Proper Winter Car Storage Tips

Take a seat – we’re about to make a checklist of essentials to take care of before parking a car for the winter.

As the calendar flips through November and into December, most car enthusiasts have tucked their summer ride away for the winter. A few hardy souls are still taking their roadsters and hot rods to the corner store but with winter right around the corner, it won’t be long before gearheads have put their pride and joy into hibernation.

It’s important to do more than simply park the garage and deploy a car cover, though. Take a seat – we’re about to make a checklist of essentials to take care of before parking a car for the winter.

Clean It

This one’s simple: give the car a thorough clean, inside and out. Treat your ride to a full handwash of the exterior before pulling it into the garage. A coat of wax won’t go astray, either. Polish any glass and check for errant bugs stuck deep in the grille. Some folks stick a sock or steel wool in the exhaust pipe to keep rodents out; just remember to remove it before firing up the engine again.

Make sure to take care of the interior, too. Food wrappers and other trash can stink up the joint over the course of several months, not to mention creating an irresistible temptation for mice and other pests. If you decide to go all out and steam clean the carpets and seats, it’s a good idea to do that a week or two before storage to ensure all the water has evaporated. Standing water can cause condensation and mold.

Feeling Gassy

There are two schools of thought on how much fuel should remain in a car’s tank when it is put in storage. One group says the tank should be close to full. The other group is wrong.

Nearly brim the tank with fuel and then take a leisurely drive to your storage place. This way, the fuel tank won’t be completely full during the winter, allowing for the natural expansion properties of gasoline. A lack of empty space in the fuel tank also prevents condensation from forming, a development which could cause rust, water in the fuel, and a whole host of other problems. Toss a bottle of fuel stabilizer down the filler neck once parked in the winter spot to help keep the gas from deteriorating.

Cover Up

We don’t mean cover up a winter-stored car by piling cardboard boxes on top of it, nor do we recommend using a tarp. Invest in a breathable, lightweight car cover to prevent dust and debris from accumulating on the machine while in storage. This is especially critical if the car is being stored outdoors.

There are several styles from which to choose, ranging from basic solutions to custom-fitted covers which cost more than a mortgage payment. Some covers allow for access to the car without having to remove the entire cover, while others have pocket-like areas for sideview mirrors and rear wings. If outdoor winter storage is a reality, some covers offer a few well-placed weights sewn into the outer edge to prevent the cover from flapping in the breeze like a bad toupee.

It’s Electrifying

One of the most disappointing feelings is twisting a car’s key on the first day of summer after a very long winter ... only to be greeted with silence. If the battery has died, it will surely leave you with a fistful of no-go. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to ward off this soul-crushing event.

Some drivers like to remove the battery altogether when storing their car. This, of course, requires a rudimentary knowledge of mechanics and a few hand tools, both of which are not readily available to every car owner. If one does decide to take out the vehicle’s battery prior to storage, remember to stash it somewhere warm. Cold temperatures can freeze a battery, potentially splitting the casing and causing all sorts of problems.

Another popular solution is to invest in a battery tender. These units provide a slow trickle of electrical charge to the battery, preventing long-term damage from inactivity. This is not unlike a slow moving stream stopping a larger pond from freezing. The trickle charger should have a float mode or automatic shutoff so the battery doesn’t overcharge. Run the charger cables up through the engine bay so the hood can remain closed and the car cover can stay firmly in place. Not sure which approach to take with your battery? Check with your dealer if it’s a newer car.

Be Sure, Insure

Contact the insurance company to make sure the existing level of coverage is valid during storage. Some policies do not cover damage or destruction to a stored vehicle. This is due to the different nature of hazards faced by cars in storage.

Sure, there’s no chance of getting smoked at a traffic light because that guy in the SUV is texting on his phone, but there is a chance that the place in which the car is stored could catch on fire, burning to the ground and taking your car with it. Read the policy, talk to an adjuster, and modify any insurance coverage accordingly.

With a bit of planning, most of these suggestions can be carried out in short order after parking one’s summer ride in its winter resting spot. It is often said that a bit of preventative maintenance can ward off expensive repairs down the road, and nowhere is that more evident than when storing a car during the coldest months. By preparing for winter storage, one can be assured of great summer driving.

Be sure to Read: Five Best Cars to Own as Winter Beaters

Cover Up

We don’t mean cover up a winter-stored car by piling cardboard boxes on top of it, nor do we recommend using a tarp. Invest in a breathable, lightweight car cover to prevent dust and debris from accumulating on the machine while in storage. This is especially critical if the car is being stored outdoors.

There are several styles from which to choose, ranging from basic solutions to custom-fitted covers which cost more than a mortgage payment. Some covers allow for access to the car without having to remove the entire cover, while others have pocket-like areas for sideview mirrors and rear wings. If outdoor winter storage is a reality, some covers offer a few well-placed weights sewn into the outer edge to prevent the cover from flapping in the breeze like a bad toupee.

It’s Electrifying

One of the most disappointing feelings is twisting a car’s key on the first day of summer after a very long winter ... only to be greeted with silence. If the battery has died, it will surely leave you with a fistful of no-go. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to ward off this soul-crushing event.

Some drivers like to remove the battery altogether when storing their car. This, of course, requires a rudimentary knowledge of mechanics and a few hand tools, both of which are not readily available to every car owner. If one does decide to take out the vehicle’s battery prior to storage, remember to stash it somewhere warm. Cold temperatures can freeze a battery, potentially splitting the casing and causing all sorts of problems.

Another popular solution is to invest in a battery tender. These units provide a slow trickle of electrical charge to the battery, preventing long-term damage from inactivity. This is not unlike a slow moving stream stopping a larger pond from freezing. The trickle charger should have a float mode or automatic shutoff so the battery doesn’t overcharge. Run the charger cables up through the engine bay so the hood can remain closed and the car cover can stay firmly in place. Not sure which approach to take with your battery? Check with your dealer if it’s a newer car.

Be Sure, Insure

Contact the insurance company to make sure the existing level of coverage is valid during storage. Some policies do not cover damage or destruction to a stored vehicle. This is due to the different nature of hazards faced by cars in storage.

Sure, there’s no chance of getting smoked at a traffic light because that guy in the SUV is texting on his phone, but there is a chance that the place in which the car is stored could catch on fire, burning to the ground and taking your car with it. Read the policy, talk to an adjuster, and modify any insurance coverage accordingly.

With a bit of planning, most of these suggestions can be carried out in short order after parking one’s summer ride in its winter resting spot. It is often said that a bit of preventative maintenance can ward off expensive repairs down the road, and nowhere is that more evident than when storing a car during the coldest months. By preparing for winter storage, one can be assured of great summer driving.

Be sure to Read: Five Best Cars to Own as Winter Beaters


  • FILED UNDER
  • Winter Car Storage Tips
Join the Conversation
0 Comments
Show Comments

Autocatch will help you find your next vehicle