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Well, here it is again.  That time of year when some of us that live in the north and rust belts need to start considering when we’ll pack the 7-Litre away for a safe winter.  Not only do we need to consider when, but look at how we’ll put them away so that when spring comes around, we can pull them out of hibernation in ready to cruise state.  Thought I would review how I put my cars away for the winter, which for the last double-digit number of years has proven to work for me.

My specific situation is that I have a garage that holds my car.  The garage has heat and has electricity available.  I’ll indicate this now, as some guys don’t have heat, but I hope all of you have a garage to keep your cars.  Maybe not so necessary for you southern / southwest folks, but I wouldn’t want my car sitting outside in a NE Ohio winter.

Following is a discussion of items that I use when it’s that time.  Some items are pretty obvious, others are ideas that work well in preserving, and maybe are new for you:

First thing I do is to address the fuel.  Since the car will be sitting awhile, you don’t want to allow the fuel to go stale.  So, I get a bottle of Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer.  Put the recommended amount in your tank before you fill it.  Drive it and then fill it at the gas station.  The stabilizer will get a chance to circulate through the system so that it protects the fuel everywhere.  You want to store your car with a full tank. It minimizes oxygen in the tank which promotes condensation that leads to rusting of the inside of the tank.

Next make sure your car is clean.  I tend to keep my car clean all the time, basically only needing to use a duster for the dust.  If yours needs it, wash the exterior with good car soap.  Apply Westley’s Bleach White to the tires, then scrub them with a scrub brush & soapy water.  Rinse thoroughly.  Use a soaking wet micro fiber towel to clean bugs and tar off.  It works well to extract them.  Open the doors and clean the jambs.  Dry the car off. I like to use a rubber squeegee first, such as the Blade by California Car Covers   This removes the large amount of water off without any surface damage.  Follow up with a synthetic chamois, such as the Absorber.  If you have a compressor, blow all the water out of all the crevices.  You want to put the car away as dry as possible.  The next step could be one of two things;  if you want to micro-clean the surface, get a product called the Clay Bar from Mequiars or Mothers.  This is an actual bar of clay with a lubricant spray that when you use it, it removes contaminants that you don’t see.  Your car looks clean without it, but if you drag the back of your hand on the dry paint surface, how smooth does it feel?  After using the clay bar, the surface will feel smooth as glass.  After which, you can apply a coat of good carnauba wax, such as from Mequiars or Mothers.  The clay bar is not necessary, but sure makes a difference.  Taking the haze off with a micro fiber towel leaves no lint.  If you clayed it, now feel how nice and smooth the surface is.  For the chrome, clean it with Windex, then apply the carnauba wax.  I leave the wax film on the chrome without wiping it off.  You can wipe it off, but leaving it on just keeps that extra film on it, and the chrome is not a substrate that would be affected by leaving the film on it.  If you have a vinyl top, apply a coating of Mequiars #40 to it.  It is a vinyl protectant that not only protects the surface, but gives it the “right” satin appearance.  Apply this product to the tires as well, along with all of the rubber seals such as the door, window, and trunk seals.  Once done, don’t put it away as you’ll use it again.  Don’t forget to clean the windows inside and out.

Under the hood, you’ll want to not only clean, but you want to have things mechanically sound.  Now is the time to do the oil change.  Old oil has acids in it that affect the metal surfaces internally, and since it’s gone through many use cycles, it has accumulated dirt and will condensate water.  Don’t forget to add your Zinc additive to the oil to protect the camshaft.  When was the last time you changed the coolant?  If over 2 years, it is time to change.  My flush-n-fill consists of draining the radiator, pulling both of the heater hoses off and forcing air with a compressor in one side so the coolant is extracted out the other.  Crawl under the car and remove the two block drain plugs; one on each side of the block near the engine mounts.  This drains the coolant totally out of the block.  Note of caution with the block drains.  Some have been in place for 40+ years and may be impossible to extract.  Before you break a couple knuckles and round off the drain plug head, make a common sense judgment on whether you’ll be able to get it out or not.  If it won’t come out, then you can flush out the block the best you can by removing the lower radiator hose and forcing air through the heater line that ties into the block (not the water pump). You can replace the block drain plug with a petcock valve, so that next time you only need to open the valve to drain the block. Use Teflon tape on the threads.   When you refill the coolant, use a 50-50 mix of distilled water and coolant.  Distilled water will not contain the minerals that create buildup, like the white film you see on your shower after not cleaning it for so long.  I save water from my basement de-humidifier, which is essentially distilled water and works just fine.

Under the car, you can grease up all your zerk fittings.  These will be the typical ball joints, center link ends, idler arm, tie rods, pitman arm.  Check the driveshaft universal joints, many of these have zerks.  Inspect for leaks or any damage.  Also check your tire pressures and get them to 32psi each.

