Storing a vehicle for the winter

My wife and I are going to be “snowbirds” for the first time - leaving the frozen tundra for a warmer climate for 4-5 months this winter. What should I do with the vehicle we’ll leave behind in the garage, so we can be assured it will start when we get back?

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Add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank and fill the tank.

Park the vehicle in the garage and disconnect the battery. You might want to get a battery tender to keep the battery charged to prevent the possibility of the battery sulfating while you’re gone.

Take some stainless steel pot scrubbers and stuff these into the tail pipe(s) and in the intake before the air filter. These will keep critters out of exhaust and engine and at the same time allows air into the engine to prevent condensation. Place a note on the steering wheel to remind you to remove these prior to putting the vehicle back into service.

Then place some drier sheets throughout the interior of the vehicle to deter critters from entering the vehicle.

That should do it.


Love testers comment but my preference would be to use the battery tender and leave the battery in place. Some cars are prone to problems after a disconnected battery, and you wil not loose clock time and radio presets, and car relearnig if applicable.

Note a maintainer is not a charger, it only sends juice to the battery as needed, a trickle charger with no sensing ablilities can ruin your battery for that amount of time.

Add marine grade stabilizer for ethanol as regular stabile may not be sufficient. Then run half a gas tank through it, then top it off and add more. Marine grade and enzymes from a marine store will help. Disconnect the negative ground in the battery, if it’s in a garage, put down packages of Decon under the car for citters. Keep door closed to keep domestic animals out. When you return, put a charger on the battery, reconnect it then stat. Even if it has enough power to start , you want to fully charge it before use.

  1. Warm the engine up well with at least 10 miles of driving before you park the vehicle to clear the exhaust system of corrosive exhaust liquids and to boil off any water condensation in the engine oil.
  2. No need to disconnect the battery, use a small battery maintainer as was mentioned, not a conventional charger. The battery will not freeze if it is charged and the maintainer or tender will ensure that. A float charger will work as well.
  3. Go ahead and use a fuel stabilizer but I have never done that as my car was parked in freezing temps in central Wisconsin. My fuel injected car starts instantly after storage as the system is inherently sealed which helps to protect the gasoline.
  4. Make sure that the garage (you should use a garage) is well ventilated to preclude the brake pads from adhering themselves to the rotors due to rotor rust. The clutch, if you have one, and the rear rotors/drums will be protected as well. If the rotors rust, they will break free when you first drive the car and the rotors will polish clean and quiet down but it seems better to not have the rust. If the clutch is rusted, it may slip a little at first but will polish clean and then work normally. I have one car brand that is quick to get rotor rust and another that does not.
  5. If any of your tires has a slow leak, be prepared with a cheap air pump or better to refill before driving. Tire flat spotting is not a problem with steel belted radials.
  6. I like to park the car with a fairly recent oil change such as within 1000 miles.
  7. I have not plugged the exhaust or intake to keep critters out and have not had a problem but plugging is easy to do so have at it if you want.
  8. Close the doors and windows as normally to keep critters out.
  9. Park with a full gas tank for whatever good luck it might bring you.

Excellent advice from Wha Who, dagosa, Barky, and Tester.

I’d also recommend to leave the car with freshly replaced coolant and engine oil. If any of the other fluids are near the time they should be replaced, replace those too, before departing for the warmer climes for the winter.

I like your idea btw. I’ve considered to live in Calif during Calif’s summer, then move to Australia or New Zealand for their summer’s. Summer all year long seems a very good thing to me. I do hate those long flights though.

Look for previous threads on this board for many threads on this subject…

All good ideas. I would also leave the battery in and put a battery minder on it. If you have a house, your insurance will require the property to be lived in or checked every week or so.

A friend of my wife spends 6 months of the year in England. The friend’s brother runs the gas tank to near empty and takes the battery out and puts in his basement. The car is stored in a barn at the brother’s farm.

Come time to restart the car he puts the battery back in, puts fresh high test gas in the tank and just cranks it till it starts.

I’m not in total agreement with his procedure but it seems to work.

Wha Who said: "… Tire flat spotting is not a problem with steel belted radials. … "

Thoroughly disagree. Tire flat spotting is still with us - albeit, at a reduced level. But 4 to 5 months is enough time for most tires to develop a permanent flatspot.

If the car is going to be unattended to, then I would recommend inflating the tires to 60 psi.

Better yet, take them off the car and store them away from heat and ozone (electric motors).

What do the thousands of new and used car dealers do for the millions of vehicles that sit on their lots for many months (or years)?

I recall flat spotting with a motorhome before steel belted radial tires came on the market but the very audible flat spotting would go away after driving a short distance.

Typically, motorhomes and travel trailers are parked for months at a time and flat spotting that lasted would not be acceptable for this market. After owning one or another motorhome for about 12 years and hanging around parks and campgrounds plus subscribing to motorhome/travel trailer magazines all the while, tire flat spotting was not a problem.

Three different brands of tires on two of our cars specify on the sidewalls a maximum pressure of 44 psi. In the case of an accident caused by a tire problem, inflating to 60psi, well over the manufacturer’s maximum sidewall rating could give a defendent’s trial lawyer some ammunition for his case. It might be speculated that overinflation to 60psi could damage a tire. If, on the other hand 60psi is ok for a parked tire, then that opens up the possibility of that pressure increasing to a tire damaging level when encountering a bump if the vehicle owner forgot to reduce the pressure back to normal before driving.

I am green with envy, but I think I’ll be OK.
My wife is younger and still works, so I’m a couple years away from migrating with you birds. We manage a week or so in the warm south to remain somewhat sane during the looong winter.

Anecdotal True Story:

I am the original owner of a 1996 Dodge Caravan, purchased brand new in 1997. It has about 90,000 miles now and has never been driven during the winter in our 6 month frozen tundra season here in the salt/rust belt. It lives entirely outside, year-round! Fantastic machine! It has served our family well.

As already suggested, I park it in October/November with fairly clean, recently changed oil. Period. Plump the tires to the specified pressure (my van is 35 psi). That’s it!

I don’t drain anything, or fill/empty the gas tank (plastic), nor do I add anything to anything. I never start it until spring. I think the big freeze actually helps preserve it, like frozen peas or something.

Unfortunately, I’m home, so I charge the battery in the vehicle every couple of months, never letting it go flat and freeze.

In spring, usually May or June, I put the key in the ignition, turn it, and it starts like it was parked overnight. Off I go.

I’ve done this every year. I will do it this year. Boring.

Since you won’t be here, a battery maintainer would be good or you may kill or shorten the life of your battery.

Oh, I call my insurance agent and suspend the collision insurance and leave the comprehensive coverage in place until I call in the spring and restart the collision coverage. I save a ton of money this way.

Have fun! Perhaps I’ll see you during my week in paradise, sometime.