Whether you’re stocking away your spare car to protect it from the daunting winter roads, or choosing public transport to endure as little sleet as possible, knowing how to store a car for winter is necessary for your car’s longevity. The harsh colds are just as grueling for unprotected cars as they are for humans, and there are many exposed parts of your vehicle (the surface, undercarriage, upholstery, wheels, and so on) that are vulnerable to damage and corrosion. Therefore, storing your car well is just as important as storing it at all.
Wash Your Car Thoroughly
Washing your car thoroughly is the first step of how to prepare a car for winter storage. The last thing you want to do is stow away a car that’s dirty or unkempt. Before you know how to store a car for winter, to avoid counterproductive storage, it’s important to give your car a thorough wash before storing it. A wash could be a classic DIY car wash, an automatic/tunnel car wash, a good ol’ two-bucket wash, or a snow foam coating. While any of these methods should do, it's the thoroughness of the wash that really decides how ready your car is for safekeeping. Remember to wash the most neglected areas of your car too, including its wheels and undercarriage. It’s best to top off the wash with a layer of wax, but this part is up to your discretion. Although most people usually wax their cars for the sparkle, waxing also helps prevent discoloration and fading.
Clean the Interiors
How can you store a car for winter before cleaning its interiors? Before hibernating your car, it’s best to check its interiors for dust, dirt, chocolate wrappers, and the like. After throwing out trash and vacuuming the carpet and seats, consider covering your seats to keep them safe from dust resulting from disuse.
Pest prevention is a big part of how to store a car in winter. While in storage, it’s difficult to predict what sort of pests will find their new abode in your car - rodents, other small animals, or insects that are drawn to trash (Refer to point 2). It’s important to protect your car’s exteriors with animal repellents, such as mouse traps, or even stuffing your car’s exhaust pipe with a sock or two. The interiors of your car can be protected from unwelcome guests by keeping them as clean as possible and using moisture absorbers/desiccants. Additionally, you can roll your car’s windows down by an inch to prevent moisture build-up, although this isn’t an ideal suggestion if you’re wary of pests.
Tires tend to lose pressure during winters because of temperature changes and disuse. It’s best to fill all your tires to the right atmospheric pressure (denoted on the side of your tire) before storing your car. Ensure that your car is situated on a flat surface during storage. Using a parking brake to keep your car stationary may only be a hindrance later since parking brakes tend to freeze overtime during the winter.
How to store a car battery during winter depends largely on your discretion. While the purpose of leaving your battery in your car during storage is up for debate (in some cars, this ensures that the car’s memory is stored), it is recommended to remove the battery and store it in a cold, dry place. It is also important to ensure that the temperature is not low enough for your battery to freeze. Additionally, connecting the battery to a float charger keeps the battery from losing charge during storage. If you’re wary of wasting electricity, just disconnecting the battery from its circuit in your car is another alternative, though this reduces your ability to regulate the temperature of its surroundings. That being said, batteries have longevity between four to six years, so either alternative works as long as your battery has a durable amount of its lifespan ahead of it.
The quality, fitting, and material of the car cover you should use varies depending on the storage area, i.e., whether you’re storing your car in a garage or in an open location.
The factors to take into consideration when storing your car in an indoor location are:
- Padding (to protect it from unforeseen damage from collapsing boxes, playing children, and so on),
- Fitting (it’s important to make sure the size is breathable so that your car doesn’t accumulate moisture, and
- Material (never use a plastic tarp, as this can scar the paintwork).
An outdoor location:
Storing your car outside during the winter, needless to say, invites more risk than a garage. That’s why it’s important to know how to store a car outside for winter tactfully, and a properly fitted cover is the most significant part of the equation. A properly fitted cover securely attaches to your car so that it doesn’t fly off during windy days. The cover also needs to be waterproof, and free of dust and grit so that they don’t sit on your car for months. To ensure this, consider using another person’s help while covering the car, and also remember to double-check the interior to retrieve anything you could have forgotten inside.
A cheap, universal-fitting car cover can be just as effective as a high-quality cover designed for your car’s model if your car’s stored indoors and safe from damage. However, in more cases than not, high-quality covers are better in terms of durability, protection, and overall care.
The location of the storage area is a vital aspect of how to store a car for winter. The location that you store your car should be a safe and dry area protected from volatile weather conditions and a damp floor. Therefore, a garage or a storage facility is best to store your car during the winter. Their concrete floors protect your car from moisture, and four walls keep it in a climate-controlled location.
- Consider dropping your insurance during the winter to save your money, especially on the liability and collision portion - which is particularly unnecessary if your car will be stored indoors.
- Consider lubricating important chassis points with a good ol’ WD-40. This helps protect parts that are typically supposed to move from becoming brittle and frozen, especially in the cold.
- Check the coolant-to-water level to ensure that the winter doesn’t cause damage to your car’s engine or cooling system.
- I remember to refill my car on all fluids a day or two before retiring it for storage. This includes engine oil, gas (consider using STA-BIL to stabilize the gas during storage), and anti-freeze.
- It’s unfortunate that some cars can be in too bad a condition to warrant all the above efforts for proper storage. If my car were far past its due date and it’s time to dispose of my car, I’d much rather just sell my junk car to receive cash for clunkers.