If you’re a snowbird, and regularly head to Florida, Arizona or another mild destination to avoid winter’s fury, you may find yourself leaving one car behind. A week or two away won’t require special preparation, but if your plans have you gone for several months, then special attention is required. Winter car storage is essential — when done right, you’ll return home with your car ready to start.
7 Winter Car Storage Steps
1. It begins with the right location. Don’t think for a moment leaving your car outside to face the elements is a good decision on your part. Even if the car is covered, that’s not sufficient — you need to store it in a secure and dry structure, such as a garage. That structure doesn’t need to be heated, but it should be protected.
2. It continues with a detailed cleaning. Washing and waxing your car just before you store it is important. That way, you’ll ensure that there aren’t any foreign materials present before covering your vehicle for a long winter’s rest.
3. Next, top the fluids. If your oil was recently changed, then it should be fine for the several months you’re away. Otherwise, change your motor oil and oil filter before you store your vehicle. To prevent moisture from accumulating in the fuel tank while you’re away, fill it with fuel and add a container of STA-BIL fuel additive for an extra measure of protection. Top off the antifreeze and other essential fluids as well.
4. What should you do with the battery? In most cars, you can remove the car battery and store it in a warm, dry place — connect it to a battery maintainer to keep it from losing energy. Other cars require you to keep the battery connected to preserve the computer’s memory — check your owner’s manual for guidance here.
5. Ventilate, but consider the critters. Open one or two windows slightly for ventilation purposes, but no more than an inch. You don’t want little critters to slip inside. Stuff a rag in each exhaust outlet to prevent animals from slipping inside to nest. Mothballs placed around the car will keep rodents at bay. To avoid a musty smell inside, place a dryer sheet inside and another in the trunk.
6. Properly inflate the tires. Before you store your car for the winter, inflate each tire to the recommended level in your owner’s manual. Expect some air loss due to cold air and the passage of time. Your car should sit on a flat surface; no need to elevate it while you’re away. And don’t engage the parking brake — it can become stuck when not disengaged for several months.
7. To cover your car or not. Should you cover your car if you have it stored inside? That depends. If the garage is dusty or if there is the slim possibility of moisture seeping in, then, by all means, cover it. Otherwise, leave it uncovered. When covering, choose a form-fitting car cover — ideally, you’ll use one expressly designed for your car.
Reverse the winter preparation process once your car’s hibernation is over. It’s a smart idea to leave a note on the driver’s seat to remind you to remove the rags from the exhaust tips and to reconnect the battery. Go easy on it too — after months of storage, your car should be carefully reintroduced to the open road.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on winter car storage, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.