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15 top ways to protect your classic car for winter storage

28 October 2022

If, like many of our historic vehicle policyholders at Peter James Insurance, you have a car you do not use during the winter months, then late-autumn is the time to ‘hibernate’ it for the winter. So, how do you best ensure that your cherished classic will be well preserved over the Winter and remain in tip-top condition ready for spring?

Peter James Insurance interviewed car care expert Alastair Flack from Hamilton Classic to compile a list of top tips for those of you looking to store your pride and joy at this time of year.

Red car under a protective cover

  1.  Give it a good clean!

Firstly, the best thing you can do before storing a car is clean it thoroughly inside, outside and underneath. This makes sure there is no dirt festering in the crevices that can encourage corrosion to take hold. If you have a convertible, it is also worth cleaning the hood as any dirt could encourage mould to form. If you are storing the car indoors do not be tempted to leave the hood folded away, as this traps moisture and can permanently mark it.

Green classic car being cleaned

  1. Protect and lubricate

Any chrome items on the car should be cleaned and lightly oiled or greased to protect them from the rigours of winter. Also ensure that any items that have grease nipples are greased and apply some grease to movable fittings.

Give the electrical terminals a spray over with WD40 or equivalent as this will help stop moisture ingress during the winter months.

It’s also a good idea to remove the plugs and spray some light oil into the cylinder bores.

TOP TIP: Lubricate each of your wheel nut threads, clean them and the hole they came out of or the stud they came off of with an oil based penetrating spray (such as WD40) and then refit. Do not use grease! Do this and you’ll never struggle to remove wheels ever again.


  1. Check your fluid levels

Check all your fluid levels, ensuring they are all topped up and anything that contains water, such as coolant and washer fluid, is not going to freeze. It is also worth checking to see if you have any coolant leaks and get these seen to, as coolant can stain, remove paint or leave a nasty residue. Check the antifreeze content in the cooling system by purchasing an antifreeze checker and follow the instructions that come with it to ensure the mix is correct.

TOP TIP: It’s a good idea to change the oil and filter. Old oil has acids suspended in the fluid, from the combustion process, which can be potentially destructive.



Checking fluid levels in a car

Check your fluid levels


  1. Brakes

After washing your car ready for winter storage make sure your brake discs or drums are dry as leaving them wet will cause corrosion, which in turn will cause pads or shoes to stick to the disc or drum and lock on.

Brake fluid is hygroscopic and naturally absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, so should be changed every two years. Do not change the brake fluid at this time though as this is best done when coming out of storage.

Leave your car parked, if possible, with the handbrake off as this can tend to seize on over the winter months.


Check brakes

Check brakes


  1. Fuel and Ethanol protection

Ideally, the petrol in your tank should be drained to stop a build-up of moisture in the fuel, together with your carburettors. New ethanol-based fuels are particularly hygroscopic and can drag in moisture from condensation in the air and on the walls of your fuel tank. Fuel also has a shelf life and can ‘go off’ over time.

An alternative is to fill the tank up and add a stabiliser or anti – ethanol corrosion additive and follow the instructions by running your engine to insure the stabiliser reaches all throughout the system and is present in the carburettors, this is not recommended for very long-term storage.


  1. Tyres

Tyres are easily forgotten when storing a car, but if a car is stood still for a long period they can suffer. Before storage, inspect your tyres and remove any stones or debris from within the tread.

The traditional approach is to jack the car up and put it on axle stands, so the wheels are not in contact with the ground. This not only helps the tyres but can take the strain off bearings. However, it is important to make sure the car is supported on the suspension – not the chassis to prevent damage to bushes, springs and other components. You can also over inflate the tyres, 15 PSI will do, to prevent flat spots from forming.

TOP TIP: Hamilton Classic tell us here at Peter James Insurance, that they recommend using tyre trainers. These have been designed to help prevent flat spots and premature perishing by supporting more of the tyre tread area.

Tyre trainer

  1. Get a good car cover

Car covers are a great accessory for protecting your cherished vehicle, but with so many on the market, at various different price points, there are some pitfalls you need to avoid.

Never use a car cover made of a material that is 100% waterproof such as a tarpaulin or plastic sheet. These materials are not breathable so airborne moisture and damp from below the car will still get underneath this type of cover. Because that inevitable moisture now cannot escape, it builds up and leaves the car damp and ‘sweating’. This promotes mould growth and in extreme cases, micro-blistering may appear in the paintwork.

Indoors or outdoors, you should avoid using a material which attracts and holds water – like Cotton. Not only does it hold moisture, but it’s also no good at keeping dust away due to the way it is woven.

Regardless of whether your vehicle is being stored indoors or outdoors, it is imperative that it is clean and dry before a cover is used.

Use a good fitting semi-tailored car cover that is designed to fit the generic shape and size of your vehicle, not a ‘one size fits all’ cover and equally not a ‘fully tailored’ cover (unless it is stored in a heated garage).

A ‘one size fits all’ cover will be too baggy, and as such, will probably fit poorly and move about excessively in the wind – excessive flapping can damage the car beneath but also prematurely wear out the cover.

A fully tailored cover, one that looks as if it’s almost been shrink wrapped onto the car, should only be considered for use in indoor, heated garages and never outdoors. Fully tailored covers sit too close to the body of the car and will not allow the air to circulate beneath it so the moisture can remain trapped.


