As the holiday season approaches, hot rodders are cherishing every last cruise before the frigid winter weather sets in. Living in the sunbelt states along the southern region of the country where the winter season brings nothing more than the occasional rain has its benefits, namely year-round cruising and never having to store your vehicle for any extended length of time. But for the rest of the country, our hot rods, cars and trucks must go into hibernation.
Storing a vehicle is not complicated, but there are some basic guidelines to follow that will ensure that you’ll be able to fire it up as soon as spring arrives.
Ethanol is a hygroscopic ingredient in most modern pump gasoline blends that will cause fuel to pull moisture out of the atmosphere and into your tank, causing corrosion of your fuel system components. Draining the tank and fuel system for dry storage is an option but, in most cases, not very practical. Instead, the best course of action is to fill the tank and use a stabilizer. Properly adding a good quality stabilizer to your fuel is the single most important step in winterizing your vehicle and protecting your fuel system during an extended storage period.
Stabilizing your fuel is simple. It’s as easy as filling your tank with fresh gas and then adding the correct amount of stabilizer. Once you’ve added the stabilizer, it’s important to run the engine to push the treated fuel all the way through the system so that all components will be protected. Storing your vehicle with a full tank of fuel is important as it reduces the air space and moisture in the tank and it will also keep the bare metal submerged, lessoning it’s propensity to corrode. Keep in mind that fuel stabilizer works best with fresh gasoline. Adding it to old, bad gas will not make it good again.
The most common type of battery found in most vehicles is the lead-acid battery. When a vehicle is stored, a lead-acid battery tends to self-discharge. When this happens, lead sulphate crystals begin to form in the cells. Sulphation is a chemical process in the battery that creates electricity. During normal use, the sulphation crystals dissolve when the vehicle is driven and the charging system sends current through the battery.
During storage, however, a battery can discharge to the point where sulphation is too extensive. This point of no return can be avoided by connecting the battery to a maintainer, also referred to as a smart charger or tender. Most maintainers allow you to connect to your battery buy one of two ways: with clamps onto the terminals or by using the plug-in lead that installs onto the positive and negative terminals. Be sure to use a maintainer with circuitry that will automatically shut off when the battery is at full charge. Older constant-rate trickle chargers can over-charge and damage the cells.
If you don’t have access to power where your vehicle is being stored, you’ll have to remove the battery and take it to where you can plug in the maintainer and safely store it.
You’ve no doubt heard or read about a tire’s potential to develop flat spots if a vehicle is stored for an extended time. Removing the wheels and tires and placing your car or truck on jack stands is an option, however, doing this is not without its drawbacks. Not only will you need a place to store the wheels and tires, but your vehicle will be immobile. A second option is to air up the tires to the maximum rated PSI and use a set of tire ramps that are designed to distribute weight on the contact patch more evenly. Either of these two methods are better than over-inflating your tires. If one or more of your tires has a slow leak, be sure to check on them during the storage period and make sure the pressure is at the max PSI.
Just because your windows are up and your doors are closed does not mean that your interior is safe from the elements. In addition to a thorough vacuuming prior to storage, you can avoid mold, mildew and musty odors by using a moisture-wicking desiccant or protection pouch such as the California Car Cover Sta-Dri pouches. These pouches will protect your interior for more than three months and will not harm or stain upholstery.
If you’ve got an older muscle car or truck, remember to check the rubber seals around doors and windows. Worn or cracked seals can let in moisture that, over time, will defeat the purpose of protection pouches. If you feel that your seals need to be replaced, spend the downtime installing a complete weatherstripping kit.
Prior to putting your car away for the winter, give it a good wash and wax job to put a layer of protection on the paint. If you have an enclosed garage space available, invest in an indoor car cover to prevent dust and dirt from collecting on the surface. If the vehicle will be outdoors or under a carport, upgrade to an all-weather cover that offers water, UV and weather resistance. Some top-quality car covers can be quite pricey so be sure to use a cable lock to secure your investment.
Winter weather means that the there’ll be a variety of small creatures seeking shelter from the cold. Rodents will often use a stored car or truck for shelter, often wreaking havoc with wiring harnesses and electrical components. In addition to a good form-fitting car cover, take the extra precaution of blocking off the intake and exhaust so that nothing can crawl in.
Most hot rodders pay close attention to the level and condition of all engine fluids regardless of the season. When it comes to the cooling system, however, maintaining the proper ratio of antifreeze to water is important, especially if a vehicle is to be stored outdoors. A 50:50 ratio is commonly recommended for most driving conditions but when temperature drops to freezing level, you should test the mixture in your radiator with a hydrometer to verify its freezing point and then make the appropriate adjustment to the antifreeze-water ratio.
You might be thinking about saving some money by canceling your insurance while your car is in storage. Before doing so, consult your agent and see if the benefits are worth the savings. Not only will your car not be covered during the downtime, but you could also face higher premiums when you try to restore your policy.
Performance Upgrades You Can Make While Your Ride is Down for the Winter
You may not be able to drive your car or truck during the winter season but there’s no reason why you can’t continue making modifications that’ll surprise your friends when springtime rolls around. The following is a list of our top 12 upgrades that you can do while your hot rod is down for the winter.