Step 1: Perform all the car care items first
- Change the oil and filter and run the engine for a few minutes to circulate the clean oil. Fresh oil provides the ultimate in corrosion protection for winter storage.
- Inject fresh grease into all grease fittings.
- Prevent corrosion on the hood latch and door hinges by spraying them with white lithium grease.
- Open the windows, doors and trunk and spray dry Teflon lube or silicone spray on all the weather stripping to keep it from bonding to the doors when the vehicle sits for long periods.
Step 2: Fill with gas and stabilize
Draining all the fuel from your car would prevent gum and varnish buildup. But it’s next to impossible to do that, and even trying to do it can ruin a perfectly good fuel pump (a mistake that’ll cost you $700 including labor).
Instead, stop at an auto parts store and buy a fresh bottle of fuel stabilizer. Then fill the tank at the gas station and pour in the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer. Drive the car around for about 15 minutes to get the stabilizer mixed into the gas and spread throughout the fuel system.
Step 3: Raise the vehicle on jack stands and lower the air pressure
All tires “flat-spot” during storage (see “Flat Spots Are Real” below), so jack up your vehicle and set it on jack stands as shown. Then lower the tire pressure to 25 psi or so for the winter.
Flat Spots Are Real
The Internet is loaded with misinformation about which tires “flatspot” during storage. Most sites say that bias-ply tires flat-spot but radials don’t, implying there’s no need to jack up your vehicle for storage if your tires are radials. Guess what? They’re wrong.
According to Hankook Tire America Corp. engineer Thomas Kenny, all tires can flat-spot after sitting for a while. After short-term storage (about three months), the flat spot usually goes away with a few miles of driving—but not always. Some radial tires (especially high-performance radial tires) can acquire a permanent flat spot when stored longer than six months. So get those tires off the ground during storage.
Step 4: Seal openings to keep out critters
Rodents love the comfy conditions inside your vehicle’s heater system, air filter box and exhaust system. To keep them out of the heater, close the fresh air inlet by starting the engine and switching the heater to the “recycle” position. Then shut off the engine and stuff steel wool and a bright reminder flag into the air filter box intake duct (the duct coming into the air filter box, not the one going to the throttle body). Finally, plug the exhaust system as shown.
Step 5: Protect the battery
There’s no way your battery will stay charged over the winter. And once it loses its charge, it can freeze. Then it’s toast. Either remove it and store it indoors, or keep it at full charge by hooking it up to a battery maintainer (shown is the SOLAR No. PL2110 Pro-Logix available through our affiliation with amazon.com).
Cover with a breathable fabric
If you’re storing your car indoors, you can cover it with just a sheet. But if it’ll be sitting outdoors, spend the bucks for a breathable water-resistant custom-fitted cover. (A waterproof tarp would trap moisture and create a perfect environment for rust.) Also, make sure you cover the tires to protect the rubber from damaging UV rays. Forget the tire dressing. It doesn’t extend the life of the tire at all.