How To Store A Classic Car For The Winter: 12 Detailed Steps


Owning a classic car while it’s summertime can make such a season even more enjoyable. Rolling the windows down and going for a stroll down main street or going to car shows are popular activities in the summer. But when winter hits, that can put a big damper on things including not being able to drive your classic car as much.

If you live in a place that has harsh winters, making sure your classic car is taken care of during those cold months can be a little stressful. You’ll want to make sure you take the proper steps in preparing it, because simply doing nothing will cause problems when spring rolls around.

I have owned several classic cars and have seen first-hand what happens when you don’t properly store your classic car for the winter. These are 12 steps I’ve compiled that will make your winter storage a breeze and will save you a lot of time when it’s warm enough to drive you classic car again.

1. Find A Proper Storage Location

Before you get started with anything on your to do list for storing your classic car, you need to first think about where you’re going to store your car. The most ideal place for storing a classic car is in a climate controlled garage, but that isn’t realistic for most. Although that option is available with several storage units if you’re willing to pay for it.

If you have a garage, plan on storing your classic car in there, even if that means you have to kick out your daily driver to the driveway. Giving the most coverage for your classic car during the harsh winter months will give it the best chances at living a long life. Modern cars are equipped to withstand winter, classic cars are not and can rust a lot easier.

If a garage isn’t available, figure out if you can park it to the side of your house, a friend’s driveway, or your own driveway. Though it’s not the most ideal place to park it, it is doable and thousands of people do it every year. Just make sure you park it in a place where you know it won’t get disturbed by animals, kids, or other moving cars.

2. Change The Oil

It may seem a little strange hearing the suggestion to change the oil of your classic car before you store it. It feels like a waste if you’re not planning on driving your car for the season. But that’s the exact reason why you need to change your oil.

A lot of people make the mistake in thinking that if they don’t drive their classic car that often, they don’t need to change the oil all that often either. The truth is, motor oil can actually break down a lot faster when it’s not being used compared to when it is being used. Having already used oil in the system before storing it will risk improper lubrication when you go to start your classic car when spring comes.

Having fresh oil in your car’s system will ensure that everything will be well taken care of while it’s sitting during the winter. Take the time to change the oil right before you plan on storing your classic car for the winter. Make sure to drive your car for a few miles after the oil change so the new oil circulates through everything; that way you won’t have any components stuck with the old oil.

3. Top Off Gas And Add Stabilizer

Unfortunately, too many of us forget to attend to the gas that’s already in our classic car before we store it for the winter. Gas is an important component to have, but if you don’t handle it right, it can really cause you some problems when you try to start your car back up after storage.

Right before winter storage, top off the gas in your classic car with ethanol-free gas. Ethanol is a water attractant, so using gas with ethanol in it will increase your chances of condensation in places you don’t want it. This will cause even more problems if you have a carburetor, which most classic cars do.

Once you top off your gas, add the appropriate amount of stabilizer directly into the gas tank. When gas is left untreated, it has a tendency to gunk up in the tank as well as the fuel lines and cause issues with starting or it can make the car act sluggish. The stabilizer will prevent the gas from gunking up.

Some people assume it would be best to have an empty gas tank during winter storage. This may hold true if you’re planning on storing your classic car for a longer period of time, such as a few years, but for winter it’s better to have the gas tank full. An empty tank gives opportunity for rust to form, and you really don’t want rust in your gas tank.

4. Thorough Wash

Again, doing a thorough wash may seem pointless if you’re going to be storing your classic car for the winter and no one will be seeing it. But cleaning your classic car before winter storage is actually quite beneficial for it.

You see, older cars are more susceptible to rust. Earlier cars were made with a little bit different materials than what they now use on cars. Newer cars have better components in their paint that prevents rust. So unless you have a brand new paint job on your classic car, you’re more susceptible to rust.

Newer cars are also made with a galvanized steel that’s coated with zinc which is rust resistant. Earlier cars were not made with that. Even if your daily driver does great with the winter conditions in the area you live, that doesn’t mean your classic car will be fine, too. If your city uses salt to clear the ice on the roads, that can especially be dangerous for your classic car because salt will speed up the process of rust.

Take your classic car to a car wash and use a pressure washer to wash everything, especially underneath where rust is more likely. If your classic car is a little low to the ground, try using some jacks to raise it a little so you have better access and can give it a good wash underneath.

Also take some time to detail the interior. Dust and dirt has a tendency to speed up the aging process, to starting off with a clean slate before winter storage is ideal. Try using a dust resistant solution on your dash board so you don’t have as much to clean up when you start using it more frequently in the spring.