One fluid that gets neglected is the brake fluid.  How many times have you ever flushed your brakes out?  When you use DOT3 fluid, it really should be considered, because DOT3 fluid is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water.  After awhile, the fluid collects condensation and with the introduction of the water it begins the rusting process.  At minimum, take a look inside your master cylinder bowl.  Does the fluid look clean?  Do you see a rusty sludge at the bottom?  If it ain’t clean, it needs to be replaced.  You can consider changing to a DOT5 brake fluid, which is silicone based.  It is non hygroscopic.  It is also not compatible with DOT3, so if you change it, you need to flush all the old fluid out.  I did this on 2 of my cars, drain all the fluid out, pull the master cylinder off and thoroughly clean it with lacquer thinner.  While it was out, I disassembled it and checked the cylinder condition and even cleaned & powder coated it.  Open up the rear wheel cylinders and the bleeders at the front disks.  Use your compressor and force air though the line at the master cylinder until the wheels aren’t draining fluid.  You don’t need a lot of air pressure, in fact less would keep the bleeders from blasting brake fluid all over, which also by the way will damage painted surfaces…so don’t get DOT3 fluid on painted stuff.  I went an extra step and flushed the lines with rubbing alcohol, pulled the rear wheel cylinder boots and wiped them out, which also allowed me to inspect them.  Also, look at the condition of the three rubber lines; one at each front wheel and one mounted on the rear axle where the lines for the two rear wheels separate.  These can go bad from the inside/out.  If there is any evidence of cracked rubber or aneurism then replace the line.  Reinstall your master cylinder, then fill and bleed.

Clean and wipe up the engine bay the best you can.  Apply Mequiars #40 to the hoses and air seals around the radiator and cowl.  Use a vacuum with a brush attachment and clean the bugs off of the front of the radiator/condenser core.  Detach the battery and pull it out.  I keep my batteries charged all winter with a trickle charger, such as the Battery Tender.  It has programming that keeps your battery charged without overcharging it.  While the battery is out, clean the tray then wipe it down with a ½ cup baking soda to gallon of water ratio.  The baking soda will neutralize battery acids that may have leaked.  The acids are good at eating away sheet metal, which is why you often see trays and fender wells under the battery rusted.  Lastly, check your air filter and replace if necessary.

On to the interior.  Cleaning is directive here.  Vacuum it out inside including the trunk.  Make sure that any food remnants are gone which would attract rodents.  You absolutely do not want mice in your car.  Trying to use deterrents such as mothballs or Bounce sheets in my experience is useless, and only makes your car smell.  And, don’t even think of putting mouse poison in your car…unless you want them to die in it and then you’ll really hate the smell.  I’ll mention my method of keeping them out later.  Use a duster and clean all the dust off of the dash, package tray, armrests, etc.  If the carpet is really dirty, it may be time to use a cleaner and take care of it.  You just don’t want to put the car away with the carpet wet.  Use your Meguairs #40 on all of the vinyl surfaces.  Apply wax to the chrome surfaces.  You can leave the film on the chrome if you’d like.  When storing the car, especially in an unheated garage, the concern is for the interior to develop condensation, which will turn things mildewy and promote mold.  There are various methods of keeping the interior dry.  You can buy desiccant bags that you place inside which absorb moisture.  You can get an electrically heated wand which is used by boat guys, called The Golden Rod by California Car Covers that dissipates about 25 watts of power which in doing so keeps enough of a heat source to prevent condensation.  You can also make your own heat source for a lot cheaper, which of course is the method I use.  Basically, I made my own using two 25W light bulbs.  Buy two of those plastic bulb socket mounts that you see hanging from floor joists in basements at the hardware store.  Get some 14 gauge line cord wire and wire them up in parallel and include a 10 foot extension from that with a house plug on the end.  Mount the two sockets to a piece of 5 x 5 luan wood or similar.  Place one socket on the driver side floor, the other on the passenger, run the line cord under the door and plug it into the wall.  The two bulbs dissipate the 50Watts, and it keeps it dry inside.

Now you’re ready to package up the car for its sleep.  To do this you’ll need a car cover and some 3 or 4 mil 10ft x 100ft visqueen.  If you don’t have a car cover, get one.  Cars that reside in garages are protected best with a flannel type, specific fit cover.  Of course, California Car Covers has these, and I’ve got a nice one from Back East Covers.  The specific fit cover fits your car like a glove.   I make my own cocoon for the car by centering the car on a 27 foot length of the 10ft wide visqueen, installing the car cover, then with enough visqueen I wrap the ends up to meet the car cover, then use several squeeze clamps to clamp the ends of the visqueen to the car cover.  This cocoon then prevents rodents from entering the car.  My pole barn is not air tight, no matter how tight you make it some rodent will find its way inside.  The best defense after that is this cocoon.  Before you clamp it together, you might want to put an old cookie sheet under the engine to catch the typical FE oil drips. 

Next spring, you’ll be happy to pull out your beauty from the hibernation, looking as good as the day you per her in there.


Tom V.

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