyester that has Lycra/Spandex material added to the yards providing great stretch and memory. This design produces the body-hugging fit and the memory assures the cover will retain its shape for long lasting appreciation. The unique construction creates an exceptionally soft and cushiony feel that adds some bulk to provide a little extra protection against dings and dents. Each cover has built-in urethane elastic that is sewn into the front and rear hems to ease installation.
Does anyone else remember when John Travolta played the role of a boy living in a bubble? Perhaps not his most memorable role, but you can’t argue with the protection from the elements when you’re in a bubble. This is exactly what Car Capsule offers for your hot rod! They offer several indoor (and outdoor) storage solutions and unique designs to safeguard your pride and joy.
The original Car Capsule features a durable .30mm clear PVC top cover with a heavy duty .45mm base mat that is mildew-, abrasion- and flame- resistant. An efficient 190-cfm fan keeps fresh, filtered air flowing so moisture doesn’t have a chance to form. Once in the capsule, your car is completely protected, plus you get to gaze at it all winter long. No matter what you drive, a 4×4, lowrider, extra-long Cadillac or a VW, Car Capsule will a model for you.
Time for Upgrades
The winter months bring an end to cruising, shows, and racing for much of the country, which is a bummer. But you can turn that car guy frown upside down by using this downtime for some needed maintenance or upgrades that you’ve been meaning putting off.
Winter is the perfect time to put in fresh carpet or to fix that annoying rattle in the door. All those little fixes that you put off over the summer can be attended to during the winter and come spring, you have no excuses if something’s not repaired, replaced or updated! Here a few examples of upgrades to tackle:
- Have you been considering an EFI swap? Now’s your chance!
- How about an overdrive transmission to lower the engine rpm on the highway?
- Replace control arm bushings and ball joints or make the move to coilovers
- It might be freezing outside, but this is a perfect time to add air conditioning
- Tear into that engine for a new camshaft profile and lifters
- Upgrade to power assist four wheel disc brakes