By Stephanie Hyland,

With cold weather quickly approaching, car owners looking to use self storage during the winter months to free up garage space for snow blowers and bags of salt need to begin making preparations for storage.

Whether you’re storing a sedan, a classic car you’ve rebuilt, or a pickup truck, every type of car needs proper winterization before being moved to self storage. This ensures your car is protected from costly damages during its time in storage.

When going through the necessary winterization steps for auto storage, thoroughly clean your car, maintain the battery, stabilize the fuel tank, check tire pressure, and prevent rodents from getting to electrical components.


Clean and Cover Your Car

“Vehicles should be washed and waxed to remove the road grit from the driving season,” says Kyle Smith with Hagerty Insurance, a leading insurance provider for classic vehicles and host to the largest network of classic car owners. Smith adds that cleaning your car prevents damage to its paint and parts.

A clean car should also be covered in storage with a “breathable cloth cover to prevent moisture buildup and paint scratching,” according to Smith, who says plastic covers should be avoided, as they trap moisture that can cause rust and paint damage.

Brad Barnes, Director of Corporate Service and Parts at #1 Cochran in Pittsburgh, Pa., says old bed sheets will do the trick, too, if you can’t find a cover for your car. “Any material that’s breathable to keep the exterior covered is always a good idea even when being stored,” Barnes explains.

Maintain Your Vehicle’s Battery

Maintaining your car battery is a critical part of storing a vehicle. But depending on how old your car is and what type of storage you’ve chosen, you may have a few different options.

“If the storage facility is equipped with electrical [outlets], and you have a vehicle equipped with computer modules, which is found in newer vehicles, then you would want to leave the battery in the vehicle and connect a battery tender,” says Barnes. “This will keep the battery charged and keep any memory that the vehicle had stored on the computer modules intact.”

“Contrary to popular belief, it’s not beneficial for a vehicle to be started for short periods to charge the battery.”

Jason Bien, Globally Certified Service Professional at Porsche of Omaha

“Batteries should be hooked to a maintainer that will not overcharge,” adds Smith. “This will keep the battery healthy and extend [its] working life.” Smith says that, if possible, disconnecting the ground cable from your car’s battery is a good idea as well since it eliminates chances of an electrical short that could start a fire.

Since your car isn’t being stored in a climate-controlled environment, Jason Bien, Globally Certified Service Professional at Porsche of Omaha in Omaha, Neb., says it’s better to remove the battery entirely and store it somewhere with climate control, like inside your home.

There’s also a common misconception that stopping by your storage unit to start your vehicle every now and then is helpful for the battery. “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not beneficial for a vehicle to be started for short periods to charge the battery,” says Bien. “A discharged battery needs more than a quick charge from the alternator to fully charge.”

Stabilize Your Car’s Fuel Tank

Smith says it’s essential to not only fill the fuel tank with fresh fuel before leaving it in a storage unit over the winter, but to also stabilize it. By remembering to fill and stabilize the fuel tank, you protect the gas tank from rust and other issues that could potentially lead to the car not starting when it’s time to take it out of storage.

“Fill the fuel tank with fresh gas and add a fuel stabilizer designed for modern ethanol-blend fuels,” says Smith. “Without this stabilizer, fuel with oxidize and become stale, causing hard starting or not starting at all come spring. Fill the gas tank completely to prevent rust inside a metal tank or moisture [from] mixing into the fuel.”

Check Your Vehicle’s Tire Pressure

Always check tire pressure before moving your car to storage. Not only does this prevent flat tires from developing while the vehicle sits, but it also saves you some grief when it’s time to take the car out.

“At minimum, the pressure in the tires should be set to the factory-recommended pressures and monitored throughout the changing winter temperatures,” says Smith. “Better yet, place [jack stands] under the axles and suspension. Lifting the vehicle will prevent potential flat spots on tires.”

“…the pressure in the tires should be set to the factory-recommended pressures and monitored throughout the changing winter temperatures.”

Kyle Smith with Hagerty Insurance

Barnes says over-inflating your tires is another way to prevent flats in storage. “Over-inflating the tires helps eliminate flat spots that could occur if the vehicle sits for an extended period.”

Protect Your Vehicle from Rodents

Rodents looking for shelter during the cold months often make their way into vehicles where there are plenty of areas to hide from wind and snow. Unfortunately, they also like to chew on electrical wires, which can be frustrating when you try to start your car again only to find out something isn’t working. Though storage facilities are good about keeping pests out of their facilities, it never hurts to have additional protection.

Smith suggests breaking up pieces of Irish Spring soap (the smell of which repels most pests) and placing various pieces around the car to keep rodents from chewing electrical components. “The engine compartment, trunk, and interior are good places to start,” he says.

Bien agrees and urges car owners to consider rodent prevention when storing a vehicle for an extended period of time. “I highly recommend some form of rodent traps to be placed near or under the vehicle. Thousands of dollars can be saved doing this.”

By following these steps to winterize your car, you can rest easy knowing your car is in good shape throughout its time in storage. Also, as Barnes points out, it never hurts to stop by your storage facility and check on your vehicle to make sure all of your precautions are still working.

Read more:
How to Winterize Your Motorcycle for Self Storage
How to Winterize Your Boat for Self Storage
How to Winterize Your RV for Self Storage


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