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Hagerty Employee

5 essentials that allow your classic to sleep peacefully when the snow falls

Melissa Jones writes: I'm new to old cars. Is there anything special you do to prepare a car for winter storage? Yes. How much or how little you do depends on the length of the layover and how thorough you want to be.
New Driver

An alternative to fill the tank with ordinary high octane fuel is to run it as dry as you dear and then fill it with Alkylate gasoline from Aspen, Neste, or AFPM. Basically, the same stuff Gardners or lumberjack's or other professionals use in their handheld equipment to save on the environment and to avoid headaches or exhaust induced illnesses.
This type of fuel is typically very clean and contains very few ingredients which makes them extremely stable and gives excellent long-term storage ability. Normal fuel starts to break down within 30 days. Not that I wouldn't use 30 day old fuel, but it gets progressively worse there after.
Alkylate gasoline typically doesn't degrade in 90 days or more.

Any engine that sits for prolonged times will fare well with this fuel in the system. Just make sure it's run a few minutes before storing it away.

I have found that a product known as "Fresh Cab" works VERY well to keep mice out. I put one in the interior, and one in the trunk. One can also be placed in the engine compartment, if one does not want to leave the hood open. I swap them for new ones every 3-4 months. It is a bag saturated with balsam fir oil, and is money quite well spent.

As for tires sitting, it is important to not let the tires stay in one place under load for long, if the tires are high-speed-rated. Many of these tires have a nylon belt inside that will flat-spot permanently; I found this out the hard way. Just moving the car a quarter-turn of the wheels every 2-3 weeks can be a big help in protecting these tires.

When I lived in Chicago I pumped up the tires to a higher PSI than normal (40 or so instead of 33) and had a smart trickle charger when it was parked. I also started the car once a week or two. I was gentle on that first tank of gas on what was left in it. On the next tank I was drove normal. Never had any issues.
New Driver

It’s worth mentioning - do NOT start the car for just a short period. It must be run enough to get the oil up to operating temp or acidic condensation and unburnt fuel will accumulate in the oil and be a lot worse than just letting the engine sit.
If u are in a damp climate and going to let the car sit all winter put a little light oil in the cylinders and turn the engine over a bit before putting the spark plugs back in
Intermediate Driver

If you can handle the smell of mothballs, they work great. I've used them for years and have had no rodent problems. I use dryer sheets in the car. I spread mothballs around the garage. Toss a few around the outside of the building too. Don't need a lot to get the job done.
New Driver

I've had great luck with bay leafs. After the mothballs, drier sheets and Irish spring soap all failed me years ago.
Instead of buying the plastic pieces to go under the tires to keep them round. I used 2×8's and used my chop saw to round them out for the tires to sit in. Blow the tires up to 45 psi and good to go. Saved a couple hundred dollars.
Intermediate Driver

Love that buick, had a 52 special sedan... Looks like a barn full of rodents there... As far as the Irish spring, rodents have eaten it under the hood of my e39 BMW. They seem to like it...😐

The photo of a guy covering his Buick with a plastic tarp while it’s stored in a dirty, mouse filled hay barn isn’t the best example.
Intermediate Driver

I used moth balls and dryer sheets for years, with a few snap traps and the neighbors cat (he likes to bring my neighbor a "present" every now and then!) and been pretty lucky thru the years. Added Irish Spring to the mixture 2 years ago. I watched a fellow on You Tube this summer experimenting with different rodent repellents and the peppermint oil worked far better than the others. He had a box with a plexi cover and a camera mounted above to film the activity overnight. Placed some sunflower seeds in the box as bait and then placed moth balls one night, Irish Spring another and so on. The only one that the mice stayed away from was the peppermint oil. I have added that to my mix this year. Over inflate the tires (I also park it on scrap rug remnants) non ethanol fill up with Sta-bil and fresh oil change. Disconnect the battery and plug up the exhaust holes. I start it every few weeks but it's usually too crappy out to go for a short drive. But it helps to satisfy the desire a little just to hear it running for a while. And I do keep it covered in the garage with a car cover.
Pit Crew

Unless I did not see it. I am surprised no one mentioned engine fogging. I have been doing this for 50 years with no problems. First of all, I have a 1987 Firebird with 12,000 miles, like new. I store the car in a "Car Bag" Its like a huge zip lock bag. You drive the car on the bag, fold over the bag extension and zip it closed. I also use the dryer sheets with great success. I also use desiccant in 2 pound bags. I use about 15 of them. I place about 6 in the car on the floor, however placed in aluminum cake pans. If they get wet, they will stain the carpet. I place the rest under the car, inside the bag. Now to the fogging. I use Marvel Mystery oil. I warm the car up in the garage, with door open, till I get operating temp. Taking off the air cleaner, I slowly dribble the Marvel oil down the carb or in this case, a Holley EFI unit.
until lots of smoke starts to come out of the exhaust. I then shut the car off. I remove the battery and put it on a tender. In the spring, reverse the procedure. The car will start immediately but stumble until the oil in the cylinders is burned off. By doing this, you will coat the intake manifold, cylinders and the entire exhaust system with oil. Highly recommend fogging carb and Holley EFI engines. Never had a problem.

I worked winterizing boats for years and every boat was fogged with our special mixture. Oil, stabil and old two stroke oil we couldn't sell. Never had a problem.

