By Lucy Hotchkiss
December doesn’t just bring advent calendars, mince pies and mulled wine; it also marks the beginning of winter.
Low humidity and plummeting temperatures can wreak absolute havoc on any stored vehicle, having the potential to cause rusting, dead batteries and low tires. For classic and prestige cars, winter weather can even render your car unsafe to drive.
In this article, we’ll share some tips with you on how to prepare your classic car for storage in a way that’s affordable, relatively low maintenance and convenient for you.
Where Should I Store My Classic Car?
The first decision to make is where you should store your classic car.
Indoors and away from the harsh winter elements is the most obvious option, however not many of us are blessed with a garage and those that are will know that home garages can often feel colder than the arctic.
There are many indoor car storage units out there, but not all are fit with the facilities and expertise to offer secure storage for a classic car over the winter. For peace of mind, you may wish to consider nearby purpose-built vehicle storage facilities that offer secure solutions with a good reputation. Additionally, if you purchased your vintage car from a reputable dealership, it may be worth asking them if they can recommend any nearby car storage facilities
How Much Does It Cost To Store a Classic Car?
Using the services of a reliable car storage facility isn’t as extortionate as it may sound. Storing your car at a secure site run by expert staff will set you back around £120 a month. While this is around twelve times a monthly Spotify subscription, it’s nothing compared to the huge repair bills and damage that can result from unsuitable storage.
If you know your classic vehicle needs more love than most, you may wish to opt for a storage facility that also offers monthly checks and maintenance, such as checking tire and battery conditions. A service like this certainty costs a pretty penny- clocking in at around £170 per month- but it’s important to remember that you’re making an investment in your car’s health.
How Should I Store My Classic Car?
Successfully storing a classic car relies on three key factors: humidity, temperature and ventilation.
Dehumidified storage is a big thing for secure car storage businesses, but humidity isn’t necessarily something to be feared: after all, without any moisture you’d end up with cracked leather and split hoses. What every classic car owner should fear is too much humidity as this can lead to condensation, resulting in the dreaded orange-red of rust. Many higher-end vehicle storage facilities use air conditioning solutions to prevent condensation from forming whilst still allowing for enough moisture in the air to keep leather supple.
If you have a home garage suitable for storing your classic car during the cooler months and don’t fancy splashing out on a complex climate control system, fear not. There are several highly-rated dehumidifiers on the market, ranging from around £80 to £150 that you can put in your garage. Set your dehumidifier at a relative humidity level of 45-50% and make sure you remember to empty it regularly!
We couldn’t talk about humidity without mentioning car covers. Covers don’t just prevent paintwork getting scratched- when made from a breathable fabric, like cotton or a polyester blend, covers allow for moisture to evaporate from the car’s surface. If you’re looking to buy a cover for your vintage motor, avoid materials like tarp at all costs. Tightly-woven, plastic-lined covers will trap moisture next to the car body, creating the optimal conditions not only for rust, but for your vintage car’s demise.
As mentioned previously, cars are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. The typical oscillation of temperature we see, especially during the cooler months in the UK where the mercury can drop below zero, doesn’t just create conditions that allow for condensation to accumulate- it also causes weathering.
If you choose to store your classic car in a garage, ensure it stays at around 10-18℃. This can be achieved with the use of a heater with a heat sensor, meaning it’ll only turn on if the garage reaches below 10℃, therefore saving you money on energy bills.
Ventilation is important to ensure that the air doesn’t become stagnant, preventing the growth of various molds and fungi. Car storage facilities typically have ventilation systems in place for this very reason; at home, you can use a fan once or twice a day to keep air circulating and keep windows slightly ajar to allow adequate air circulation to the car interior.
Tips For Preparing Your Classic Car For Winter Storage
A quick Google search will reveal just how many specialist vehicle storage sites are near you that can help prepare your beloved classic for winter storage. However, if you don’t have the budget to consider storing your car at a specialist site this winter or the thought of being away from your classic car for months on end alarms you, there are many DIY tips you can use.
For the purposes of organisation, we’ve split the tips into three main sections: preparing your garage, preparing your car’s machinery and preparing the body of your car. In addition, we’ve also added a regular maintenance checklist you can do at home to keep your car in top shape.
We would like to quickly note that these tips are only a temporary solution and should not be used for long periods of time or long-term car storage. You may also find it useful to write down what you’re doing as you go along; not only will this give you a quicker routine to follow next winter, it’ll also remind you to unblock your exhaust pipes come springtime!
