​How to Store a Car for the Winter: A Step-by-Step Guide

October 27, 2017

Learn how to store your car for the winter.

Thinking of storing a vehicle for the winter? Whether you need to store a summer car for the winter, take an extended vacation, are being deployed overseas, or just need more time to work on a car, the following steps can help preserve your car and keep it from unnecessary damage while in long-term storage.

8 steps to winter car storage

  1. Figure out the best storage location for your car. Look for protection from the elements and for dryness.
    You don’t need to store your car in a climate-controlled storage facility, but you do need to keep it away from excessive moisture. Plenty of car owners store their cars for the winter in home garages or outside. Just make sure the garage has a concrete, not dirt, floor.

  2. Top off those fluids!
    • Top off the gas tank and then add a fuel preservative or a fuel stabilizer to help prevent corrosion in the fuel lines and engine.
    • Clean your oil and oil filter. Get an oil change and a new oil filter before putting your car in long-term storage. (Don’t forget to check the vehicle owner’s manual for manufacturer’s recommendations for oil.)
    • Consider fogging the engine if the car will be stored for longer than a year.
    • Top off the car’s antifreeze and windshield solvent. Keeping your coolant mixture at a 50/50 ratio of antifreeze and water will keep your coolant from freezing unless temperatures drop well below zero. Colder conditions may necessitate a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio of antifreeze to water. If your car has forced induction with air-to-water intercoolers, make sure to fill the intercooler system with the same mix of antifreeze and water to prevent a cracked intercooler and a flooded engine.
    • Use an antifreeze/water mix to keep your intercooler from cracking and flooding your engine.
    **Once you’ve topped off and changed all of your car’s fluids, take it out for a final ride in order to circulate the new fluids.

  3. Clean your car. Thoroughly clean your car, inside and out, before storing it:
    • Protect your car’s paint with a thorough handwash and wax.
    • Polish the chrome on your car.
    • Clean out and food wrappers, soda cans, and other trash.

  4. Check for moisture. As you’re preparing to store your car, keep repeating to yourself, “Dampness is the enemy. Dampness is the enemy.” If any moisture takes hold while your car is stored, every other protective step you’ve taken will be for naught.

    Take every measure to eliminate and prevent moisture:
    • If you’re thinking of steam cleaning the carpets in your car before storing it, make sure to do it far enough in advance that moisture doesn’t build up when the car is shuttered and covered.
    • Purchase desiccant packs to protect the inside of your car from moisture.
    • Roll down a window about an inch to improve air circulation and to prevent moisture from building up in the car’s cabin.

  5. Charge the car battery.
    • If your car is a newer car, the battery may need to remain attached at all times in order to preserve the computer’s memory; in that case, connect the battery tender to the battery while keeping the car’s hood open to run the cables into the engine bay.
    • If it is permissible to remove the car’s battery, and the car is being stored for longer than a month, attach the battery to a battery charger or battery maintainer.

  6. Repel the rodents. Rodents LOVE cars. So, unless you want to open a mouse-motel during the winter months, use as many of the following tactics as you feel comfortable with to deter unwanted inhabitants:
    • Dryer sheets
    • D-con
    • Traps
    • Mothballs
    • Sulphur
    • Steel Wool

  7. Tend to the tires. Inflate your tires to the maximum PSI to avoid flat spotting. If storing the car for longer than a few months, consider putting the car on jack stands to take the pressure off the tires.

  8. Cover the car. If you don’t own one already, consider investing in a quality breathable car cover or a cover and a car jacket.
    • Make sure your car is completely dry and cool, inside and out, before putting any type of cover on it.
    • If you’re storing your car outside, make sure that the cover is also waterproof and able to be securely attached to prevent high winds from detaching it.
    • If you decide to use a car jacket, make sure to first put a soft cover on your car.

Protect, protect, protect

Whether you have a classic car or a brand new vehicle, storing your car for the winter doesn’t have to be a daunting process. The internet, local automotive dealers, and repair shops near you can all provide useful instructions and advice on how to tackle winter car storage.

Cold weather and your daily driver

Now that you have a better idea of how to store a car in the winter, what about taking care of your daily driver. Make sure your car is ready for the winter with these 10 helpful winter car care tips.

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