Even though I live in NC and can drive mine year round I still pull into shop, dust them off and cover them (may not drive for a few weeks at a time), I always cover, but do not close the hood as I have always been told that mice love dark places. I use dryer sheets and if I am going to be doing work on them and not going to drive for some time I put on jackstands. Always make sure that car cover covers the exhaust tips.

Lotta good advice above and the many posters. But Fredjgeiger makes an oft overlooked point: Better not to start your engine than to run it only a few minutes to move the temperature gauge, warm the oil, which only allows carbonic acid to form. Old mechanic's test was to place your hand on the sump after a run. If too hot to keep there more'n a second or two, you got the oil hot enough.

You want, depending on size of your engine and other variables, at least enough miles to equalize temperature of block, head(s), manifold(s).

RickL and others right about keeping the hood open if you've mice. A friend whose lower garage had such wee visitors, left his '36 Cord Phaeton's hood propped open, top down, with a light left on all night to deter them.

The Air Force had a rat problem at a base in Alaska in the '50s, discovered terriers far better ratters than cats. Dogs thrive being vegan, as do we, while cats kill songbirds and need animal flesh. Sorry any cat ladies who happen to be car folk.
New Driver

Batteries > Disconnect or Remove ?
Been hibernating vehicles in the U.P. since '86. Done both. Best results is to bring that fully charged battery into a warm basement, placed on a wooden shelf of some kind, OFF the concrete floor. I thought that 'concrete floor' thing was the usual old wives' tale, but it cost me a brand new battery, even tho' the basement temp never went below 65F. Batteries will survive the UP winter [down to -35F or so] in the vehicle, ground disconnected, fully charged. BUT, my experience is this shortens their life, especially if that one winter storage turns into two in a row.
New Driver

Rodents > Traps, Poison. or Dryer Sheets ?
Hands down, the dryer sheets. You want to keep the little evil critters AWAY from your vehicle. You're not going to have enough traps to effect this, and d-CON doesn't work nearly fast enough to keep them out. The REAL problem with both is that when the critter expires, the decomposition creates a pretty foul odor that will remain for some very annoying time if the critter got into the interior or even the engine compartment. And, if you put the poison out before the snow covers their regular food, they will take and store the stuff, not eat it. I didn't figure this out when I put out d-CON one August until they got through the 2nd box, and search for corpses only found neat little piles in hidden corners of the old garage.

Utilising the resource of the local "dollar stores", I usually allocate one box of sheets for the interior and one for the engine compartment & trunk, remembering to put a couple in the snout of the air cleaner [found a nest in there one year]. Then, usually 2 - 3 boxes on the floor and on all the shelves, piles of stuff, etc, making sure I line the periphery of the garage fairly well so that they are deterred from entry as much as the sheets will do. One good drive w/windows open in the spring will eliminate 90% of the 'scent' of the sheets [a generally annoying scent, I admit].
New Driver

Lot of good information. I also do most of the tips mentioned like non ethanol fuel, oil change prior to storage, remove the battery and bring indoors for charging, air up the tires as well but I’ve been using those rubber-like pads to park on. Also, I’ve been sealing the car in a “carjacket” storage bag with cookie sheets of desiccant. I never have any signs of moisture like surface rust on the brake rotors, etc.
One thing I would add, especially for us folks in cooler areas, avoid washing your car just prior to storing it. I use a blower and/or compressor to get water out of areas and let it dry out for several days before it goes in the bag. Once stored I never use a heater to warm the garage for projects. Let the car stay cold to avoid condensation.

Have a good winter.
New Driver

Both my summer fun cars are convertibles. Both have drain tubes that channel water runoff down through the body and out to the underside / roadway..... i always check that these haven't got clogged with debris which, if wet, will freeze and can crack the drain tube... terrible to find out later that this is how the rust gets started inside / behind panels...
New Driver

Good points. In the "Tires" section you should also recommend to over-inflate the tires if the car is not on jack stands. I helps avoiding flat spots, as does moving the car back or forth every week or two.
New Driver

I recently purchased a ‘02,ZO6. Here in the Bronx, NY, I have a garage but no heat. Jacking up the car to get it off the ground is not an option. Any ideas? Great article.

Advanced Driver

If you periodically start you car during the winter, you should let it run until the exhaust is hot end to end. If the tailpipe is dripping water (condensation), it is not hot enough yet. If you stop too early, hot water vapor will condense in the cooler exhaust, and over time the exhaust will rust from the inside out. About 40 minutes does it for an average car.

Alternatively, you can start and let run for 1 minute and then stop. This will get the engine lubricated while minimizing the condensation problem.
Advanced Driver

Been fighting the mice for years. After $3,500 worth of damage to an AMG, I began trying different stuff. For me:
- mothballs never worked, leave too much bad smell after taking them out, and under certain conditions may dissolve over the winter.
- Irish Spring actually attracted the buggers.
- Dryer sheets, specifically Bounce, work sometimes.
- Peppermint oil works sometimes.
- Fresh Cab, a mix of herbs and whatever, works sometimes.

My current solution - a paper plate covered with a dryer sheet, a Fresh Cab bag, and a couple of cotton balls with peppermint oil. One plate under the hood if covered (open the hood if not covered), one on each row of seats, and one in the trunk. This combo appears to work for me here in NH. And the bonus is the car(s) smell nice in the springtime.

Pit Crew

Rodents love dark places to set up housekeeping. I have a friend who doesn't cover his car, leaves the hood and trunk open, and leaves a light on in his garage at night.