What to do in the Winter to ensure your collector car is ready for Spring

Collector car sitting in a garage

Bob Becker is an avid collector and driver of antique and classic cars. For the last 30 years, the Mount Forest, Ontario. resident has been carefully putting his prized possessions into hibernation for the winter. Here’s how he makes sure they’re in pristine collection when milder weather returns.

Pick the right date to bring them back out

It’s hard to part with your favourite car for a couple of months, but Becker says it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to putting it back on the road. He prepares himself mentally for the changeover by matching the dates with holidays. “I put my cars away a little after Thanksgiving and generally bring them out again just after Easter.”

If the weather doesn’t align with these time frames, he keeps an eye out for road conditions. “You want to bring cars back when the snow has disappeared and you’ve had at least one really good, hard rain to wash the salt off the roads,” he said.

Classic cars that aren’t driven every day are especially vulnerable to the salt mix on the road because their undersides don’t have the same exposure to rain that rinse away damaging particles.

Choose the right winter home

An ordinary, unheated garage is no place for a classic car to spend the winter. Your car needs a place that’s “clean, dry and preferably heated to 60ºF to make sure no moisture develops,” said Becker.

“The freeze/thaw cycle will cause moisture to build up and cause corrosion in the under carriage and braking system. You can also get mould. A moist environment is probably the worst thing for a vehicle to sit in because it’s going to rust, no question.”

If your garage isn’t heated, try to find a storage facility that fits the criteria and will allow for a bit of clearance around the vehicle.

Protect your car from rodents

Rodents can be a big problem for cars that aren’t taken out regularly.

Becker puts dryer sheets underneath the hood and in the interior of the car and a rag or a piece of steel wool in the tailpipe to keep mice from nesting in a car’s inviting nooks and crannies over the winter.

Fill your tires, change the oil

Becker advises making sure the tires have full air in them at the end of the season, otherwise they can crack over the winter. It’s also wise to change the oil before you put it away. “Over the summer, a lot of carbon and dirty materials build up in the engine. You don’t want to let that sit in the oil pan over the winter.”

Keep the battery charged all winter

Batteries need to be active all the time to function properly. Becker recommends investing in a low amperage charging system that will maintain voltage on the battery all winter long. “A charged battery will never freeze, but a dead one will. If you keep your battery charged you can get up to 8 years out of it.”

Add fuel stabilizer

Fuel has a 30-day shelf life; after that, it starts to lose its properties. Grab a jug of stabilizer, add some to your tank and run the vehicle for 5 minutes to allow it to run through the fuel lines, filter and carburetor. “Fill it up and you can drive it out in the spring.”

Put the car away clean

It’s worth taking the extra step at the end of driving season to give your classic car one last wash. “You want to make sure the chrome has been scrubbed clean, the bug splatters are off the front and the paint is spotless. This will help protect it from any buildup over the winter,” said Becker.

Finally, cover it with a soft car cover or a flannel sheet to keep the dust and fly dirt off of it while it hibernates. “Putting away your car for the winter is kind of like putting a baby to bed. You want to give it a nice bath and soft clothes to sleep in,” said Becker.

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