In all the years I've been working with British Sports Cars and have been involved with storing them, I have heard many opinions and listened to many stories.
Quite a few have been horror stories of damage and destruction. I've heard tales of chewed up wiring harnesses, rodent nests in the most unlikely places, dented hoods, stuck clutch disks and totally failed braking systems that were in perfect working order when the car was stored.
The list is extensive. Anything that can go wrong … well, you know.
So the goal here is to learn to store your vehicle so you minimize the risk of any damage to it during the winter lay-up period and have it ready to drive again as soon as the winter coat of salt is washed from the highways.
I did a little bit of research into this area of minimized storage damage and I think more study and research is in order. We know that moisture is enemy number one to our little British cars. It causes rust, is absorbed into the brake and clutch fluids and wreaks havoc in many other areas. Too much moisture and the interior gets moldy, too little and the interiors can dry up and crack, failing way before their time. Most of us don't have a heated garage or even a spare bay in the attached garage, but a Car Jacket will create a sealed environment like a that controls the humidity in barns, damp warehouses, enclosed trailers and even damp-floored sheds.
Enemy number two is time. Common knowledge is these cars (or any cars for that matter) don’t like to sit. They like being used and driven so seals don't dry out, hoses don't rot and electrical components don't quit working for no good reason. Not to mention modern gasoline has a shelf life of only about six months.
Number three on my list is rodents. Most of the time they are not really an issue but when you least expect them, they’ll rear an ugly head. Many folks spread mothballs around the car, under the hood and in the trunk and interior.
Another item that bears mentioning is location. How often can you visit? Is your car stored Inside or out? Is itin a place that has a possibility of nicks, dings and other damages? Are the kids' bikes stored nearby; is the snow blower's resting place next to the car?
In doing a small amount of research I looked up a few published reports and tech tips from some of the leaders in our hobby. Some of the tips, I thought, hey, that’s a great idea. Other items I found to be old wives' tales or issues applying to times long ago (especially with tires and batteries), as design specifications and manufacturing processes have improved.
I would like to thank John Twist at University Motors for a comprehensive write up and the permission to use some of his ideas that specially fit our New England winters. John has been doing this work much longer than I have and is a certified expert in the field of British Sports Cars. You can read more about him on his Web site, www.universitymotors.com. Thanks also to Moss Motors. They have an interesting tech write up for storage that you can find on its Web site, but don’t believe everything printed.
So…. What can we do to minimize this damage? I’d like to give you some ideas, things that we have used for the most part successfully and other suggestions that I’ve picked up in reading and talking with other people that I think may be helpful. I’ve put these ideas in a loose order, you’re welcome to implement them any way you might find them useful to you and your situation.
- Tops and Interiors
First of all, clean & wash the car inside and out. Give it a good coat of wax on the paint and chrome and vinyl sealant and/or leather treatment on the interior surfaces. Store the car with the convertible top erected. That will keep it stretched out to its proper shape and it will last much longer. Plus it keeps the creases out of the rear windows. If you close all the vents on the heating and ventilation systems the rodents will have a harder time gaining access for building nests.
- Engine and Drive train
Ensuring that your engine is in top tune can minimize startup issues in the spring. Age and storage will accelerate any problems you might have when the car goes into storage. Funny how something small can turn into a larger problem in not too many months. I think it is a good idea to grease all the fittings and to check and top off the transmission, differential, clutch and brake fluid reservoirs.
Not only will you know that all of the fluids are topped off when the car went away but you can peer under the car at any time, especially during the spring start up to see if any of these systems have sprung any leaks. Looking at the location of any leaks before you move the car can also give you a strong hint of what and where the leak is coming from. In using and driving your car during the summer, the combustion process creates acids that get transferred into the oil. These acids can etch into the metal surfaces of cylinder walls and bearings. It’s a good idea to change your engine oil and filter at this time. Fresh clean oil in the engine will be just as fresh in the spring and one less thing to do when that warm spring day is calling to you for a drive.
One more tip: Store your car with the emergency brake off, that will save having the brake shoes getting stuck to the drums.
Unless it’s a maintenance free battery, gently pry off the top covers and bring the level of each battery cell to the base of the inner ring on the battery, preferably with distilled water. Don’t over fill. You can go for a drive or hook up a battery charger to ensure the battery is fully charged before you park the car.
While I don’t think it’s always necessary to remove the battery, it won’t hurt anything to store it in warm dry location. Placing a battery on a concrete floor won’t affect its useful life
If your car has a clock or a radio with a memory, the battery will drain down during the winter’s storage. I would suggest disconnecting the negative battery terminal. John Twist at University Motors recommends on 1977 and newer MGB’s to remove the lower fuse which the clock circuit runs through.
While having a battery freeze is never a good thing — the case can crack letting the battery acid leak out —, a fully charged battery should not freeze.
If you keep the battery in the car don’t be surprised if you need to give the car a jump start or charge the battery, a very small electrical drain over a period of several months adds up to a low battery.
It is always good maintenance to visually check all the belts and hoses on your cooling system. If you need some replacements, now is the perfect time to get it done or at least get the replacements on order.
For the antifreeze, a good 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze will give you protection to about -35 degrees. Antifreeze should be changed every few years, so look at the condition and renew as necessary.
Visually inspect both the tread and the sidewalls of your tires for wear and, most importantly, dry rot. If your tires need replacement, I’d wait till spring. There’s no sense letting the car sit on new rubber all winter. I like to over inflate the tires to about 30 – 35 lbs, which will allow for expansion and contraction during cold weather.
With the older style bias-ply tires, you really needed to block them off the ground to minimize flat spots caused by sitting. With the newer style radial tires, blocking up or raising the car off the ground isn’t required, but if you decide to raise the car off the ground, make sure to support it by the suspension.
For a little added protection for the wheels, give them a spray with some Pledge furniture wax, the Pledge doesn’t build up and will get in all the curves and crevices of the spokes and wheel.
Gas has a pretty short shelf life these days so add a fuel stabilizer to prolong it. Stabil is one brand name. Add according to the manufacturer’s directions then go for a ride to mix it up and get some of the mixture up and through the carbs. Plan on trying to run the car for about 30 minutes. That’ll get everything completely warmed up and get all of the moisture out of the exhaust and engine.
After you park the car in its storage location, I would recommend plugging the exhaust pipe and air filters for rodent control.
- And lastly
Covering the car is a good idea when it is inside but use a cloth cover. When storing outside I don’t like to use a cover because I feel it traps moisture under the cover. Consider some type of plastic moisture barrier under the car. Some of the older garages concrete floors can transmit quite a bit of moisture if they were constructed prior to the days of placing a vapor barrier under the concrete.
Take a look at the Car Jacket we have on display today. It keeps the car clean and the desiccant controls moisture To repel rodents, throw some moth balls in the car, in the trunk and a few in the engine bay. If you don’t like the idea of the moth balls rolling around loose, put them in an old sock, or as John Twist suggests, put them in an old nylon.
These ideas and suggestions will cut down the ravages of time and storage, minimizing damage, shortening the time required to get that beauty back on the road and helping to maintain the value of your car. Thanks for coming.