Tech Tips - How to Store Your Car for Winter

Started by OldMGGuy, November 08, 2017, 03:52:40 AM

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STORING YOUR CAR--Courtesy Barney Gaylord,
I don't personally believe in this idea, and the very thought of it rubs me the wrong way. If you love your partner you have to get together and socialize regularly. I'm sure you wouldn't like to be locked away in a dark room and ignored until spring. However, I understand the needs and desires of some folks wanting to store a car away for the winter (or sometimes longer). Since people keep asking about this, and I get tired of answering the same question, I have finally conceded to post some of the answers here.

For several months of winter storage, you don't need to do much to preserve the car. The MGA in standard form has no electrical parasitic loads (except maybe a modern electronic radio maintaining its digital memory). Be sure the battery is CLEAN on top (to prevent self-discharge) and has normal fluid level. Top up the fuel tank to inhibit evaporation and corrosion, and be sure the radiator fluid has adequate concentration for the lowest possible cold temperatures (fresh 50/50 mix is best for corrosion resistance). If the car has ever been exposed to road salt an underbody wash may be in order. Give it a good run to be up to normal operating temperature with hot exhaust system to evaporate any internal moisture. Make every effort to keep the floor dry!! Then you should be able to sing it a lullaby and let it sleep comfortably for a while. Six months later it should start right up like it was yesterday.

If you want to be slightly more assured that it will start easily in the spring, I would recommend two things:
adding a touch of fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank:,
and hooking up a float charger to the battery:
This last item is more important if the battery top is dirty and therefore more prone to self discharge.

Running the engine up to normal operating temperature once a month (in a well ventilated area) would be ideal, but if you can't do that it should still survive half a year alone without incident. Pay attention to any possible traffic around the car. If it may get bumped while parked a thick blanket or mattress or corrugated cardboard protection may be useful. Try not to let anyone place any objects on the car. If you must park the car outdoors, position it on a well-drained surface so rain water will drain away and dry up, and when snow melts that will also drain and dry. Avoid placing it under trees or power lines where falling debris might damage the car. You can park your car in a large hermetically sealed bag, including a package of desiccant, which can almost totally eliminate rust and corrosion problem during storage.

Also, have  normal air pressure in the tires, fairly fresh oil in the engine (for the fresh corrosion inhibitors), and block the wheels or leave it in first gear so you can leave the hand brake off (so it won't be stuck on next time you want to drive). If the space will be open to rodents I would suggest a few mothballs tucked around in strategic locations (engine bay, tail pipe, corners of the interior) to discourage the unwelcome visitors. Wash, wax and vacuum the car to discourage same. If you don't want the pests around, don't feed them. Put the convertible top up so it doesn't shrink while sleeping. Close the doors and windows to keep out cats, kids, bugs and dust. It is okay to cover the car with an air permeable drop cloth to keep dirt off, but never cover it with a waterproof tarp, as that will trap condensation underneath and promote corrosion. If you expect a cement floor to be damp, placing a plastic sheet on the floor can reduce moisture encroachment from underneath the car. Last but not least, keep comprehensive insurance (theft, fire, damage, vandalism) in effect on your car while it is in storage.

If you plan to store it for a year or more, all bets are off, and it wants more "pickling". Top up all fluids in the car including hydraulics and gearbox and differential. With engine running and air cleaners removed, spray an aerosol lubricant (oil based, not WD40) into the carburetors until it drips, about 10-15 seconds, and then shut the engine off immediately. Remove spark plugs and inject one tablespoon of oil into each cylinder. Put the transmission in top gear and roll the car to rotate the engine at least two full turns, then reinstall the spark plugs. Stuff plugs in the tailpipe, carburetors, valve cover breather port, and the draft tube on the side of the engine. Oil the distributor cam and mechanical spark advance mechanisms.

Block the tires up off the ground with support under the front and rear suspension to keep the normal vehicle load on the springs. Mothball the whole car to discourage rodents. For a year or two storage you might fill the fuel tank to discourage corrosion and add fuel stabilizer. For longer storage drain all the fuel, let the tank ventilate and dry out internally, then hang a small bag of desiccant it the top end of the fuel filler pipe and seal it up as well as possible with plastic film and tape. It helps immensely if the storage space is temperature stabilized to avoid large temperature swings that would promote condensation and corrosion of all types. Lubricate all latch and lock mechanisms (including bonnet and boot lids) so they will unlatch when you return.

Remove the batteries and clean them thoroughly with water and baking soda until it stops bubbling followed by a clean rinse and drip dry. A battery can freeze and crack if discharged and exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. Store them in a cool dry place, a basement is ideal, but keep them away from spark and flame (like furnace and water heater). Connect a float charger to the batteries. You can connect two 6-volt batteries in series with just a small jumper wire (securely connected) from "+" on one to "-" on the other, and service the pair with a single 12-volt float charger. After cleaning the batteries, use the same water and baking soda treatment on the battery cable terminals and carriers in the car to neutralize any acid. You might also take this opportunity to re-paint the battery carriers where acid has previously removed the paint (as it always does). Coat the cable terminals with grease of petroleum jelly to inhibit corrosion.

It doesn't hurt to give leather surfaces a quick rub down with Neatsfoot Oil or Hide Food (or equivalent), and similar for vinyl trim. Do NOT use WD40 or solvents or any silicone based clean and shine product (like ArmorAll) on vinyl, as it will cause drying out, embrittlement, shrinking and cracking of the vinyl materials. Soap and water is a decent vinyl cleaner if you don't like shopping for specialty products. Soap and water is also reasonable cleaner for hoses and wiring covers. WD40 is a good "Water Displacer" as it's name implies, so it is good to apply to all sorts of metal parts and hoses and vinyl covered wiring, but not so good for cloth harness covers as it will accelerate decomposition of woven cloth materials.

Be aware that with long term storage brake linings may stick to the mating surfaces of drums and rotors, a clutch disc may stick to flywheel and/or pressure plate, hydraulic seals may dry out and stick to the walls of the cylinders, and a hand brake cable not lubricated may dry out and stick. Rolling the car back and forth a bit or turning the wheels occasionally can help prevent brake linings from sticking. Working the brake pedal and hand brake and clutch repeatedly on a periodic basis (like monthly) can significantly reduce or eliminate hydraulic problems and clutch disc sticking.

You might also check out some sage words of advice on winter storage from our noble MG friend John Twist of University Motors, and/or Putting Your Car Into Storage from the caring folks at Moss Motors.

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