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Preparing a Car for Storage

By: Henry P. Olsen

The proper preparation of a car for storage for the winter is a simple task that is ignored by far too many owners of classic cars and hot rods; here are a few ideas on how to store a car.

 

Before storing a car for the winter it is advisable to change the engine oil and filter, by changing the oil you get any contaminants, corrosives and acids that are in the oil out of the engine. The gasoline tank should be full to avoid condensation and I would suggest adding a gasoline-stabilizing product such as STA-BIL into the fuel in-order to help prevent the fuel going bad.  As gasoline ages it begins to turn into varnish and form gummy residues that can plug fuel injectors or the jets in a carburetor. A gasoline stabilizer can extend the time where the untreated fuel begins to oxidize of 2 months up to 15 months with a gasoline-stabilizing product such as STA-BIL.

 

In order to keep rust or corrosion from forming in the engines upper cylinder bores and valve train introducing a product such as Marvel Mystery Oil is a very good idea. The two ways I have seen this done are:

  1) Just before covering the car for the winter pouring several ounces of a product such as marvel mystery oil thru the carburetors venturi into the engine while it is running, taking care not to pour the product so quickly as to hydraulic the engine.

  2) Pour a quart of the product into the fuel tank less about 8 or so tablespoons, take the car for a ride thus coating the engine valves and guides. Then just before covering the car for storage pull the spark plugs out and put about 1 tablespoon of the product into each cylinder. Next turn the engine over several times in order to distribute the product onto the cylinders and rings.

This will coat the engine’s cylinder walls and valve guides, thus helping to prevent any corrosion or rust from forming. This may create some smoke out of the engine’s exhaust, but the proper use of a product such as marvel mystery oil may help avoid an expensive engine rebuild due to engine damage from moisture.

 

Jacking the car up and placing jack stands on the frame can allow the springs to relax and take the weight off of the tires so the tires do not create a flat spot because sitting in one place, a second school of thought has the car placed on the jack stands so the suspension is at normal ride height with the springs compressed.  Many people lower the air pressure in order to let the tire sidewalls and cords relax since the jack stands are supporting all the vehicle’s weight.

 

Disconnecting the battery is a good idea and now would be a good time to remove the battery and to clean the battery and tray with a solution of baking soda and water in order to neutralize any battery acid residue. Keeping the battery charged will extend the life of the battery, there are automatic trickle chargers on the market, such as the 1.5 amp Technotest model HPS1005 that sense when the battery charge gets low and automatically turn to keep the battery charged and extend battery life. A battery just sitting on a shelf will discharge on its own in 6 months and even quicker when sitting in a stored vehicle with the power drains from the memory circuits in a modern stereo and computer controlled fuel injection systems, unless you keep it charged.

 

The brake fluid should be checked for moisture since any moisture in the brake fluid will corrode the master cylinder, wheel cylinders, and/or disc brake calipers. Any moisture in the brake fluid can also cause the brake fluid to boil at too low of temperature, thus creating brake fade. One tool that I have found to be very handy to check brake fluid is the Brake Fluid Safety Meter from OTC/SPX; this tool boils a sample of the brake fluid and then will show the boiling temperature and show the minimum boiling temperature specifications.   Many times we have seen vehicles with braking problems where the brake fluid boiled at a temperature not much higher than water; no wonder the brakes not only faded but also needed a new master cylinder, rear wheel cylinders, and disc brake calipers due to the corrosion caused by contaminated brake fluid.

 

The coolant should also be looked at, and if it has been a while since it has been changed now is a good time to flush the cooling system and refill with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and distilled water. The reason for using distilled water is that tap water contains minerals that can lead to electrolysis that can do damage to the metals in the radiator, heater core, engine block and cylinder heads. A way to check to see if you have an electrolysis problem is to use a digital volt meter, the negative lead goes to an engine ground and the positive placed into the coolant in the radiator. If the digital voltmeter indicates a voltage of over ½ of 1 volt, there is a problem with the coolant, this electrolysis problem will create a corrosion problem that will shorten the life of all the metal parts in the cooling system. One way to fight this problem is to place a piece of zinc or magnesium in the radiator, the two most common methods used are placing a zinc tab available from any marine shop in the radiator or using a radiator cap from Rad-Cap Products which has a magnesium anode attached to it.    

 

When a car is properly prepared for storage, it will be just a matter of reinstalling the battery, inflating the tires to the proper pressure, giving the vehicle a quick safety check and then enjoying you car when you uncover it for a drive come spring time.

 

OTC/SPX Tool Company  

655 Eisenhower Drive 

Owatonna, MN 55060

www.otctools.com

800.533.6127

 

Rad Cap Products  

5236 Pacheco Blvd.

Pacheco, CA 94553

925.689.1457

www.radcapproducts.com

Marvel Oil Company   

5655 W. 73rd Street  

Chicago, IL 60638  

800.227.9291

www.marvelmysteryoil.com

Technotest Battery Chargers

P.O. Box 685

Kentfield, CA 94904

415.925.0148

www.hpsengineering.com

STA-BIL/Gold Eagle Co

4400 S. Kildare

Chicago IL, 60632

800.367.3245

www.goldeagle.com/sta-bil

Ole’s Carburetor & Electric, Inc. 

120 El Camino Real

San Bruno, CA 94066

650.589.7377

olescarb@sanbrunocable.com

 

 


 

 
 
 
 
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