5. Attend To The Battery

One problem I see a lot of people running into in the spring time is not being able to start their classic cars. The culprit is usually the battery. Most assume that this is just simply part of owning a classic car and that a new battery every year is necessary. This is false. There are several things you can do for the battery in your classic car that will make it last for years and you won’t have to waste your money on a new battery every year.

My first suggestion would be to just simply disconnect the battery from the car. The biggest reason a battery loses it’s charge is because of parasitic drain. The old computers and poorly grounded wires in classic cars can suck the life out of the battery slowly, and the span of winter is the perfect amount of time to kill the battery. Having a drained battery mixed with freezing temperatures will greatly decrease the life span of the battery altogether.

If you’re going to disconnect the battery, I recommend you bring it inside where it is climate controlled. It is possible to let it sit in your engine bay while it’s disconnected, but storing it in more ideal temperatures will give it a better chance at working longer.

The second suggestion I have is to use a battery tender. A battery tender is a device you can connected to your battery all winter long. It has a meter on it that will sense when the battery is losing voltage and will automatically start charging the battery. Once the battery is fully charged, the battery tender will automatically shut off, leaving you worry free.

I don’t recommend using a trickle charger unless you are planning on being present the whole time the battery is charging. Some people make the mistake of connecting a trickle charger to their battery in their classic car throughout the winter without monitoring it. While a trickle charger does a great job at charging batteries, it provides a continued charge and won’t stop when the battery has enough voltage. This can ultimately damage the battery if it’s not monitored.

6. Treat Leather Seats

You may not have thought about it, but cold temperatures can actually be pretty harsh on leather and vinyl seats in a classic car. Treating them properly and preparing them for winter can really increase the durability of your seats and prevent tears.

Use a leather or vinyl treatment on your seats. Most treatments can be found at auto stores or online. Usually they have several uses, one being they will clean your seats and the other part serves as a protection during extreme temperatures. During cold temperatures, the pores in leather and vinyl will start to dry and crack which can ultimately lead to decreased durability.

One thing that can really ruin the sight of the interior of a classic car is a big tear or hole in the seat. One tear could mean you have to replace the whole seat cover and that can be pretty expensive, let alone annoying. So take a little time to treat your seats so they last as long as possible.

7. Avoid Moisture Inside

Now that we’ve covered preventing moisture from getting inside the mechanical components, we need to discuss preventing moisture from getting inside the actual car. Surprisingly, a number of people have an issue with moisture getting inside their classic cars such as the dashboard, seats, and carpet.

When moisture gets into the carpet, it can cause both an awful smell as well as mold. I have run into this problem myself and have had to completely replace my carpet in my car. The smell got so bad inside that I couldn’t even get inside the car without gagging.

Moisture can get inside by either a leak somewhere, a cracked open window or door, or simply by condensation. Water has a nasty way of finding it’s way to places it should be and you don’t want to find out you’ve had a moisture problem in the car all winter when you get in it once it starts getting warm.

Putting several small boxes of opened baking soda in your car is a great way to combat moisture from getting into your classic car during winter storage. Baking soda will be able to absorb moisture that may get in as well as neutralize any smell that may be happening. You can also try laying some silica gel packs all over the floor (the little packs that come in food and shoes). Those also do a great job at absorbing moisture.

8. Add Car Security

Because your classic car is stored for the winter, it’s less likely you’ll be doing regular check ups on it because who wants to walk through the snow to check on a car that’s probably doing just fine?

Unfortunately, classic cars are a frequent target for thieves. A lot of this has to do with the fact that classic cars are usually easier to break in to, are harder to track when they are stolen, and they have valuable parts in them that can be sold for a lot of money. And the winter time is a great time for a thief to steal a classic car because they know people are storing them and aren’t paying as much attention to them.

Classic cars usually aren’t equipped with the same alert and security measures that modern cars have. Luckily, there are a few things you can add to your classic car during winter storage that will make theft much less of a possibility.

Try adding a kill switch to your classic car. They can either be added to your battery, or if you’re more electrical minded, can be added in other hidden places that the thief won’t be able to find. It’s pretty hard for a thief to steal a car if they can’t get it started, even through hot wiring. A kill switch is inexpensive and can be found at an auto store or pretty much anywhere online.

You can also add a tracker device to your car. All you’ll need to do is find a hidden place to attach the device to your classic car, preferably somewhere inside so bumps and turns don’t shake it off. If in the unfortunate case your classic car gets stolen, you can check the app on your phone and see the exact location.

