by Christine Abbott
The dark nights and freezing temperatures mean we all think about going into hibernation for the winter. With wet weather, salt spreaders and icy roads many of us will be thinking about putting our treasured car into the garage until spring. It is important to store your pride and joy properly so here are some tips to make sure that in the spring your car will be ready to go go go!
Cleaning. The first job is to give the car a really good clean and wax, organic materials like bird droppings and bugs are acidic and will slowly eat away at the paintwork and chrome and don’t forget the wheels arches and undercarriage. As water can settle around rubber seals and trims make sure these are dried off – a microfibre cloth or borrow the hairdryer will work. If you have leather seats and trims, then treat them too.
Rodents hibernate too. The plan is not to provide a comfortable hotel for mice and rates. So, when you clean the inside remember to remove all crumbs dropped from the snacks eaten on the summer blats. It’s not just our leftover snacks they are attracted too but also insultation materials and air filters so block entry points such as the exhaust pipe with material – old socks for example or steel wool and close all air vents. Strangely tumble dryer sheets are a great rodent deterrent the brand ‘Bounce’ - seem to come out top, so pop a few in the car and it is left smelling sweet!
Brakes. Check the brake fluid and remember to leave the handbrake off. If you leave the handbrake on you risk fusing the brake pads to the discs. To stop the car rolling away use chocks and put the car in gear.
Moisture and car covers . Damp is the invisible enemy so storing your car in a garage where there is air flow will help. Other things can help so you can buy silica gel packs or raid the kitchen cabinet for baking soda and pop a container in the footwell. If you have soft top roof/hood or half hood, put it on or open it out and hang it up. Folded up creates a perfect environment for mould. Car covers are a great idea but do make sure its lightweight and breathable and if not tailored elasticated to fit snugly. Using a lightweight cover in cost effective for those of us storing a car indoors where it can be used as protection against dust and debris and in the touring season easily packed for protection against the weather, hot, cold, wind and rain, and from unwelcome attention, out of sight piece of mind. Storm Car Covers offer a number of options including a the lightweight, Voyager car cover for Caterham’s, Lotus and Westfield’s . Alternatively, there are fleece lined and tailored for indoor use for Caterham’s, Westfield’s and Lotus, or the heavy duty Stormforce that is breathable and overs protection outside in all weathers see Storm Car Covers for all the options available.
Tyres. Tyres like to be rolling and don’t like being static as they can lose their shape – known as flat spotting. The simplest way to prevent this is to pump them up to the maximum recommended air pressure (but no more) and keep checking and topping up if needed, as the change in temperature can cause the air pressure to decrease. It is also a good idea to move the car slightly, rotating the wheels every so often. The alternatives are to lift the car so the tyres are not in contact with the ground this also takes pressure off the suspension, or invest in car tyre cradles.
Engine Oil. While you are using the car the impurities that build up as a by product of fuel consumption are driven off but left they will corrode engine parts. So, if you are storing your car for three months or more then carry out an oil and filter change, (worth changing the sump plug washer whilst you are doing this!) check levels and let it run through the engine. Starting and running the engine occasionally will keep things running nicely.
Fuel. This is a topic that divides owners. The plan is to reduce the strain on the petrol valves and reduce the risk of moisture being trapped. Some experts say it’s best to fill the tank to minimise the amount of petrol exposed to the air, and then add a stabilising product which will help to ward off corrosion, oxidation and keep the fuel in grade. Others, including the RAC suggest leaving the tank as good as empty, then when bringing your car out of storage, add a splash of fresh fuel before filling it entirely.
Battery. A battery will discharge naturally over time. The easy low-tech solution is to disconnect it. Alternatively connect the car to a trickle charger.
Anti-freeze. Check when the antifreeze was last changed and whether that’s in keeping with the manufactures guide. Check the levels of anti-freeze and coolant in the system and top up/change as necessary
Grease points. When a car is not used for a period of time, just like us parts that are supposed to flex and move become brittle and start to crumble or crack, especially in the cold. Unlike humans its relatively easy to stop this happening by greasing steering components, the prop shaft, spring shackles and suspension ball joints. You could also treat rubber seals with silicone grease to help maintain their sealing properties and lubricate locks.
Wipers. If you have a windscreen, remove, or lift the wipers up and off the windscreen entirely. Alternatively insert a piece of cloth or paper to create a barrier between the wiper and glass. Rubber tends to fuse itself to glass when left so keeping them apart stops the rubber deteriorating and becoming useless in the rain.
Save some money. If you are not planning on using your car over winter, it makes sense to save a bit of money but think carefully before you do. Depending on the country you live in there maybe financial savings to be made while the car is in hibernation on tax and insurance. That said, even if your car is in storage, it is advisable to keep it insured.
Roll on Spring!
All pictures by kind permission of Storm Car Covers