Top 10 tips on how to store a classic car in winter

How do you protect your classic when it's stored in a garage or even just under a cover? Here's our DIY guide

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Classic cars in winter

Most of us prefer to tuck our classic cars away in winter, but it's important that you don't just abandon a classic in a damp garage and forget about it for a few weeks – so here's how to make sure it survives.

If you're storing the car for longer, read our guide to classic car storage. And remember, spring will be here before you know it, so here's our guide to recommissioning your classic as well.

Thanks to Avemore Garage Doors for the amazing picture above.

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First step – clean it!

This is the simplest and yet most important step of all – clean the car before you put it away! If you leave it too late, it can be hard to get the car sufficiently dry, so don’t delay. Wash away the dirt. Wax the paintwork and the chromework – the picture we show is from the renowned Meguiar's. Use a hosepipe or pressure washer to wash away any dirt from underneath, then allow it to dry well. If you really want to do a good job, jack up the car, support it on stands, protect your eyes, and repair damaged underseal or paint.

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Looking after the engine

Don’t be tempted to regularly start the engine, because that will do more harm than good, allowing condensation and contaminants to build up in the cylinders and the exhaust, without burning them off properly. If the weather is good and the roads clean then a drive of a few miles will be a much better idea. Otherwise consider turning the engine by hand occasionally or on the starter with ignition disabled.

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Keep the tyres in good condition

Most important, pump them up to a around 5 PSI over recommended pressure and cover them if in direct sunlight – UV degrades tyres. If they’re radials, they shouldn’t develop flatspots over a few weeks but crossplies are more likely to, so consider leaving the vehicle on stands with wheels off the ground. If left on the ground, move a few inches back and forwards every fortnight to change the position of the tyres on the ground, and recheck pressures.

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Don't forget the interior

First of all clean it, hoovering out all dirt and dust. Use an anti-static protectant on vinyl and plastic parts. If you have leather upholstery, use a leather feed to keep the hides supple. Ideally the windows will be kept open a few millimetres for air circulation – but not if there’s any chance of mice or other rodents. The safer option is to open up the doors once a week for a few minutes.

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Rodent and bug protection

The damage rodents in particular can do to wiring and interiors is shocking. Remove every trace of food from the car and garage. Place mothballs, dryer sheets or cotton wool soaked in peppermint oil around the interior, in the engine bay and in the luggage compartment, and place poison in the corners of the garage. Keep the car windows closed and check there are no other small gaps that mice could creep through into the interior – they only need a few millimetres. And, yes, we know this is easier said than done for a soft-top!

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Oil and lubrication

Old engine oil carries corrosive elements that, if left, can damage bearings and cylinder bores. The ideal solution is to change the oil for specific storage oil, then change again in Spring. Or you could just change to fresh standard oil before storage. Also check that the coolant is the correct mix of antifreeze and water, or go to waterless coolant, oil and grease all lubrication points such as grease nipples and hinges. Fuel will degrade but usually not enough over a few weeks to prevent starting.

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Don't let the battery die!

If there are no security systems running, then disconnect the earth terminal and tie it out of the way. Many modern classics don’t take kindly to flat or disconnected batteries! You can use a Discarnect, which allows low-drain components (alarms etc) to remain connected. Whether or not you disconnect, top up the electrolyte if possible with distilled water and connect a battery conditioner or try a solar trickle charger if there’s no mains supply.

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Prevent those brakes from seizing

Rule number one: chock the wheels and leave the handbrake off. Also rolling the car a little occasionally will help prevent brake pads sticking to discs, or shoes sticking to drums. A few pumps on the brake pedal occasionally will exercise the cylinders and calipers too. Consider spraying brake discs with WD40 or similar to prevent corrosion. It will soon burn off when the car is used.

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Protect the car with a cover

Any interior cover must be breathable, and with a soft finish that won’t scratch the paint or chrome. Do not place a cover on a dirty or damp car. The best solution is a Carcoon or similar. If the car is being left outside, again make sure the cover is breathable, and tie it down under the car. The covers shown are from Classic Additions.

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Do you need a dehumidifer?

In a relatively small, well-sealed garage, it’s worth using a small dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air. Unfortunately, if the garage is part-open to the elements or very large, then it’s likely that most dehumidifiers will be fighting a losing battle. Make sure the dehumidifier can be drained via a hosepipe or ensure you regularly check the water tank. There's more advice here.

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Want more classic car Top 10s?

How about a break from the harsh realities of winter with our guide to the Fastest Production Cars of Every Decade? Enjoy!

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