Winterizing your automobile
Every year, we get an amazing number of collectors asking for our opinion on how to properly prepare their car for a cold Midwest winter. Our first suggestion is to simply store it inside our Museum’s climate-controlled storage facility where the temperatures are regulated to a comfortable 65+ degrees all winter long. Keeping a car at a regulated temperature like this will lengthen the lifespan of a number of rubber seals, bushings, and paper gaskets throughout your engine, transmission, and suspension components, saving you money on potential repairs to replace them later on. Moreover, the warmer temperature protects your vehicle from any water vapor freezing within you vital components. Moisture has a wicked way of finding itself inside engine blocks, brake lines, fuel lines, gas tanks, and most often, your exhaust system. When freezing temperatures allow this moisture to become solid, the expansion can be devastating when it has nowhere to go, once again allowing systems the opportunity to fail. We’ve all heard nightmares about cracked engine blocks or scary brake hose failures.
This brings us to those of you that may not have the luxury option of a heated storage space. We always recommend an autumn service to include a full flush of the cooling system and replacing with fresh anti-freeze of your choice. Options certainly include Prestone®, Peak®, Zerex®, or a number of other brand name offerings. While at it, topping off all other fluids, including your fuel tank will help ensure moisture doesn’t have the opportunity to condense inside any voided space within their respective reservoirs. Prior to topping off fresh fuel in the gas tank, adding a long term fuel stabilizer such as Sta-bil to help the gasoline from breaking down while sitting. Once inside the tank, don’t forget to actually run the engine as directed on the product label, usually driving it 10-20 minutes to allow it to fully mix through the entire fuel system, especially carbureted vehicles.
The last items to consider attention will be the battery and tires. We recommend a good battery maintainer, such as CTEK®, Deltran’s Battery Tender™, Schumacher®, or NOCO®. Many quality battery maintainers can also be sourced directly through your manufacturer for newer automobiles, so be sure to check available options at your local dealership. Then, your tires will need a bit of attention as well. To help avoid flat spots from sitting on a hard surface, an old trick you can try is over-inflating your tires by 10 pounds of air pressure to leave less contact patch on the ground. Or better yet, parking on a softer surface such as an old carpet remnant or a couple layers of stacked cardboard will help keep your tires round come springtime. Other options do include purchasing rounded parking aids like FlatStoppers™, or putting your car up on jack stands relieving your tires and suspension altogether. This investment in time and money is up to each individual’s preference.
If you have a good car cover, such as products from CoverCraft® or Coverking®, to properly protect the paint finish while retaining a breathable material, then it’s time to put your classic to bed for the winter. These top car cover brands will do just that and keep your classic safe every time you cover it.
It has been thoroughly debated as to whether or not you should start your car every once and awhile and let it run during storage. Well, we tend to side with the “don’t start” club. The reason being is that most owners don’t allow their car to run for a meaningful amount of time to bring all components to full operating temperature. When an ice cold car starts up, the copious amount of immediately moisture that builds up inside the exhaust manifolds and exhaust system alone will require a minimum of 20-30 minutes to fully dissipate. Plus, if your car isn’t going to leave the storage garage, none of the other fluids in the transmission or braking system are going to get pushed around anyway. Not to mention, the engine thermostat may not have enough time to full open and allow coolant to move around the engine again. We know it’s tough to ignore your prized possession, but once your car is in hibernation mode, we say leave it alone. If you would like to learn more about winterization of your vehicle in our service shop, or our in-house storage costs, please reach out at (314) 993-7104 with questions.