Five Tips for Storing Your Car in Winter

Keep your vehicle in perfect shape even when it’s out of sight and out of mind.

Cars in winterGetty Images

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If you own a classic vehicle, a sports car, or simply a summer-oriented ride that only sees seasonal use, you probably store it over the winter—especially if you live in a climate where corrosive road salt and slippery, icy roads are a fact of life during the colder months.

How can you best protect your vehicle while keeping it locked away and safe from potential winter damage? Here are five winter car-storage tips.

Fill Up Your Fuel Tank

Before any long-term storage, it’s a good idea to fill your vehicle’s fuel tank all the way to the top. This dramatically reduces the potential for condensation to form either inside the tank itself or the fuel lines leading to the engine—if moisture collects, it can result in significant fuel-system corrosion.

Use Fuel Stabilizer

Over a prolonged period—usually three to six months—gasoline begins to break down chemically, separating into a mixture of water, varnishes and solvents, and other chemicals. Not only does the presence of water pose the potential for corrosion, but old, sludgy fuel can clog fuel lines and pumps. Add a bottle of fuel stabilizer to the gas tank and then run the vehicle’s engine for a few minutes to distribute it through the system.

Connect a Battery Charger

An automotive battery will gradually lose its charge if it sits unused for a long period of time. If you’re storing a vehicle for more than three months, it’s a good idea to keep the battery connected to a low-power charger to ensure that it stays topped up. Not all winter storage spaces have access to electricity, so if that’s the case for you, remove the battery from the vehicle and attach it to a charger at home.

Clean Inside and Out

To avoid attracting unwanted attention from insects, mice, and other vermin, a deep clean of your automobile’s cabin prior to storage is highly recommended. Remove any crumbs or trash that might have fallen between cushions or under the seats, and give the interior a good vacuum.

Wash your vehicle’s exterior with the same attention to detail, so that dirt and grime don’t sit on its finish for months, bonding to the paint and trim. A coat of wax for added protection while in storage is also a good idea prior to walking away for the winter.

Keep It Under Cover

With a coat of wax in place, the last line of defense for your vehicle’s paint is a cover. Even in a space with good ventilation, it doesn’t take long for dust to accumulate on a parked car or truck. Over time, that layer of grit can bond, scratch, and mar paint, plastic, and chrome—not to mention work its way into climate-control vents, panel gaps, and under trim. A cover is an inexpensive way to keep your automobile from looking like a barn find when you go to fire it up in the spring.

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Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting is a writer and podcast host who contributes to a number of newspapers, automotive magazines, and online publications. More than a decade into his career, he enjoys keeping the shiny side up during track days and always has one too many classic vehicle projects partially disassembled in his garage at any given time. Remember, if it's not leaking, it's probably empty.