For many of us, winter is an especially sad time of year. We have to put away a favourite ride until spring.
But before you say goodbye, a little care at this point will ensure a happier reunion when the snow has melted. Some of the necessary steps may be obvious and oft-repeated, but there are some that are not as widely known.
We all like to drive that favourite vehicle right up until the last possible day before snow or salt appear. But that can often mean getting caught out, either in the elements we want to avoid, or without time to properly prepare for winter storage. Set a date in the fall and stick to it, even if that means you'll miss a couple of warm, sunny weekends.
Open the hood and make sure the coolant level is topped up. Look at the belts for signs of cracks of fraying and for any sign of fluid leaks. Now is the time to take care of these.
Wait for a clear, dry day and get under way. You've changed the oil and filter and filled the tank, after adding fuel stabilizer. Give it a last ride long enough to get the stabilizer circulated through the fuel delivery system and all fluids and operating parts up to temperature, boiling off any nasty condensation or contaminants. If you don't have a compressor, stop and fill the tires to a few pounds over the maximum pressure indicated on the sidewall.
A last thorough wash and dry, with a fresh coat of wax or spray of detail polish will ensure protection over the winter. Do not forget to thoroughly clean the wheels. The last thing you want is a layer of corrosive brake dust to eat away at them during the coming months. Wheel Wax is my choice, but there are others.
Hopefully the brake surfaces will be clean and dry after your last run. Nothing else you can do here, but do not set the parking brake. That could lead to the pads and disc or drum surfaces becoming stuck together over the winter.
While you are cleaning the wheels take a moment, if you haven't already done so, to fill the tires to the maximum recommended pressure. Try to do this after the tires have cooled off. If you over-filled them during that last drive, you can now adjust the pressure to the maximum recommended. This will help prevent flat-spotting and allow for the loss of about one pound of pressure every month the car sits – and another pound for every 10-degree F drop in ambient temperature.
You can take the battery out and place it in a cool, dry place – not on concrete or near a furnace – but I suggest leaving it in the car. In either case, it will need to be kept charged. A battery minder or tender – not a trickle charger – is the answer.
Instead of constantly applying a tiny charge, which shortens battery life, they use a little circuit that reads the state of charge and applies power only when necessary, shutting down the majority of the time. Do not start and run the engine for a few minutes every week – that will create condensation and a load of problems.
Cover it up
Whether you choose a custom-fitted or general purpose cover, it is a good idea to cover the vehicle to keep dust and dirt away and maybe a few scratches if it is to be stored in proximity to other items or traffic.
Before you do – throw a couple of desiccant packs in the trunk, interior and under the hood. These inexpensive moisture-absorbing packages will eliminate that musty smell and possible damage due to condensation or other sources of moisture. I use "boat dry" or "dry out" from Desican – desican.ca.
Lastly, stuff something into the exhaust outlets to prevent any little things from taking up residence during the cold months.
A last few minutes to say goodbye, cover it up and call your insurance provider to see if there is any reduction for the vehicle being off the road for several months.
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