Preparing your garage:
- Hoover the floor and dust any cobwebbed corners
- Thoroughly clean the floor with soap and water
- Place a thick piece of plastic on the floor where you wish to park your car: this will prevent any condensation from forming on the floor underneath your car, which could lead to rusting
- Check the door lock: any potential burglar worth their salt will know that garage locks can be surprisingly flimsy. Many shops sell cheap yet sturdy deadlocks you can install with ease for added security
- As mentioned before, maintaining a consistent environment is really important. If you can use a dehumidifier and a heater, you should set them up now
- If your garage door has a gap at the bottom, it may be worth stuffing the gap with a towel or blanket so to prevent heat from escaping
Preparing your car’s machinery:
- Add fuel-stabilisation fluid to your tank: the stabilisation fluid will prevent fuel from degrading throughout storage, which can leave varnish deposits. It’ll also prevent any evaporation of fuel. You’ll want to drive your car for around twenty minutes after adding the fluid to ensure it has circulated throughout the car’s system before fully filling up your tank to prevent any room for condensation to accumulate
- Slightly open the car windows: this will ensure adequate ventilation to the interior, preventing issues such as mold growth
- Overinflate your tyres by 2-5psi: this will offset any air loss that will occur throughout the duration of storage
- Put your car in gear: this will prevent rusty brake pads. Alternatively, you can opt for wheel chocks
- Prior to removing your car’s battery, the battery should be fully charged to around 12.7-12.8V to prevent deep discharge, which can cause irreversible damage. Once removed, the battery should be stored upright
- Stuff your exhaust pipe(s) with a clean rag: this will prevent any small creatures from nesting
- Change the coolant and the oil
- Lubricate door rubbers with vaseline to ensure they remain flexible throughout winter
Preparing the body of your car:
- Give your car a thorough wash until it is sparkling clean and free of bird droppings, tree pollen or any other organic matter- if undisturbed, these can result in permanent staining on the paintwork. Take care to wash the wheel arches and chassis to wipe any grime away
- Apply wax to the paintwork; not only will this keep your classic car looking shiny and new, it’ll also act as a protective layer against scratches and condensation. With any chrome or aluminium elements of your car (such as badges or door handles), a layer of acid-free vaseline can be added for similar protection
- Put your car cover on: as mentioned previously, using a cover made out of tightly-woven, plastic-lined fabric like tarp is an absolute no-go as it’ll cause moisture to accumulate on the body of your car. The ideal cover is made out of a fabric like cotton, making it breathable, soft and a protective layer against any potential scratches on the paintwork
Regular maintenance you should undertake every two to four weeks:
- Check your battery voltage: if it’s at 12.5V or less, charge it using a trickle charger. Be wary of overcharging your battery as this can be hugely damaging
- Check inside the boot, under the bonnet and under the car for any surprise visitors, like dormice, who you may wish to evict
- Press down on the brake and clutch pedals a few times: this will prevent them from becoming stiff or stuck
- After unplugging the exhaust, run the engine until the oil has warmed up. You’ll need to run the engine until the exhaust system is also hot, meaning any moisture collected can exit
- Providing the ground is dry and grit-free, take your car for a small drive. Whilst daily driving isn’t necessary, you should aim to use your classic car at least once a month to ensure everything remains running smoothly
Classic Car Storage Made Easy
Ultimately, these tips are aimed at those wishing to store their classic or sports car on a short-term basis. Even if you follow all of these tips, you still need to thoroughly assess your classic car before driving it again to make sure it’s safe to use.
We recommend you look over the body of your car to check for any rusting, check the tire pressure, test the brakes, pedals and gears to ensure they’re working as they should and go for a short drive to listen out for any weird sounds that may signal a more serious safety issue.
If in doubt, get your vehicle checked out by professionals. At Pilgrim Motorsports, we offer car servicing for American, British and European classic car models to help your car get back on the road.
Author: Lucy Hotchkiss
Pilgrim Motorsports is a leading UK classic car specialist and sports car manufacturer. We build, restore, service and upgrade all classic cars, specialising in Pilgrim Sumo Cobra, Shelby Cobra, AC Cobra, Dax Cobra and 356 Speedsters. Our sister company Muscle Car UK has classic Ford Mustangs and classic American muscle cars for sale in the UK.
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We also provide service and restoration on any car, classic or otherwise.