How to Store a Car for Winter

A car stored in a garage for the winter.

Especially in certain parts of the country, you’ll want to store particular types of vehicles—such as convertibles—during the colder winter months. Protecting a vehicle that's vulnerable to the snow, ice, and cold is important, especially given the vast amount of money it takes to purchase and maintain many of these cars. However, storing a vehicle for the season isn’t as simple as pulling it into your garage and closing the door. Below, find out what else goes into properly storing a car for the winter to ensure that it’s in tip-top shape once spring rolls around.

Clean Your Car

Someone wiping the windshield of car before storing it for winter.

Before you store your car for the season, you need to clean the the inside of it thoroughly. Gather any items from inside and bring them into your house and sort through them, discard trash, and definitely dispose of any food or perishables from the car to prevent rotting, mold, and other gross issues that you won’t want to deal with in the spring. Also vacuum the interior of your car to get rid of any lingering debris.

Prevent Rust

Unpainted exposed metal pieces of your car could be prone to rust during the winter months when your car is not in use. If any of these exist on your vehicle, use rubberized undercoating to prevent rusting. You can buy a spray can of this, allowing you to apply a protective coat. Do this with care to ensure that no coating lands near the exhaust components of the car. If you’d rather not use this solution, instead apply a coat of WD-40 to these areas.

Keep Rodents Out

A mouse sitting against a concrete wall in a garage.

Rodents sometimes find a way to reside in vehicles during the winter as they’re looking for relief from the plummeting temperatures. There are several ways to ward off these animals, such as mice, from your stored vehicle. For starters, stuff a sock in the exhaust pipe so that they cannot make a home for themselves in there. Next, place fresh dryer sheets in your car, which are known to ward off mice. Additionally, strategically place mouse traps around your garage outside of your car to stop these animals from making their way to your vehicle in the first place.

Use the Right Fluids

Putting the right fluids in your car before it’s stored is an absolute must. For instance, fuel stabilizers help prevent corrosion in the fuel lines and engine of your vehicle. Do keep in mind that most ethanol-blended fuels have a shelf life of three months. If your vehicle will be stored for close to that amount of time or longer, using the stabilizers is wise. Add this fluid to a nearly full tank of gas before storage occurs.

Also take the time to change your car’s oil and ensure the rest of the car’s fluids are high before storing your car for the winter. This includes ensuring enough antifreeze is present. After adding this fresh round of fluids, take your car for one last spin to allow them to circulate before your car is out of use for a while.

Prepare the Tires

A man adjusting the air pressure on a car's tire.

Your tires could also use some TLC before you store your car for the winter. Inflate them to a higher air pressure before your car is tucked away for the season. Since lower temperatures can result in lost air pressure over time, this is a smart thing to do, as long as you don’t push the air pressure past the tire’s max.

Remove the Battery

Once your car is parked in the garage, remove the battery and store it properly. It should be connected to a trickle charger or a battery tender, both of which can be found at your local hardware store. You can simply leave the battery on a piece of wood in your garage, attaching it there to the tender for the season. Doing this eliminates the worry that your car won’t start due to a dead battery after your vehicle comes out of hibernation. If your garage gets very cold, keep the battery indoors to avoid it freezing and/or cracking.

Cover Your Car

The final step in the storage process is to cover your car. Ensure that you have a quality cover that securely attaches to your vehicle, although make sure it’s breathable enough to keep moisture out. Before covering your car, roll all windows up and close all car doors completely. A car cover keeps dirt and dust from accumulating on your vehicle during its long winter nap.

Once you complete all these steps, your car will be safely stored inside during the treacherous months of winter.