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Car Care: Revving Up For The Road

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

While the weather has been relatively mild, it “is” getting to be “that time of year”, the time of year when we finally “must” put away our summer toys. And, taking your favorite wheels off the roadways for the winter is a necessary “evil”, especially if you want to preserve your hot rod for the sizzling spring and summer nights.

The Facts: Remember, if possible indoor storage is always best, especially for an older vehicle, even if it’s being kept in an area with a more temperate (winter) climate. And, if YOU don’t have the space, look for either a storage facility or someone who does. It’s also a good idea to find someone who’ll take the car out regularly for a spin, so that the engine stays exercised. But, if outdoor storage is your “only” option, you can still protect your vehicle by taking the proper precautions.

Proper Preparations:

Keeping it clean is key. And, that means more than just washing and waxing. In fact, experts suggest choosing a “warm”, dry day to invest in giving your car the full attention it need. Fill the gas tank, then add and ample amount of gasoline stabilizer to prevent gum and varnish formation. Make sure to drive the car long enough to get the engine nice and warm before mixing the stabilizer with the fuel at least 30 to 40 miles. Then make sure to remove the dirt from the underbody, primarily from the wheel wells. This is particularly important since dirt holds moisture and the combination of air and moisture causes iron and steel to rust.

Spruce up the interior and trunk with a common household vacuum cleaner, but make sure to use and attachment that can get into all those tight, hard-to-reach spots. You want to make sure there is NOTHING to entice little critters while your car is in storage.

For Indoor Storage:

Give your vehicle enough time to air-dry. For garages or sheds with a concrete or earth floor, crate a makeshift vapor barrier with plastic sheeting or tarps. With earth floors consider making a drive-along “route” from various strips cut from plywood and place them over the vapor barer.

Make sure to remove spark plugs and to spray oil into the cylinders to protect against rust and corrosion. You can use conventional engine oil and a squirt bottle or aerosol fogging oil made for boat storage…and turn the crankshaft several times, about four to six to help circulate the oil. Replace spark plugs and reconnect wires.

Unhook battery cables (ground cable first) and remove the battery. Clean both top and sides of the battery removing any and all moisture-retaining conductive film. Rest battery on a clean, dry surface and connect a float charger, one specifically geared toward maintaining a charge for extensive periods of time. Removing the battery also gives you the opportunity to inspect it and clean it out.

Experts further suggest adding lubricant to the hood release latch, and hood and door hinges to guard against moisture. They note that brake fluid is good for absorbing moisture (which can lead to rust and corrosion of the brake system). Make sure to also flush out old fluid with new and to keep in mind that long-term storage may require application of nonhygroscopic (non moisture-absorbing) silicone fluid. Check the freeze point of your engine coolant with a hydrometer to ensure it’s low enough for seasonal conditions.

You’ll also, note experts want to guard against any unwelcome “pests” that can get into openings or chew on spark plug and other wires. Professionals suggest tapering off openings such as the tailpipe, engine air intake and fresh air intake in the front of the windshield by stuffing them with thick, clean rags (unless that is, the fresh air intake is covered by mesh or a cabin air filter. And, if you know you have rodents in your area use tinfoil rather than rags.

Make sure to place clean rags between the wiper arms and the windshield to keep blades off the glass, or remove the blades entirely. Both serve as a means of ensuring blades don’t stick to the glass leaving marks and ruining the rubber. Also you should apply of film of rubber lubricant to the squeegees as well as empty a large bucket of mothballs around the floor surrounding your vehicle to keep creepy critters away.

For Outdoor Storage:

For proper preservation outdoors it’s best to store your vehicle on top of a layer of plywood over a continuous layer of durable and heavy-duty plastic. While it wont’ keep your car completely moisture free from the harsh elements, it will offer some protection. As a final step prior to covering, you can lift the ends and secure them into the body (trapping tem in bottom door openings and/or taping and tying them to unpainted trim, etc.) as a sort of “diaper” for the underbody. However, this can be challenging since you don’t want plastic sheeting against painted metal (body parts) where moisture can get trapped and rust or paint damage may be the result.

However, outdoor storage, like indoor stores requires a clean, dry vehicle. Experts also suggest placing mothballs in the passengers cabin and laying them on sheet of aluminum foil. Crack windows open, about a half-inch each so that the interior can breathe, but be cover the openings with strips of fine screening, taping them to the glass and molding with masking tape. Just be careful not to tape to the car body paint surfaces.

Follow with all other indoor storage preparation including insect and rust proofing your vehicle, removing the battery, and storing it indoors with a float charges.

Finally make sure to cover the body. But keep in mind that with so many choices finding the right cover for you may be “trickier” than you thought. Remember; while you don’t have to break the bank, you “do” get what you pay for.

Among your key considerations: fit should top the list. Body-friendly materials should also be a top priority.

For sunny areas, look for materials that block ultraviolet rays that guard the car’s finish. But, be sure to prop the vehicle’s interior surfaces with proper protectants like leather conditioner and plastic treatment.

For wet and windy environment consider investing in added protection first by covering the body paint with soft blankets tied down with bungee cords to guard against moisture and give extra protection to the underside of your car. Your best bet, a premium breathable custom-fit cover that extends down to cover the wheel wells and is secured with straps.

Put It In Drive:

Once driving season arrive you’ll need to unpack your precious vehicle, refit the battery, sand most of the rust off the brake rotors with 1---grit sandpaper on a rubber block, and change the engine oil and filter.

Exercising Your Vehicle:

If you opted against the previously mentioned “exercise program”, you face seriously “needing” to take your car out for a serious spin. And, according to experts, merely starting the engine and allowing it to warm up, just wont do. In fact, that may actually be harmful, resulting in oil dilution by fuel and moisture. A better bet would be a 30-mile drive every 60 days, with brakes, transmission, steering and air conditioning all operating.

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