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How to Store Your Classic Car

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For a car, inactivity can be as deteriorating as it is for human beings. Damage of nearly every kind can occur from just sitting. Rubber can rot, upholstery can mildew, metal can rust, precision-fit internal engine parts can seize, wiring can short circuit, paint can blister, fiberglass can crack, chrome can pit, brakes can lock up, and batteries can go dead. Many car owners patiently wait for spring in the anticipation of touring the countryside again, only to be dismayed by the car's deteriorated condition over what seemed to be such a short period of time. Here's how to prevent this from happening to you.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: One day

Here's How:

  1. Give your classic a good detailing. Wash all road grime and salts from the undercarriage as well as body parts. Give the entire car a good wax and don't buff off chromed surfaces until you're ready to remove the car from storage. Lubricate all rubber and vacuum and clean the upholstery; you don't want any hidden food crumbs that might entice critters.
  2. Once you have your classic parked for the winter, change or drain fluids. Try to drain the fluids while the car is still warm. Oil, in particular, when it is heated and circulating, picks up and emulsifies chemical contaminants and particles. Just be careful and wear gloves; hot engine oil can cause painful burns.
  3. Carefully fill the universal joints with fresh grease, if your car have lube fittings. Pack the front wheel bearings and apply clean grease on all of the steering and suspension fittings.
  4. Bleed the brake system. The best insurance against break deterioration is to drain your system of old fluid and refill with fresh.
  5. Drain the fuel tank if you are going to store your car for more than six months. Once you have drained the tank, start the engine and run the rest of the gas out of the lines. Old gas will clog carburetors and cause valves to hang up. If you are only going to be storing your car for a few months you can add a can of gasoline stabilizer to delay fuel deterioration.
  6. Drain the cooling system completely and leave the petcock open and the radiator cap off so air can circulate. Disconnect the heater hoses and drain the heater too. With all of the car's fluids drained at this point you should contact your local household and hazardous waste service for proper disposal.
  7. Remove the battery and store it carefully if you want it to survive. Wash it down with a solution of water and baking soda, then top it off with distilled water. Store it on a shelf in a dry place, not on concrete.
  8. Raise the car and place jack stands under the suspension points. Remove the tires and stack them in a corner placing cardboard between each one and cover.
  9. Depress the clutch and lock it in position with a 2 x 4 pressed against the clutch and the front of the seat cushion or seat frame. Clutch plates often stick together in storage.
  10. Before you encase your classic in its winter cocoon, the last things to do are;
    • Roll down your windows to allow for circulation
    • Place opened boxes of baking soda in various places to absorb moisture
    • Put a plastic bag over the carburetor to keep moisture out
    • stuff an old rag up the tailpipe to keep vermin out.
  11. Now you can cover up your classic car. The most important consideration when choosing a cover for your car's winter nap is selecting the right kind of fabric for your specific storage application. Cotton flannel fabrics breathe and allow air to circulate through them as well as being soft and easy on your cars paint and wax. Cotton/polyester fabrics have poor fluid resistance and trap heat and moisture. Plastic films should be avoided because they don't breathe.

What You Need

  • Car wash and wax
  • Rubber lubricant
  • Old gallon milk jugs to store drained fluids
  • Baking soda and plastic bags
  • Grease to lube fittings and pack wheel bearings
  • Four jack stands
  • Appropriate length 2x4 to depress clutch
  • Tools to remove battery
  • A car cover
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