The weather is cooling quickly and the first talk of flurries by a local
weatherman appeared on my radio this week. Thankfully, the white stuff didn't
happen but it reminded me that I'll be prepping my car for its annual winter
nap soon than I would like. Unless you live in a warm climate or you like the
thought of cruising with a set of snow chains on, this article may be of some
use to you within the next month or two.
This is a brief guide to helping your car survive another long cold winter
while you make plans to attend exciting events next summer (like the
Ford Challenge in Joilet, IL in May or the
Carlisle, PA All Ford Nationals in
- First things first. Go for one last drive.
This serves two purposes.
1. It's fun
2. It allows your car to get up to operating temperature.
Bringing your engine up to temperature is important to burn off contaminants
in the oil and it also gets rid of moisture in the exhaust system.
- While you are out cruising, stop by a car wash and clean the
undercarriage. Then stop and fill the tank as full as possible with premium
high-grade gasoline without a 10% alcohol mix. Get 100% gasoline if at all
possible. Before filling up, be sure to add the appropriate amount of fuel
stabilizer. This will thoroughly mix the stabilizer with the fuel. Filling
the tank as full as possible will help prevent moisture from condensing
inside. MN12s don't have to worry about the tank rusting because it is
plastic, but keeping moisture out of the tank is still easy to do and
- Drive home and thoroughly clean the car inside and out and put on a
good coat of wax.
- Change oil and filter (Some prefer to change oil first thing in
- Check and top off all fluids, including brake fluid (in your brake
fluid reservior and in your clutch fluid reservior for you 5-speed owners) and
- Check antifreeze quality, protection level, and pH level of
antifreeze. Antifreeze should be slightly alkaline at 7.5 to 8 pH. Add a can
of water pump lubricant before shutting down engine for the last time. If you
have not changed your anti-freeze in two years, change it NOW.
- Inflate tires 10 lbs. to 15 lbs. over normal. (Tires will often lose
1 or more pounds of pressure per month.) If you are concerned about "flat-
spotting" of tires, consider switching to old tires and wheels.
- If you decide to put the vehicle on stands, the stands should be
under the suspension to support the vehicle. If the stands are put under the
frame rather than the suspension, it leaves the vehicle suspension in an
extended, unnatural position, which could cause problems over the term of the
storage, such as rusted shocks and suspension components not normally exposed
to the air.
- I personally like the idea of 'relaxing' the suspension. This simply
means blocking the frame of the car up - but not allowing the suspension to
'hang'. Think of it as just taking a bit of the weight off the tires.
- Put moisture-absorbing packets in the car.
- Rodent repellent is also a possibility. Leave the sunvisors down so
rodents have more problem getting into the headliner. The smell of mothballs
will repel some pests, but stays with the car for a long time (not
recommended). Bars of Irish Spring soap can also be used as a deterrent. Bars
can be put into open coffee cans in the trunk and front and back floors.
- Steelwool in tailpipes and the air-intake opening keeps critters from
climbing in and nesting or using the areas for food storage.
- Remove the battery and keep it charged, preferably in a warm place. A
discharged battery can freeze. Keeping it on a piece of plywood rather than
directly on a concrete floor is recommended.
- Since concrete or dirt floors release moisture, store the car on
another flooring or make a vapor barrier with plastic under car, although wood
under the car is better. If your really finicky, try not to store your vehicle
where other winter vehicles come in and out, bringing moisture with them.
- Leave windows opened about 1/2 inch to allow air to circulate.
- Leave Armor-All (or similar) products off the interior until Spring.
They contain water and chemicals that can support the growth of mildew and
- To avoid the risk of the clutch and flywheel rusting together, a
board can be wedged on the clutch pedal to partially depress it, leaving it
released from the flywheel.
- Leave the parking brake off so the brake pads do not stick to the
rotors during storage.
- Remove the windshield wiper blades or block them off of the glass, so
they do not rest against the windshield all winter.
- Don't start the car in winter unless you plan to drive it for at
least a half-hour to allow all systems to get up to proper operating
temperature and in use.
- Tape a note to the steering wheel to remind you what needs to be done
in Spring to get the car ready for the next season.
- Cover the car to protect against dust and possible scratches.
- If you will be walking anywhere near the car for the next few months,
get a couple of scrap foam strips from your friendly upholstery shop and tuck
them under the cover in places you (or someone little perhaps) is likely to
bump into. Also throw a couple of pieces of cardboard on the hood and trunk.
This prevents problems when something is invariably sat on the car (for just a
- Check your insurance policy. Most companies offer storage insurance
for a very modest fee. Heavy snow loads or fire can wreck your car just as
quick as a road accident. I just call my insurance guy and tell him the car
is being stored and ask for his advice on what coverage is needed. Typically
fire and theft is sufficient if the car is stored indoors.