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So you've decided that you want your car to last .. knowing that road-salt accelerates oxidation (rusting), you have made the decision to store your baby for the winter - but how do you make sure everything will be fine when you go to start it in the spring?  This how to article will cover the various points to consider when winterizing your car.

Tools / Resources: Consumables:
  • metric / imperial socket set
  • metric / imperial wrench set
  • floor jack (or similar)
  • 4 x jack stands
  • vapour barrier (plastic sheet)
  • car cover
  • battery tender
  • engine oil (enough for oil change)
  • antifreeze & distilled water
  • brake fluid
  • steel wool
  • car wax
  • fuel system stabilizer


There are a number of arguments both for and against starting your car up through out the winter.  I will not elaborate on the finer points of either as I wish not to fan the fire of debate - I will cover the "no-start" method of storing a car.  If you are really eager to discuss this topic, feel free to do so on the message board.

The first step is to find a good clean, dry, secure location to store your car.  Funny thing about mankind is that we have developed highly sophisticated car-caves .. better known as garages.  A garage with a concrete pad is ideal.  Ideally, the garage will have electrical service and be easy to access.

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Once your car is ready to be put into storage, you must prepare the storage environment.  First step will be to sweep the floor and clean/dust the walls around.  A clean environment is ideal!

Once the garage/storage area is clean, lay down your plastic drop-sheet where you will be leaving the car.  Before purchasing the plastic vapour barrier, ensure it is large enough to envelop the lower half of your vehicle.

First step is to change all "standard" fluids - this covers almost all fluids.  When I prepare a car for storage, I change the following fluids:

If you are not sure how to change any of the above fluids, consult the appropriate how to page(s) for help.

Be sure to fill your gas tank all the way to the top.  This will save your fuel system from oxidation and will also displace any water that may currently be in the system.  Be sure to add the fuel system stabilizer at the same time - following the directions (which usually includes driving the car for 20 min. after)

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Once the storage area is prepared and standard vehicle maintenance is completed, you will now focus on preparing the car for the storage environment.  Start by cleaning out the interior of the car - leave nothing behind.  Vacuum, dust, clean .. the more spotless your car is, the better it will handle storage.

This is essential to preventing mold, mildew and critters from overcoming your precious interior.  And let's face it, when you pull the car out of storage, you don't want to be greeted by a mess!

Once the interior is spotless, you should now focus your attention on the exterior of the car.  Start by washing the car from top to bottom - everywhere!  This is a very daunting task .. though it will preserve the car.

After washing + drying the car, give it one of the best wax jobs of its life!  Don't skip areas such as the door-jambs, and under the hood.  Leave no painted surface untouched.  This is to protect the paint from the environment.  Also be sure to polish any chrome surfaces to help preserve the gorgeous luster.

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figure 6

When all maintenance + cleaning items have been covered, you are now ready to position the car for storage.

Start by parking the car on the plastic drop sheet.  The reason you should have a waterproof drop sheet is to prevent fluid transfers in both directions (ie. prevent water vapour from rising from below the car, and prevent vehicle fluids from staining the cement [or other] storage pad).  The plastic sheet will also help prevent rodents from finding a nice winter nest.

Once the car is in position, place the car on jack-stands.  The reasoning for this is two-fold:  1)  it takes the strain off suspension components, thus slowing the aging on such components as bushings and shocks  2) it prevents your tires from developing "flat spots"

If you are not sure how to jack up your car, consult the vehicle manual for approved jacking points.  If you are still unsure, consult how to jack up your vehicle using a floor jack.

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Once on jack-stands, you are ready to prepare the vehicle drive-train for storage.  Start by relieving the pressure from your fuel system.  This can be done by starting the car and then disconnecting the fuel-pump wiring harness (see figure 8).  Consult your factory manual for the location of said harness.

When you disconnect the fuel pump, the car should sputter and die.  This indicates that there is no longer pressure in the fuel line.

Mazda MX-5 Fuel Pump Relay:  Yellow harness

Next step will be to plug the tail-pipe(s) with steel wool.  This will prevent rodents and other critters from using your exhaust system as a winter home.

Depending on your vehicle's intake system, you should also plug any remaining orifices with steel wool.

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Do not engage the parking brake as the brake pads may become fused to the rear brakes over the winter.  The vehicle should also be left in neutral in the case of a manual transmission.

Next step will be to remove the vehicle's battery.  Most batteries do not winter well at all.  All batteries discharge over time so you must ensure that your battery does not discharge too much, otherwise, it will age prematurely.

The best solution to this problem is a special type of battery charger .. called a battery tender.  These battery saving devices "float" a battery charge at a specific voltage and do not constantly charge the battery (which can ruin it).  $50 for a battery tender can save you from buying a $50+ battery every couple of years.

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At this stage, you are almost done!  Next step will be to tuck the plastic drop sheet up and around the bottom half of your vehicle.  This once again prevents moisture from diffusing from underneath the car.

Last step will be to cover the car with your car cover.  The ideal car cover for garage storage will be permeable (material that breathes, ie. not a tarp) and somewhat thick.  There are a large number of aftermarket car covers available - don't go cheap .. it will protect your car!

That's it!  You're done .. now comes the worst part - the waiting.  After a long 5-6 months, your car will be ready to run free once again.


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[ TechGuys ] [ Forum ] Store a car for winter / long term storage [ Projects ] [ How To ] [ Email ] [ Links ]

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