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Winterizing Your Car

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Winterizing Your Car

Maybe this story is coming to some of you a bit late, but here in California, all we need to do in most parts of this state is park our cars in the garage, so our checklist is more of a one-and-done aaffair.

We do, however, realize that for much of the rest of the country, there are some important things you need to do. The further north you go, the longer your checklist will be.

First, you’ll want to check your antifreeze.

Next, you should consider putting in a stabilizer in your fuel tank and remember to start the car once a week. If the car has any ethanol in the tank, you’ll want to drain it.

If possible, it is a good idea to drive your car at least once a month if at all possible and safe.  If you live in a place that rarely gets below freezing and almost never sees snow then this should be pretty much all you need to do.

If you live in colder climates, then your winterization checklist will be a bit longer. Here are some tips for Winterizing Your Car:

  1. Wash your car before storage. Add a fresh coat of wax so as to avoid scratches from putting on and removing a car cover.
  2. Cover your vehicle with a soft, breathable fabric car cover. Purchasing a good quality car cover is a good investment, as good ones can last ten years or more.
  3. Make sure your car has a full tank of gas before storage. Parking it with a full tank will help prevent moisture that will contaminate your fuel.
  4. Add a fuel stabilizer to extend the life of the fuel. This is especially important with today’s ethanol fuel, although we’d recommend getting the ethanol out of the tank altogether. More important than simply adding the stabilizer to your fuel tank though, is running the car to ensure the stabilizer makes its way into the fuel lines and carburetor or injectors. That means turning the engine over or better yet, running the engine for a few minutes after you’ve added the stabilizer to the fuel system, then shutting the engine off.
  5. Make sure you change your oil and the filter to reduce the risk of contaminants that can potentially do damage to your engine while your car has a bit of downtime. Additionally, there are oil manufacturers that make oil specifically for vehicles that are often stored for long periods of time.
  6. Placing boxes of baking soda in the trunk, interior, and under the hood will help absorb moisture and eliminate odors.
  7. Close all your windows.
  8. Store your vehicle in a place that’s dry and dark. Somewhere with a concrete floor is preferred. This will help keep moisture away from your vehicle.
  9. Place drip pans under the engine, transmission, and differential to see if there is an accumulated leakage you are unaware of.
  10. Start the car once per week and keep it running for at least 10 minutes to avoid leaving any water in the combustion chamber and exhaust components.
  11. If you have to store your vehicle offsite, call your insurance company to make sure your coverage is valid at that particular storage location.
  12. Make sure you either unhook the battery and store it where it will not freeze. Avoid keeping the battery on concrete floors as it will discharger. Otherwise, you can place the battery on a trickle charger.


Of course, not everyone has the luxury of a garage or climate-controlled storage for their hot rod. As such, you may have no choice but to keep it outside. If this is your only option, there are still some things you can do to lessen the risk of exposure to cold and moisture.

Storing your vehicle outside:

  1. Keep the car covered and dry at all times. (This should go without saying.)
  2. Place a plastic barrier under your vehicle to keep the moisture from getting to it.
  3. Place carpet or plywood underneath the tires to keep them from sinking into the ground.
  4. If your vehicle will be exposed to freezing temperatures, make sure to remove any personal belongings that may freeze, burst, and make a mess.
  5. Put plastic bags on the air cleaner/air inlet and exhaust pipes to keep rodents out.

Winterizing Your Car Is Always a Good Idea with Collectible Cars

Winterizing your car is more difficult and more important when we’re talking about classic cars, antiques and custom cars with custom paint.

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