You may also want to try using a VIN etcher. This little device can neatly etch your Vehicle Identification Number on all the windows of your car. It isn’t very obvious when you’re out driving, but it is enough of a deterrent for thieves. With the VIN on every window, they’d have to replace all the glass which is expensive if they want to sell the car after they steal it. They also won’t be able to sell it for parts at a chop shop. You may want to put a sticker in an obvious place stating the VIN is etched so thieves will notice immediately.

9. Rodent Control

Like us humans, pesky rodents try to find warm places to nest for the winter. And often times the best places for them are inside cars. I’ve had to deal with rodents getting into my cars during the winter and it is a nightmare.

Mice and rats especially love living in cars. Living in a classic car that has been stored for the winter is the most ideal because no one is coming in and out and they can live in peace. They love nestling under seats, behind the dashboard, and in any other cracks or crevices that are perfect for their size. They even have the audacity to breed in cars, too. They can chew on wires and chew through plastic and cause a lot of damage to your classic car.

Rodents can easily get into classic cars because of the many entries that are available to them. Such entries include exhaust pipes, air intake, and holes in the firewall. Use steel wool or dryer sheets to plug these holes because these are things rodents don’t like. Don’t forget you’ve put them there when you go to start your car again. Put a note on the window reminding you to remove them.

In the case you do get a few critters inside, set up a few sticky pads inside as a way to trap them. I don’t recommend setting up traps with food on them inside your car as that in itself will attract critters. You can set up mouse traps around your tires to make sure they don’t get further than that point. One other effective way to repel rodents is to set up a few fake but real looking snakes underneath your car. It may sound weird, but it works really well with scaring off rodents.

10. Attend To Your Tires

You’ll want to take good care of your tires while storing your classic car for winter storage because they can be very pricey to replace. However, there are some people that do way more than they need to for their tires during winter storage.

The main thing you’ll need to do for your tires is to spray a treatment on them. There are several solutions out there for tire treatments that can prevent them from cracking and becoming brittle from non-use. The treatment is inexpensive and very easy to apply on the tires. You’ll probably need to take the tires off completely to make sure the whole things gets treated.

I’ve seen a lot of people put their car up on jack stands to prevent pressure on one spot of the tires, or flat spotting. Unless you know exactly where to put the jacks underneath the car, I do not recommend you do this. Yes, it does prevent your tires from flat spotting, but you’re also letting your suspension hang in a way it’s not supposed to. Fixing suspension is a lot more expensive than getting new tires.

There are a few exceptions to putting jacks under your car. If you have a solid front and back axle, you can place jack stands directly underneath the axles and your suspension will not be affected. You can also put jack stand directly underneath the lower control arms. Jack stands put anywhere else underneath your classic car will damage your suspension.

If you’re able to put your classic car up on jack stands to prevent flat spotting during winter storage, you’ll need to had a little extra air to them and cover them with plastic. Or you can completely remove them, pile them up, and put plastic on them there. If you don’t put your classic car up on jack stands, you’ll be just fine. You’ll just need to move your car a few inches forward or a few inches back every month.

11. Use A Quality Cover

No matter where you end up storing your classic car for the winter, you will always need to place a good, sustainable cover over it even if it’s in the garage. This is a step you absolutely cannot skip. If you’re going to own a classic car, make the purchase of a good car cover be your first priority.

Car covers can prevent a lot of damage from happening to the car it’s covering such as dust and dirt that can scratch the paint , UV rays from the sun, or snow and rain that causes rust. You will especially need a cover if you have to park it outside during the winter. Click here to see the cover I suggest in my list of recommended products.

If you have to park your classic car outside during winter, I suggest getting a portable carport. They’re easy to set up and take down and will provide a lot more coverage from the elements than just the cover. Click here to see the portable car port I recommend.

12. Occasionally Start It

If you want to be on the extra safe side, schedule a time every month to start your classic car and let it idle for 10 – 15 minutes. This will get it up to almost operating temperature and get all the fluids moving around which prevents them from settling. This will also evaporate any water vapor that has snuck in to any part of the car mechanics.

If possible, it’s most ideal to take your classic car for a drive at least once a month so it can reach full operating temperatures and really get the gears moving inside the engine. You may want to pick a day that’s dry and doesn’t have much salt or moisture on the road. A lot of people opt out of doing this because this means they have to wash all the salt off again. So at the very least, start it up once a month.

Related Questions

Can I set up my own security if I have a detached garage? There are many options out there to make a detached garage burglar-proof, and many of the options are things you can set up yourself and don’t have to pay a monthly fee. Click here to see more information about detached garage security products.

Can I store my classic car long term, such as several years? It is possible to store your classic car long term, in fact many people do it including those in the military. If you do the right preparation, you will be able to use your classic car when you’re ready as if you never stored it.

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