Most people brace for the winter season by stocking up on food, supplies, and warm clothes, but what do they do about their cars? Average winter temperatures in parts of the country have significantly lowered over the past years, and you can imagine just how moisture, condensation, and extreme temperatures can take a toll on your precious vehicle. It’s no wonder then that many people opt for winter car storage.
But before you sign up for the nearest storage unit within your area, it’s important you know that keeping your wheels safe from freezing temperatures isn’t as simple as it seems. Aside searching for reliable car storage units, you also need to do a few preventative measures prior to vehicle storage.
A Clean Car in Storage Unit Will Keep You Worry-Free
The first thing that you need to do is to give your vehicle a complete wash, as if you were preparing for an important trip. This prevents any dirt, bird droppings, grease, or water stains from adhering to painted areas and glass surfaces. If allowed to remain there for months, these can cause damage that may be costly to repair. More importantly though, as a car owner, you probably want to leave with a squeaky-clean ride that’s ready to go when your vehicle storage lease is up.
Be Mindful of Metal Corrosion
Automotive rust can be quite a headache for car owners who keep their rides locked away for the winter. To prevent this, clean the undersides of your vehicle, which means scrubbing away under the fenders and bumpers. Because these parts are hardly seen, they are also often the dirtiest. After cleaning, apply a good coating of wax for an added layer of protection from metal corrosion.
Make sure to wash your wheels thoroughly to remove grease, tar, and caked-in mud. In some areas, road de-icing salts can cause corrosion if left to accumulate over time. This is especially worse in coastal areas. To remedy this, get rust proofing treatments for your cars not just during winter, but all year round.
Inspect the Locks and Hinges
Lubricating hinges and locks are also something that pre-winter preppers may overlook. Without lubrication, door lock mechanisms can get stuck, which is why experts recommend special lock treatments that contain graphite powder to keep the lock’s interior mechanisms working smoothly.
Make sure you don’t forget to lubricate door hinges, too, as they can start making a squeaky sound the longer it’s in storage. To do so, first, clean any rust or dirt that may have built up on the hinges. Then, spray these areas with a a multi-use product to protect metal from rust and corrosion and be sure to wipe off excess with a rag. Give it a few test pulls to see if the hinges move smoothly. Afterwards, treat it with lubricant such as white lithium grease, which is specifically designed for car doors.
As you’re prepping for storage, keep a close eye on the hinges of the trunk, the hood, and the gas tank lid, too. These parts are more prone to rust and getting stuck especially during the colder months. If any damage or corrosion is detected, then these portions should be cleaned and treated with lubricant as well.
Take Good Care of the Interior
Now that you’ve taken care of the exterior, pay close attention to the insides. Vacuum the carpets and remove the trash or scraps of food that you may have left behind. Check for leaves, soil, rocks, and grass on your mats and carpets. Doing so prevents uninvited guests like mold, roaches, ants, and mice from finding their way into your car while you keep it in storage. You wouldn’t want them surprising you as soon as you get back behind the wheel.
While pest control with chemicals is a possibility, it may be too extreme. One easy fix is to cover all entry points into your car. Place some steel wool in the exhaust pipe as well as cover all the air intakes. Instead of placing mothballs that may leave an overpowering scent, put fabric dryer sheets inside your car. Not only do these keep critters at bay, your interiors also absorb the smell as your car hibernates in the storage unit.
Perform a Complete Fuel and Oil Check
Vehicle owners who live in chilly regions often suffer from frozen fuel lines. Wondering how to solve it? Easy. Fill her up! When topping your ride up with gas, consider including additives such as fuel-line antifreeze into your fuel tank. Remember that leaving your tank half empty during winter may cause moisture to accumulate within the tank walls, leading to fuel contamination caused by build-up and rust. These additives also act as fuel stabilizers, which prevents the gas in your tank from deteriorating. This allows for a smooth and easy start-up when you’re ready to leave.
If you haven’t done it recently, get an oil change for your car. This is critical if you are leaving your car in storage unit facilities for more than two or three weeks at a time. Putting in new oil will eliminate nasty contaminants that used oil often leaves behind.
Maintain the Proper Tire Pressure
After long months in winter storage, it can be quite a bummer to get back to a car with a flat tire – or four! To keep this from happening, make sure that you have the correct pressure on all tires before storage. Even just a slight unevenness in tire inflation can lead to poor wheel balance, and this in turn causes flat spots around the tires that support the most weight. Poor wheel balance caused by incorrect tire pressure leads to misshapen and deformed tires that you will need to replace before you can use your car again.
