Inactivity can be detrimental to a classic car. A car lying dormant can lead to numerous and potentially expensive damages: rubber rot, interior mildew, outer rust, engine parts seizing, short circuit wiring, paint bubbling, fiberglass cracking, chrome pitting, brakes freezing, and batteries dying. Many car collectors are shocked, after spending all winter long California Dreaming of cruising in the spring, to find their dream car has become a nightmare of problems over a short time in storage. Here’s how to give your “baby” the love it deserves …even when you’re not behind the wheel.

Materials You’ll Need

  • Car wash and wax
  • Rubber lubricant
  • Old gallon milk jugs (for storing drained fluids)
  • Baking soda and plastic bags
  • Grease (for lubricating fittings and pack wheel bearings)
  • 4 jack stands
  • 2×4 to drepress clutch
  • Tools (for removing battery)
  • 1 car cover

1. Detail your car. The first act of love you can show your classic is to detail it thoroughly. Wash the dirt and road salts from the top and bottom – get underneath there and scrub. Next, wax her down. Do not buff off chromed surfaces yet. This can wait until you remove the car from storage. Lubricate all it’s rubber parts and clean it’s upholstery. Vacuuming up any food crumbs will discourage animals from getting some action in your back seat over the winter.

2. Drain your fluids. Ideally, you should drain your car’s fluids while it’s still warm. When it is heated and circulating, oil picks up and emulsifies contaminants. That’s why you must always wear gloves to protect yourself from hot engine oil burns. Make sure the oil contains corrosion protection.

3. Put fresh grease into your universal joints. Don’t all our joints hurt if we stop exercising them? This only applies if your car has lube fittings. Put clean grease on all of the steering and suspension fittings and pack the front wheel bearings.

4. Bleed the brakes. The best way to insure your baby against break deterioration is to drain your system of old fluids and refill with new ones.

5. Drain the fuel tank. This is only necessary if you are storing your car for longer than 6 months. Once you’ve done that, start your car to run the rest of the gas out of the lines. Any old gas left behind can clog carburetors and valves. If you are only going to be storing your car for a few months, you can simply add a can of gasoline stabilizer instead.

6. Drain the cooling system. Empty out the radiator leaving the petcock open and the radiator cap off. This is so air can continue to circulate. Then, refill it with a rust-inhibiting antifreeze. Don’t forget to disconnect the heater hoses and drain the heater too. After this, all the car’s fluids should be completely drained. Be a friend to the environment: Contact your local household and hazardous waste service for proper disposal!

7. Remove the battery. Wash it down with water and baking soda, then rinse it off with distilled water. Store it off the ground, and in a dry place – but not on concrete. You can also hook it up to a battery charger/maintainer to keep the battery alive.

8. Put the car on jack stands. Remove the tires and stack them, placing cardboard between each one as you do so. Finally, cover tires to protect them from harm.

9. Depress the clutch and lock it in position. To do this, press a 2 x 4 against the clutch and the front of the seat. This will prevent your clutch plates from sticking together in storage.

10. The last kiss goodbye:

  • Roll down your windows so air can circulate.
  • Open boxes of baking soda, to absorb moisture, and put them in various places inside the cab (mothballs will also work).
  • Keep moisture at bay by putting a plastic bag over the carburetor.
  • Stuff a rag up the tailpipe to keep out the critters.
  • Store convertibles with the top up. Convertible tops can shrink if they are left in the down position for an extended period of time.
  • Tuck your car in for a long winter’s nap (with a proper car cover…not a blanket…save that snuggie for your sweetie). When choosing a car cover, it’s very important to select the right kind of fabric. Cotton flannel fabrics breathe well, allowing air to circulate through them as well as being “cottony soft” and gentle on your paint job. On the other hand, cotton/polyester fabric blends trap heat and moisture. Plastic films don’t breathe at all and, therefore, should be avoided.
  • Check your insurance to be sure your car is covered throughout storage. “If the car is at least 15 years old and is driven less than 2,500 miles per year, it may be eligible for a collector’s policy, which can save you a significant amount of money,” says Jill Bookman of American Collectors Insurance, one of the nation’s leading providers of collector car insurance.

Photo credit: gS32tom