Fully tailored car cover

Fully tailored covers should only ever be used indoors within heated garages

Therefore, a good fitting, breathable, semi-tailored car cover will allow better air circulation beneath it meaning that it is not essential that the sun comes out to help remove moisture. Think of a well fitted mitten rather than a glove, and you will probably not go far wrong; and if it has a soft inner lining then even if the wind picks up and the cover does move slightly, it will not mark the car.

The other properties that are important for an outdoor cover are that it should be breathable – preferably through the whole body of the material and not just through a couple of vents. To achieve this, a multilayer construction with offset perforations through every layer allows moisture and air to escape but does not encourage rain, sleet and snow to penetrate. It should also be in a light colour to help reflect away as much damaging ultra violet light as possible.


Car stored outside with semi-tailored car cover

Outdoor covers should be breathable and semi-tailored

Additionally, the seams should be welded, as stitched seams can be broken down by ultra violet light. It should ideally be made in a multi-layer construction as this makes them more rigid and less likely to flap about in the wind, and finally it should have good holding capabilities, preferably with strong elastic hems at each end to hook under the bumpers and some other form of strapping that can go under the vehicle to secure it in high winds.

If storing a car in an open barn or a garage that is not heated, then a good semi-tailored breathable cover is recommended for the same reasons.


Car stored indoors with a semi-tailored car cover

Indoor car covers should be a semi tailored fit


  1. Brush off the snow

Whilst a car cover will keep snow off a car, there is no physical cover designed that can breathe beneath a layer of snow. The snow itself forms the barrier, so whenever possible brush snow off a cover as soon as possible to ensure that it can start to breathe once again.


  1. Prepare your garage

If you have a garage, there is a train of thought that you should seal it up to stop moisture and draughts getting in. However, in the majority of cases allowing it to be draughty can actually be a help rather than a hindrance. (This does not apply to a heated garage.)


  1. De-humidifiers

 If you use a de-humidifier, these are great at keeping a car moisture free, but be very careful how high you set them. If a de-humidifier is set too high it will draw all the moisture out of everything around it. That includes rubber seals, leather seats and anything made of vinyl or soft plastic, all of which can become brittle and crack, as well as anything made with wood, such as veneer dashboards which can warp and in turn force the veneer to crack. They can also be expensive to run and need emptying.


  1. Consider an air-circulation tent

 There are three of these available in the UK, the Cair-O-Port, the Airchamber, (the Car Capsule has been discontinued,) and the Carcoon. They use fans to constantly circulate air to stop moisture and dust from settling on whatever is within them.

All the air tents are very good at what they do. They are all now available with frames and of the three, the Cair-o-port is sturdy and designed to be used in garages with up and over doors. They also provide an extra fan to ensure excellent air circulation under the car.


Green classic car in an air circulation tent

Consider an air circulation tent


  1. Batteries

One of the biggest nuisances of owning a car that you use infrequently is that so often, when you go to start it – it won’t! Usually it is because the battery has gone flat.

Batteries are not getting any cheaper, and for about half the price of an average car battery you can buy a conditioner that will help you look after it so that hopefully you never have to replace it, or at least much less frequently.

The conditioner’s job is to keep the battery topped up so it is always ready to use. There are two main types – analogue and digital/automatic. Hamilton Classic tell us that they recommend the latter as they guarantee never to overcharge a battery which is always a possibility with the analogue type and they supply the CTEK range of battery conditioners mainly because of their reliability, ease of use, the fact they are waterproof so can be used outside and because they come with a five-year warranty.


  1. Guard against Vermin

 If your car is being stored in a barn or in a garage where there is the possibility of vermin, then make sure you take the necessary precautions as mice or rats can do an amazing amount of damage to your car by chewing wires, interior trim, seats etc. Give the interior a deep clean. Check all the glovebox and cubby holes for foodstuffs and hoover up all those crumbs from under the seat left behind from all those car show picnics!


  1. Don’t be tempted to start your car

Avoid starting your car and leaving it running at intervals during its storage. All this does is creates excess moisture in the engine and exhaust with damaging effects. It can also damage cylinders with excess fuel if the choke is on or soot up valves and spark plugs. If you want to run it, take it out for at least a ten-mile drive to make sure everything warms up and the moisture is cleared.

TOP TIP: If your car is supplied with a starting handle, spray light oil down the plug holes and turn the engine over with the handle to make sure the bores are kept lubricated.


  1. Renew your Insurance

 Don’t cancel your insurance policy with Peter James during this time, as car thieves have been known to steal vehicles from a locked garage. We also ensure you are covered against any unforeseen accidents or damage from weather or building damage.

If you are considering taking your vehicle off the road for an extended period of time, why not talk to Peter James Insurance about “laid-up cover” which can save you some money on your premium if you know your vehicle is not going to move for a long time. This is particularly useful for covering restoration projects as well.

TOP TIP: You would be amazed by how much money your tools and all those spare parts you’ve been hoarding are worth – so protect your garage or workshop by talking to us about cover for those as well.


Hamilton Classic is a specialist company dealing in accessories for the Classic & Sports Car Market. MD, Alastair Flack has over 40 years’ experience in vehicle. A big thanks from Peter James Insurance for his help with this article.

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