As the last of the summer classic car shows draw to a close and the aroma of pumpkin spice is in the air, your thoughts naturally turn toward cooler weather and preparations for winter. Cover the pool, clean the chimney, check the furnace pilot light, and make sure your classic car is properly prepared for the chilly months to come.
If your classic is only on the road for brief jaunts during the year, it needs special attention. Not driving it for long stretches of time, it can lead to problems that your daily driver typically won’t face. Before you put your classic beauty into hibernation, take these steps.
Wash it thoroughly.
Give your car a good cleaning, inside and out. Wash, dry well, and wax it to protect the paint. Clean the interior as well and apply a preservative to any leather, vinyl, or rubber to prevent cracking. Any surfaces that are not painted should be coated with a rust inhibitor. If you have a rag top, store it with the top up. This does double duty to prevent shrinkage of the top and to protect the interior.
Change the oil.
You should change the oil in your car at least once a year – even if you only put a few miles on it. Sometimes contaminants or water can get into your used oil. When left to sit in the engine for several months, it could cause problems that you really don’t need like pitting in the bearings. Clean oil does not have water or contaminants and it is better to be safe than sorry. Do a complete oil change, including changing the oil filter.
Protect the tires.
When a car is parked in one spot without moving for a long time can lead to flat spots on the tires. Many classic car experts recommend inflating your tires a little higher than usual, about 10 to 15 psi. This will make them firmer and less prone to flat spots. Other experts recommend releasing some of the air in the tires to take pressure off of the suspension. However, they all agree that the best way to store a classic is on jacks.
Use a fuel stabilizer.
Fill your fuel tank with the highest grade gasoline you can and add a fuel stabilizer to prevent phase separation due to moisture. Run your car for a few minutes so that the fuel stabilizer can move through the engine: injectors, fuel rails, carburetor, and other engine components. If the tank is full there is less room for air which contains moisture. This can cause rust inside the tank, cause the ethanol (which absorbs water) and gas to separate, and even lead to the contamination of the fuel, so a fuller tank means less room for the bad stuff.
Store the battery.
Lack of use combined with cold air can really take a toll on your car’s battery. If the temperature drops low enough the battery can even freeze. If this happens and the plastic case happens to crack, you will have some major problems on your hands. There are several ways to approach this. Some experts say you should go ahead and disconnect the battery, remove it from the car, and store it in a more protected area where you can keep it warm and charged. Others advise hooking your batter to a charger.
Keep out the critters.
When the temps drop animals start looking for places where they can be sheltered from the weather. You don’t want them seeking harborage in your car. Use a breathable cloth cover (not plastic) which will provide some protection from animals and help preserve the paint job. Also, take these steps:
- Place mothballs inside the car, under the seats, on the floorboards, and throughout the interior.
- Put baking soda refrigerator packages in the trunk and interior of the car.
- Place mothballs in the trunk.
- Cover the air inlet and air cleaner with a plastic bag and tape so it is sealed.
- Place mothballs under the dashboard.
- Cover the tailpipe.
You should also check your insurance policy if your car will be stored off-site. Some companies require that the location’s address is reported to them.
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