As an example I will deal with a common storage need;
classic cars, stored over winter.
First of all cars must be under cover. Cars
left outside are virtually impossible to protect, whatever outdoor cover
manufacturers and vendors tell you! This is especially true in our cold, damp
and humid climate. Temperature and humidity changes will cause condensation and
wind will cause rubbing, whatever space age technology is used in that fancy
new car cover!
Hopefully, storage is available in a garage
attached or near to the house with regular access. Ideally power
will be available for battery conditioner and frost protection.
An air chamber is an ideal solution, but your
car still needs some preparation if it’s not going to be driven. Another
excellent investment is a Permabag, perfect for especially damp conditions.
Many vehicle components deteriorate with age
as well as use, and some deteriorate faster when the car is not in use! A mild
steel exhaust is a good example. It should also be noted that all rubber
components deteriorate with age, and some aftermarket replacement parts can
degrade within a year! In any case, most, if not all, rubber parts should be
renewed every ten years or so as a preventative measure. Special
attention should be paid to brake hoses and cylinder seals for obvious safety
Pre-storage preparation is the most important
aspect of protecting your car during storage.
Plan for at least half a day, or longer if
you are doing an annual service.
It is a good idea to get into a routine of
doing your full annual service just before winter storage as this will cover
some of the important tasks to be undertaken.
Try to plan the preparation for a suitable
dry day, check the weather forecast for humidity levels as well as rain.
Check the hydraulic fluid(s) for condition.
Hydraulic fluid should be changed periodically, now is a good time if it has
not been done recently!
Grease or oil all the lubrication points
together with all hinges, locks, cables, etc.
Check coolant, if it is not “as new” then
flush and change to prevent corrosion. Check all the coolant hoses, if they
look old or show any signs of hardening or cracking, then they need to be
replaced. Either do it now or order the parts ready for the spring. Note that
coolant glycol level needs to remain consistent to maximise hose life.
Check the screenwash for antifreeze content!
Not sure? replace with known good fluid.
You can also change the oil and filter now or
to save time (having to warm up the engine twice) you can do that after the
final drive before storing.
Now it’s time to wash, dry and polish the
car. There is a guide to washing here. Pay particular attention to drying
out doors, trim, boot and window seals etc. Use an airline or take the car for
If not done recently, apply polish to all
paintwork and chrome, use a glass cleaner and make sure all the rubber parts
are also protected with suitable preservative. Make sure the soft top is raised
and fitted correctly on convertibles and again treat with suitable protectant.
Vacuum and clean the interior. If the car has
leather upholstery; clean and feed. Apply protection to plastic vinyl and
rubber. Apply polish to all chrome parts such as handbrake lever, gear shift,
seat adjust handles, mirror bracket, seatbelt parts etc.
Lift the carpets to clean underneath and make
sure there is no damp. If necessary remove the carpets to dry them and to allow
the interior to dry out.
Remove any papers or documents from the car,
including the glove-box, for both security and to protect them.
Now it’s time to drive the car and make sure
it is up to temperature. A good thirty minute run should do the trick.
Fill the fuel tank while you are out. This
reduces the chance of corrosion in the tank. You can also pick up any fluids
that you found that you needed earlier, on the way!
While the engine is hot you can change the
engine oil and filter. Dirty oil is contaminated with acids and water that
can cause premature bearing failure and corrosion inside the engine.
When the car has cooled, spray WD40 or
similar on all exposed metal and fasteners on the underside and in the engine
bay. The carrier fluid soon evaporates leaving a protective film on
the hose clamps, coil distributer, plugs, brackets, cables and fasteners etc.
This can also be sprayed on all exposed electrical connectors and wiring,
attention should be paid to the condition of all the connectors while doing
Increase the tyre pressure to about one and a
half times normal to help prevent flat spots
If the floor of the garage is (or may become)
damp then cover with plastic.
If there is likelihood of rodents set some
traps or take whatever precautions to prevent nesting.
Park the car in the garage where it is going
to rest. Do not apply the handbrake. Chock the wheels or leave in gear if
Either connect an automatic trickle charger
(battery conditioner) or remove the battery.
If you are not planning to start the car
during the lay up then you can overfill hydraulic fluids to remove air, so long
as you are able to (and remember to) re-adjust before starting the car.
If the car is not to be started and is in
damp or cold conditions then it is a good idea to remove the plugs and spray
some upper-cylinder lubricant into the cylinders before replacing the plugs.
Open the windows slightly for ventilation
Cover the car with a soft cloth cover. There
is no need to buy an expensive cover; you can use old bed sheets, duvet covers,
curtains etc. The main thing is that the car is completely covered
to protect from dust and other airborne contaminants, insects, bird and bat
droppings etc. If there are likely to be any leaks or drips, either
use a suitable outdoor cover or make sure that the cloth sheets are protected
with plastic. Cheap tarpaulins available from builders merchants are good for
A simple way to reduce humidity (and frost)
during the colder months is an old style (not energy saving) 40W light bulb
(switched on of course!) positioned under the car. This creates just enough
heat, without using too much power or creating a fire risk. Obviously
keep it secured well away from anything flammable!
If you are able to start the car
occasionally, remember that it must be run up to full temperature, and ideally
driven (to put load on the engine and to run all bearings and seals). But,
it is important to do this only on dry low humidity days. Once a
month is a good interval.
If it is not possible to start the car, then
it is useful to remove the cover and air the car out, check for any damp or
moisture. If there is any find and cure the cause! Even if this is
only done once over winter it can help.
Adjust fluid levels and tyre pressures.
If the car has not been run periodically then
it can be a good idea to spin the engine without fuel to build oil
pressure. You can do this by disconnecting the fuel pump and it
helps to remove the spark plugs. You can check and clean them if you didn’t do
that before storing.
Start and warm up, there may be a smell of
burning oil from the exhaust if you were liberal with the protecting oil. But
it will disappear very quickly.
If you changed the oil before storage check
again for leaks around the filter.
Check the brake pedal is firm and go for a
drive, cautiously at first! Drive the car for 30 minutes to an hour checking
the function of all switches and lamps. Unless you have great confidence keep
your route quite close to home, so you can stop and check fluid levels etc. if
needed. Listen out for any strange noises. Brakes might rumble a little at
first if the discs are rusty.
Check the car for any leaks.
Now give the car a good wash and dry and take
for another run. Enjoy the summer!
problems that can occur after the car has been sitting
The clutch friction plate is stuck to the
flywheel and pressure plate. This gives the symptom of no clutch
function when pressing the pedal even though normal resistance is felt. This
can be released by starting the car in gear with the clutch and brake pedals
Points type fuel pump not working (doesn’t
tick) caused by points stuck together. This can normally be fixed with a few
light taps (with a wooden or rubber mallet or the end of a hammer handle) to
the pump body.
Security is important and a simple alarm with
PIR is relatively inexpensive. Depending on the type and location of the garage
an alarm box may be a deterrent or an advert.
Make sure the car is insured, if you have a
six month policy, check about laid up cover for the rest of the year
Try to set your MOT time to the summer, so
you can drive the car immediately when spring comes.