How to Properly Store Your Car in Winter

Many people put a lot of time and effort into taking care of their vehicles. It's easy to spend hours on the detailing of your car, from washing to waxing and obsessing over the smallest details. However, it's also important to think about how you will take care of your car if you are not using it. Particularly if you have a car that you don't want to drive during inclement weather, it's important to have a plan in place to winterize and store your car.

Tips for Winter Car Storage

The very first thing you are going to want to do before putting your car into storage is to ensure that it is fully washed. You definitely don’t want to cover your car for the winter when it is still dirty. To this end, make sure that you spend some time washing your car from back to front, and put your elbow grease into some serious chrome polishing. You also want to take the time to wax your car one more time. Make sure to remove any debris you notice on your finish, like paint drips from the road or tree sap or anything that could cause harm if left on your car for a long period of time.

You also want to go through the interior of the car and ensure that there is no trash or anything like that left behind in the cabin. If you want to go ahead and clean the carpets that’s not a bad idea, but make sure that you do it well in advance of storage if you want to go through with steam cleaning. If you steam clean too close to storage time, it’s possible that this can lead to mold. Even if you are not steam cleaning your carpets, it’s a good idea to invest in multiple packs of desiccant to absorb any moisture that may accumulate in your car while it is in storage.

Some cars may have parts underneath that are unpainted and thus are subject to rust. Fortunately, you can buy a product called rubberized undercoating and use this to spray on these parts of your car to protect them. If you happen to have a classic ride and you are concerned about keeping it in pristine original condition, a can of WD-40 also works in a pinch.

Watch out for Rodents

We don’t mean to be the bearers of bad news, but your stored car is a very inviting environment to rodents over the winter. First of all, rodents are prone to find nice cozy small places to set up house in, and your exhaust pipes are top-notch as far as they’re concerned. To prevent stumbling upon a family of rats who have moved into your exhaust system, make sure that you block your exhaust tailpipe and any possible inlets into the car.

If you happen to have a newer car, it’s likely that there is some soy-based wiring inside of it. Unfortunately, mice and rats love to munch on this as a snack. It is a good idea to put rodent repellent around the outside of the car to dissuade them from eating your wiring. You can also try putting mothballs inside of your car to drive away pests, but this can leave an unpleasant odor when you open your vehicle in the spring. Some people swear by using dryer sheets to keep unwanted rodents away but still have the car smelling reasonably nice for the spring season. There are a multitude of rodent repellant sprays and sacks that you can put in and around your vehicle to prevent anything from taking up residency.

Rat or mice traps outside of your vehicle can be a good idea, but never place them inside of your vehicle. The absolute last thing you want is for a trap to go off inside of your car, catch a rodent, and for you not to discover it until months later. Keep in mind that if you would like to use poison traps that these can also be dangerous to household pets and birds of prey or other animals that prey on rodents.

Check Your Fluids

Any car enthusiast knows that there are several fluids that keep the vehicle running. It’s important to ensure that all of the fluid systems in your vehicle operate come spring. The first thing you’ll want to do is add fuel stabilizer to your gas tank. Gasoline very quickly breaks down, and cars put into long-term storage will very quickly find bad gas that can “varnish”. Adding fuel stabilizer ensures that your car works smoothly when the weather warms up again. Fill up your tank and add fuel stabilizer at the same time.

It’s also a good idea to go ahead and change out your oil prior to putting your car in storage. This helps ensure that your car runs perfectly when you start it up again in spring. Particularly if you live in a cold climate and your car isn’t going to be in a climate-controlled garage, you want to ensure that your car is topped up on antifreeze. Otherwise, it is possible that the water in the coolant mixture could expand and seriously harm your engine.

Keep Your Power Running

There are several options you can take with prepping your battery. The most popular option here is to connect your battery to a tender or charger. If you do this, you want to make sure that the battery charger has an automatic shut-off option (which all tenders do), otherwise you risk the battery overcharging. Also, it’s a great idea to go out and start the vehicle once or twice during the winter, and let it run up to operating temperature. Another option, if you don’t have a battery tender and don’t need to start the vehicle is to remove the battery completely and store it separately from the car, preferably in a basement or closet and not in the cold garage.

If you separate the battery from the car, it is best to store the battery inside of your house or in another climate-controlled area. Keeping the battery in an unheated garage may cause it to crack after freezing.

What Are the Best Car Covers for Winter?

Finally, you absolutely want to invest in a high quality car cover if you are storing your car for a long time. Ensure that the cover can be securely attached to your car so wind can’t disturb it and that the cover is waterproof. You should absolutely not use a plastic tarp to cover your car because you may scratch the paint if you do this.

Make sure that you invest in high-quality winter car covers to get your car through its winter hibernation period.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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