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Long after summer car show season ends and the last leaves fall, it’s time to clean your garage and start planning for winter car storage.
Unchecked winter exposure can wreak havoc on any car, so it’s wise to learn how to store a car for winter—particularly if you’re a classic car collector or the proud owner of your ultimate dream car.
A private garage is ideal, but you can also rent car storage for the season. But before you say goodbye, follow these steps to ensure your car will be ready to ride come spring.
1. Wash Your Ride
A good scrub ensures your car is free of salt, dirt, and debris that can corrode or scratch your paint under a car cover. Be sure to clean your wheels and don’t forget to get the underbody and wheel wells where salt and dirt build up the most.
Once your car is sparkling clean, wax will improve scratch resistance and protect your car from moisture and other elements. It’s also a good idea to wax your wheels and polish any chrome.
2. Detail Before Storage
Your car’s interior will need a little attention before the long winter, too. Before you break out the console wipes and shop vac, make sure you’ve planned ahead to give your car plenty of time to dry. Storing your car with moisture inside can cause mildew or musty smells to develop.
Remove any food wrappers, crumbs, and sticky spots so rodents and pests aren’t tempted to break in. Once you’re done, consider a new air freshener and a few silica gels or other desiccants to manage moisture.
3. Prevent Pests from Nesting
Rodents can chew through wires or drop diseases in your air filter. Treat your garage with physical traps or poisons to remove any existing critters, and invest in pest prevention.
You’ll want to block any opening a rodent may have into your car by closing vents and covering exhaust pipes with bags. This keeps pests out as well as dust and debris. You can also use dryer sheets or repellent scents like peppermint oil inside your car or garage to keep animals at bay.
4. Fill Your Tank with Gas
Auto enthusiasts have different feelings about how to manage your gas tank for storage, but the best bet is to fill ‘er up. A full tank with fuel stabilizers prevents moisture buildup, which otherwise could cause your fuel tank to rust.
Some collectors believe it’s best to remove fuel and store your car with a completely dry tank. This is a great way to avoid varnish and gum buildup, but it isn’t easy to remove every drop of fuel. Remaining fuel could allow for corrosion in your tank.
5. Check Fluids and Filters
If you’re due for a new cabin filter or fresh motor oil, now’s the time to break out the oil wrench. It’s wise to lubricate your hinges and latches while you’re at it, and inspect other car fluids, including:
- Brake fluid
- Engine coolant
- Transmission fluid
- Power steering fluid
- Window washer
6. Clean and Air Your Tires
The cold winter air can cause tire pressure to drop rapidly, and sitting in one spot for an extended time can create tire flat spots. A little TLC and proper inflation can prevent any unwanted tire damage through spring.
Clean your tires and ensure they’re inflated to the recommended PSI before storage. You may also consider placing your car on jack stands, which will better support the suspension and reduce the risk of a flat spot.
7. Care for Your Battery
Leaving your car battery as is isn’t recommended for winter storage. Instead, you can:
- Remove and store it
- Connect a float charger
If you remove your battery, keep it in a heated area for the winter and off the concrete. Alternatively, you can leave the connection and protect its charge with a float charger.
8. Cover Your Vehicle
Once everything is critter-proofed, dry, and freshly polished, cover your car to keep dirt and debris out. A custom-fit cover is ideal, but breathable universal covers will work in a pinch. It’s best to store your covered car inside, but a high-quality outdoor cover such as a carport is a decent garage alternative.
9. Warm It up Monthly
Many car owners run their car every three to four weeks to maintain lubrication and prevent moisture accumulation. While this isn’t always necessary, it will help maintain your car’s condition.
While it’s good to run your car regularly, you will have to remove and redo a few storage steps, like your car cover, battery, and vent blockages.
Be sure to open your garage door for ventilation while running your car, and leave it on for ten to twenty minutes to properly warm it up.
10. Enjoy a Spring Ride
Once the ice finally thaws, it’s time to let your car enjoy a sunbath. Remove the car cover, all blockages, float chargers, and other winter storage accessories.
Give your car a quick once-over to ensure tires, lights, and everything else are in good shape. Then, enjoy your sparkling clean ride until it’s time to do it all over again next fall.
Check out our motorcycle winter storage guide too!
For Best Car Protection, Consider a Garage or Carport
An enclosed garage is ideal for winter storage, plus it prevents theft and may even lower your car insurance rate. Heated garages are especially nice if you have a project car that you’re not quite ready to put away once the temperatures drop.
Knowing how to store a car for winter can extend the life of your vehicle and protect it from salt-induced corrosion, battery wear, and ice damage. Follow these tips to protect your ride and consider a personal garage or carport for proper winter car storage.
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