Battery Care: A Must for Car Storage during Winter
Want to know the top problem for car owners during the winter months? It’s a dead car battery. You heard that right. Unlike an animal that can be roused from winter sleep, a car with no charge will just remain useless. It is a known fact that car batteries lose their power over time, and when a vehicle is very rarely used, such as when it’s in storage for 90 days or so, the chances of it dying out are much higher.
An old-school approach is to disconnect the battery from the car prior to storage, but this can be a hassle to put back when you finally need to use it. Some experts recommend having someone drive your car every other week or so, just so it can limber up for a bit even when it’s winter. But what if you don’t have anyone else to do the task?
The good news is you can keep the car battery working without having to turn on the ignition. Simply invest in a battery tender or battery charger. Just connect your car’s battery terminal to one end of the charger and plug the other end into a wall socket. This provides a regulated amount of power to keep the battery charged, so it’s in optimum shape when spring comes.
Have You Got It Covered?
Like a warm sweater in December, a weatherproof car cover can be your best friend when the temperatures drop below zero. It is ideally placed over the vehicle when it is left outside, to shield it from the elements. Make sure to choose a cover that is sturdy and is made specifically for the model of your vehicle. Having it too loose on some corners may allow water to accumulate or puddle up, leaving your car prone to water damage. Make sure it also provides enough ventilation to avoid moisture build-up between the material and the surface of your car.
Choose a Garage or a Storage Facility
Winter-proofing your car also means finding a place to house it. If you plan on storing it in your garage, sweep the floors clean before you park your car. Consider putting a large tarpaulin or plastic sheet on the ground to keep moisture at bay. Better yet, you can inspect the sheet afterwards to detect leaks in the undercarriage, if any.
But, if you’re like most families, then you probably want to use your garage for more than just housing your car during the winter. For starters, you may need the extra space to store supplies and other household appliances. Because of this, you may not be able to keep a car there for weeks on end. If this is the case, opt for a vehicle storage unit instead.
Car storage facilities may be rented out for weeks, months, and even longer. Most have very reasonable rates for winter storage, too. These facilities are well-maintained garages that are clean and secure. Each storage unit is kept at ideal conditions to prevent moisture or cold damage. If you’ve been working hard to get your ride ready for winter, consider taking this extra step.
Don’t Forget About Insurance
Many car owners think that they can save a few insurance premium dollars during winter since they won’t be using their car as often as expected. Tempting as it may sound, this is not a practical way to go. Your premiums can potentially increase when you renew your policy due to the gap in the coverage. Always make sure your insurance is updated, and always include winter in your coverage period.
Winter Is Over, What to Do Next?
If you followed all the above mentioned tips to the letter, then you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your car back on its feet – or wheels. Below are a few quick reminders before you drive away and leave the vehicle storage facility.
Perform a once-over of your vehicle. Look beneath the bumpers and fenders. Take the time to pop the hood and inspect the car. Check if there are any insect or rodent nests, damaged hoses, or disconnected fan belts inside. Remove the covers that you’ve placed in the air intake and exhaust pipe, too.
Make sure to look at the flooring beneath your car for any leaks that may have developed over time. In line with this, check your oil and other fluids if they are at the ideal levels.
Next, check your brakes. Cold winter weather can cause rust to accumulate between the rotors and brake pads, and this may sometimes lead to fusion. Usually, a couple of drives around the block is all you need for your brakes to go back to normal. But, if a problem is detected, a replacement may be in order.
After the brakes, inspect the windshield wipers for any cracks on the lining. Frozen wipers are a pain during this season. Check if the rubber parts have become brittle and replace them if necessary.
Using a tire pressure gauge, inspect each of your car’s tires. Don’t fret, as it’s normal for them to lose some air if they’ve been idle. Just inflate them again following the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.
Invested in a battery tender or battery charger? Make sure to unplug its attachments from the wall socket and the car battery. After this, reconnect your battery cable. Check the digital settings on your car such as the clock and radio and reset them to the correct date and time.
Next, give your car a quick clean with a rag or feather duster as it’s sure to be a little bit dusty. Finally, if you’re using a rental storage space, complete all the necessary documentation with the storage facility management, and you’re good to go.
Now, You’re All Set!
Next time you hear your local weatherman talking about the upcoming cold front, no need to shiver in your boots! With these tips, you’ll be more than ready. Get your vehicle ready for long-term winter storage properly, so it’ll be ready to use as soon as spring comes around.
If you are still on the fence between your garage or storage units, remember that car storage units are the safe and sensible choice.