Skip to main content

Putting Your Vintage Car to Bed for the Winter

Workspaces & Tools  /   /  By Jim Pickering

Photo credit: Nikki Boertman / The Commercial Appeal

Winter is one of my favorite seasons, but it’s not usually a very good time for using your classic – unless that classic is a vintage 4×4 pickup and you love plowing through snowdrifts.

For the majority of us, winter generally means our classic cars sit for a couple of months while we wait out the weather. And while sitting can be hard on old cars, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some quick tips to help you make sure your car will be ready to roll on that first sunny day of spring.

Keep it Dry
Moisture is your car’s enemy, so your best bet is to find an indoor parking space. A heated spot is ideal, but anything enclosed will do. If you have to keep your car outside, get some dessicant packs to help suck up any moisture that might make it in. Remember: moisture equals mold and possible rust, and none of that will be fun to find on that first 60-degree day of April.

Keep it Charging
Cold temperatures can kill batteries, and so can slight draws on your electrical system. Products like this Battery Tender will keep your battery charged and ready to go, so when you get in and hit the key a few months down the road, you can pretty much guarantee that it’ll crank over. At a starting bid of just $39.99, this is a lot cheaper than a new battery.

Top Off Those Fluids!
Cars that sit can develop leaks, especially from engines, rear ends, and automatic transmissions. It’s always a good idea to make sure all your fluids are full before you put your car into storage – that way, you’ll be able to easily spot any leaky seals quickly when you go to move the car again, and you’ll know just how bad the leak is because you’ll know how full each component was when you parked the car.

Antifreeze is especially important during the winter months. If you have not flushed your cooling system in a while, do it before you put the car away. If the temperature gets really cold, weak antifreeze could possibly lead to a cracked engine block and thousands in repair bills. Replacing it is just cheap insurance.

Watch Out for Mice!
Furry little creatures have a habit of making your car their home during the winter months. Don’t let them move in. Keep your doors shut and windows rolled up, and be sure to check in on your car a few times just to be sure nothing has taken up residence. I tend to keep a few mouse traps handy just in case – I’ve had to evict mice from too many heaters and defrosters over the years, and I really don’t like replacing chewed-up wiring.

Treat Your Fuel
Fuel doesn’t keep forever – especially not when the weather is cold. But you don’t need to run your tank dry before storage – just get some Sta-bil. Read the instructions and use an appropriate amount to the gas in your tank, and then run the car long enough to fill the fuel lines and carburetor with the treated fuel. When springtime rolls around, you won’t need to worry about bad gas in your tank.

Relax That Suspension
Long periods of sitting are hard on springs, shocks, suspension components, and tires. I like to get my cars up off their suspensions if they’re going to be sitting for more than a month or so. This lets the suspension hang and gets the pressure off the tires, helping to prevent flat spots. A set of jack stands like these are perfect for the job.

At the very least, make sure your tires are properly inflated, and if you can, roll your car back and forth once or twice throughout the winter. It’ll help keep your tires from turning square.

Being proactive can save you a lot of trouble down the road – but there is no substitute for a good thorough once-over when spring comes. That’s the time to replace all your fluids, check out the brakes and tires, and generally go over your car from bumper to bumper. But that’s a couple months down the road. In the meantime, enjoy the Holiday season. Spring will be here before you know it!

About the Author

Related Posts

Here’s the central question: drive it or store it?

Maintain your tires properly, and they will take care of you and your passengers.

Car-mounted cameras can produce a record of a traffic accident or create a vacation travelogue.

Comment Using Facebook


  1. Lawrence January 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm Reply

    Does Sta-bil have lead in it? Is it truly safe to use in an unleaded fuel only vehicle?

    • Steve January 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm Reply

      I’ve used Sta-bil or Seafoam in my Classic’s for years. It’s totally safe and highly recomended. If you don’t you will be sorry, as the gas we get now days is a very poor grade. It starts to go bad in (beleave it or not) 30 days! Use it in your lawn mower/ snow blower gas too.

  2. JW DUKE January 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm Reply

    My Likes and dislikes for storage. If you are worried about a rundown Battery then remove it from the car and store it in a warm area. I put 5 pounds of extra AIR in each tire, NO problems with square. Always change OLD OIL for new / remove old acids.Cover with a SOFT COVER then a Car cover that breathes. To keep out mice, cloths dryer sheets 2 boxes, dial soap bars 3, air freshers 3, don’t forget the trunk. It is not a good idea to run the car for xx minutes because it never dries out the exhaust system nor gets the oil hot enough to remove moisture. Be sure to fill the gas tank. If you think this gas will turn bad then after storsge drain tank and us gas in lawnmower, I am never sorry. All those fuel helpes do is cost you extra $$.

  3. Tobin January 13, 2013 at 12:27 am Reply

    If you have an older vintage car, removing the battery when the car is in storage for several months might be a good idea, but if the car you’re going to store is of a later vintage, don’t do it. Hook the car up to a trickle charger during the storage. Later model cars with complex electrical systems, particularly those with PCM’s (Powertrain Control Modules) must maintain what is essentially firmware programming. Unhooking the battery for long periods risks corrupting this programming, or losing it all together. If this happens it will require a $100-$200 visit to the dealership for PCM Flash Reprogramming. This software program is almost always proprietary property of the auto manufacturer and is mandatory if you want to get your car driving normally again.

    Electronics in modern cars have improved them in too many ways to count here, but with complex electronics comes a level of dependency on a hot battery and solid charging system.

  4. CarShowDanonrt66 November 11, 2013 at 5:42 pm Reply

    In lew of mouse traps in the car for winter storage I been using bounce fabric softner sheets the little bugers hate this stuff and your ride smells fresh too no harm done.

Leave a Reply