There are various important things to do before storing a car for winter. And many of them are far more important than changing all the fluids for the sake of it.
Clean the car before it goes away
Blasting off the dirt with a jet wash followed by a wash with some good car shampoo will ensure the paint isn’t being attacked by corrosive elements while it’s in storage. However, make sure it’s thoroughly dry before you put it away.
Also give the alloy wheels a good clean. Preferably this should be with alloy wheel cleaner to ensure the highly corrosive brake dust that coats them is removed.
Think about fuel
Brim the tank with fuel at your nearest petrol station. This will prevent condensation forming in the fuel tank while the car is having its holiday.
Then add some fuel stabiliser. This will stop the fuel ‘going off’. If you add the fuel stabiliser after you’ve filled the car up, running the engine will allow the stabiliser to percolate through the system before you put the car away.
Wax on, wax off
Use car wax on the bodywork to protect the paintwork fully while the car is in storage. It’ll also ensure your car is resistant to any leftover winter salt on the road when you start driving it again.
Check the fluids
Have a look at the oil and/or service record. If the oil hasn’t been changed in the past 12 months, now’s the time to do it. Check the coolant system has sufficient anti-freeze too. If it’s a super cold winter, the coolant could freeze, even in a garage.
Think about the battery
One thing car batteries hate is not being used. If you can, buy a smart charger. They’re not too expensive and they will keep the battery in tip-top condition over the winter months. They’ll also ensure you don’t have to replace the battery in order to get the car working again.
What about the tyres?
What you do with the tyres really depends on how long you are storing a car for winter. At the very minimum you should ensure they are pumped up to the pressures suggested by the manufacturer in the car’s user manual.
If you’re leaving a car in storage without driving it for three months but you’re getting it out monthly or every six weeks for a run or just to get the fluids circulating, experts from tyre maker Continental say there’s little chance the tyres will suffer from flat spots (where a particular part of the tyre flattens out).
When you’re leaving your car for longer and not moving it around, car storage experts Windrush suggest over inflating your tyres by 50%. If their recommended pressure is 32psi, that means pump them up to 48psi. Just remember to return them to the correct pressure when you get the car out to drive it again.
When it’s in storage
Insert a rag into the exhaust pipe. This will stop any undesirable insects or animals making a home in your exhaust system. Do make sure to leave a note for yourself on the steering wheel so you don’t try to start the car with the exhausts blocked.
Leave the windows open a crack (assuming the car is in a garage). This will allow air to circulate around the cockpit but without letting any creatures in. Finally, don’t leave the parking brake on. Depending on how long the car is left for, it could seize on.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.