Winter Storage Tips

by Thomas Walter October 20, 1996

Seems every October the question arises of "What should I do before parking my roadster for the winter"? Must admit here in Texas, I tend to drive more in the winter months, as I really enjoy the cool still air on a Saturday morning drive.

With feedback, and help from many people, the following has been collected over the years. Also applies to LONG term storage.

FINAL DRIVE:

Fill it up! Add some gas stabilizer to the tank prior to filling up. You'll want to drive at least 10 minutes after this to insure the fuel in the float bowl also has stabilizer in it.

After the Seasons last nice drive, pull it into the garage for an oil change. Filter too.

CAR STORAGE TIPS:

Location, Location, Location as the Real Estate Agent always explain will make all the difference. Ideal in a dry, closed garage. For a cover, ideal is the breathable material that does not trap moisture.

If you have to store your vehicle outdoors, use caution about heavy tarps. Moisture trapped underneath them have lead to "bleached" spots in the paint. Also the wind whipping the tarp will tend to dull the paint as any dust between the tarp and paint will act as fine sand paper would.

There also also "Giant vacuum bags" on the market that you drive your car into. Seal, the using the suction from a vacuum, remove all excess air from them. End result is the vehicle is sealed from moisture. Highly recommended by a friend who owns a mint condition Model T.

FUEL:

On the fuel system, I store with a FULL tank. Stabilizer added to the fuel is a good idea (fuel maybe good for four months, but sometimes cars get stored longer than planned). Reason for a full tank is to displace the air & moisture in the tank to prevent rust. (If stored in the garage next to the water heater... then go ahead and drain the tank! Leave the gas cap off to let air circulate.)

Old British publications recommend draining the tank, and SU carbs float bowl, then adding a few quarts of parrafin (kerosene to us Americans) then cranking the engine... letting the float bowls be filled with kerosene, as the pump and fuel lines. This does help the cork gaskets keep 'wet' and swelled reducing the number of leaks in the spring. I just add fuel stabilizer to my last 'fill up' then store as is.

ENGINE & MECHANICAL BITS:

Remove the spark plugs and ground the large ignition wire coming from the coil to the distributor. Pour one ounce of oil through the spark plug port of each cylinder. Crank it over. Yes, some of the oil will come back out the plug hole, but also helps coat the valves, piston rings, cylinder walls, etc. Reinstall the spark plugs.

Cooling: drain the coolant. Remove the drain plug on the side of the engine block, too. Sigh many have rusted into place and can not be budged. Refill with NEW anti-freeze with the 50/50 water/antifreeze mixture.

Transmission and Differential should be topped up. I like to change fluid every two years, to displace any moisture.

WD40 sprayed on the underhood fuse block will help, too! (too messy for '68-70 fuse blocks in the dash).

In humid environments, there is the problem of the clutch disc becoming stuck to the flywheel and pressure plate. A wood dowel cut to the right length could be wedged between the clutch pedal and drivers seat to keep the clutch depressed.

Remove the battery, store in a dry place.

Brake fluid - if more than two years old: flush it & refill with new fluid. This should be done every spring. As most know I am not a fan of silicone brake fluid.

A friend with an MGB tired of the front rotors rusting every winter. Coated them with a "antirust". Yep, come spring, he forgot all about it. :-( If you do anything like that, remove the ignition coil lead and TAPE a note to it about what to do in the spring, before going for that 'spin'. Just remember the first few times you use the brakes, you will be "removing" the rust on the rotors.

INTERIOR & EXTERIOR:

Wash down the Body, and especially hose out the dirt traps (back inside edge of the fenders, rear fender areas). More time spent on this now, the less likely to discover rust blisters a few years down the road. Finish off with a good waxing.

Chrome: a light layer of petroleum jelly will preserve chrome, but I've used a good paste wax for winter storage.

Clean and vacuum everything.

A pile of mothballs in a cup, placed on the floor, help keep rodents away.

If you store it with the top up, leave the windows down about 1/2" down to allow air to circulate in the interior.

Jacking the car up will remove the weight from the springs and prevent flat spots on the tires (more common on older bias ply). Spray the rubber bushings with a good quality silicon spray to prevent rot.

Leave it in Neutral, hand brake off.

MISC:

I do NOT recommend starting the engine and letting it run "for a few minutes" during the winter. If you start the engine, it should be for a good 15 minute DRIVE.

Applying the brake pedal and clutch pedal every so often is a good idea to get the seals to move a little bit so they do not become stuck in place (common on British cars using natural rubber brake parts).

INSURANCE: Keep your comprehensive insurance paid up, but you may qualify for a discount when the vehicle is "stored" Just remember to reactivate PRIOR to the first spring drive.

Any questions/comments appreciated. -- Tom