Winter Layup Part 1

If, like many of us, you have a car you do not use during the winter months, then chances are now is the time that you are looking to ‘hibernate’ your vehicle before using it again next spring or summer.

With the assistance of Car Care experts Hamilton Classic we have compiled a tips list for those of you looking to store your pride and joy at this time of year.

General Preparation

Firstly, the best thing you can do before storing a car is clean it thoroughly inside, outside and underneath. This makes sure there is no dirt festering in the crevices that can encourage corrosion to take hold. If you have a soft top car it is also worth cleaning the hood as any dirt could encourage mould to form and if you are storing the car indoors do not be tempted to leave the hood folded away as this traps moisture and can permanently mark it – put it up.

Secondly, check all your levels – ensuring they are all topped up and anything that contains water, such as coolant and washer fluid, is not going to freeze should the temperature drop below freezing. It is also worth checking to see if you have any coolant leaks and get these seen to, as coolant can stain and leave a nasty residue which can be difficult to remove. Also check the antifreeze content in the cooling system by purchasing an antifreeze checker and follow the instructions that come with it to ensure the mix is correct.

Thirdly, if you have the time – remove each of your wheel nuts, clean them and the hole they came out of or the stud they came off of with an oil based penetrating spray (such as WD40 or Gibbs Penetrating Spray) and then refit. If you do this one at a time, it will mean you don’t actually have to take the wheels off. How many times have you had a puncture and not been able to get the wheel nuts undone? If you leave a car stationary – in particular outside – this problem can be magnified. However, do not change the brake fluid at this time. This is best done when coming out of storage

Wheel Cleaner

Brakes

After washing your car ready for winter storage make sure your discs, if fitted, are dry as leaving them wet will cause the pads to stick to the disc and lock on, also rusting can form. Brake fluid is hygroscopic and naturally absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, so we recommend the brake fluid is changed every two years. The reason is that in absorbing moisture it reduces the boiling point of the fluid. The lower boiling point can cause the fluid to boil, under heavy load, which will cause poor braking – highly undesirable. It’s not a bad idea to get in your car every week or so and pump the brakes. Lastly leave your car parked, if possible, with the handbrake off as this can have a tendency to seize on over the winter months.

Fuel system/Engine

Ideally the petrol in your tank should be drained to stop a build up of moisture in the fuel, together with your carburettors. An alternative is to fill the tank up and add a stabiliser and follow the instructions by running your engine to insure the stabiliser reaches all throughout the system and is present in the carb bowl. With regard to the engine it’s a good idea to change the oil and filter. Old oil can have acids suspended in the fluid which can be potentially destructive. It’s also a good idea to remove the plugs and spray some light oil into the cylinder bores.

Fuel Drain

Tyres

Tyres are easily forgotten when storing a car. If it is going to be stationary for any length of time then tyres can suffer. There are many different opinions to help protect them and most ideas are good ones.

The three main options to consider are as follows:

1. Jack the car up and put it on axle stands so the wheels are not in contact with the ground. This not only helps the tyres but can take the strain off bearings. However it is important to make sure the car is supported on the suspension – not the chassis.

2. Pump the tyres up about 15psi higher than normal.

3. Use a product such as a ‘tyre trainer’.

Option 1 is not for everyone and if you need to use the car for whatever reason it can be a nuisance.

Option 2 is what many of us would have done in the past and can certainly help – however, perishing can be encouraged and small flat spots can still form on the tyres – although this is less of an issue in the winter than it is in the summer. You also have to remember to drop the pressures again when you wish to use the car – it can be potentially lethal not to do so.

Option 3 is the most convenient solution as tyre pressures do not necessarily need much adjustment and the ‘trainers’ will help prevent flat spots and premature perishing by supporting more of the tyre tread area. The standard tyre trainers suitable are for wheel sizes up to 17”are modular and will slot together for use on tyres wider than 215. For bigger wheel and tyre combinations there are also heavy duty tyre trainers.

One final thing to do is inspect your tyres and try and remove wherever possible any stones or debris from within the tread.

Once you have done all this you may wish, if you are going to cover the car, to think about covering your wheels and tyres. Believe it or not Wheel Spats are now available to do just this and are available through the club from Hamilton Classic.

Covering your car

If you wish to consider covering your car, there are various options but be careful as there are rules that we recommend you adhere to.

There are two things you should avoid when covering a car. They are as follows:

1. You must never use a material that is 100% waterproof (one that does not breathe), such as an ‘old tarpaulin’ or plastic sheet. Moisture from below the car or airborne moisture will still get underneath this type of cover and will leave the car damp and ‘sweating’. Mould will be encouraged to grow, water marks and micro-blistering may appear in the paintwork and the car will probably be in a worse state than if it was not covered at all.

2. If you are storing the car outdoors or indoors in a non-heated environment you should also avoid using a material which is hygroscopic. Cotton is such a material and although many cars have been covered with this material over the years it is not very suitable to use in a climate such as ours. Due to the way it is woven it does not have very good resistance to stopping dust from going through it and because it is hygroscopic it will draw in and hold moisture against the body of the car.