How to Store a Classic Car
Preserving Heritage on Wheels
By Diljeet Titus

Drive your classic car to help keep it in good condition. The old adage “use it or loose it” applies here. It is not good for any type of motor vehicle to sit for long period of time without being driven.

For a classic car aficionado, nothing brings more pleasure than to admire the timeless beauties. If you are a proud owner of one, it is important that you maintain it properly. So, how do you store your classic for a long period of time and prevent corrosion and damage from predatory creatures?

Of course, it depends on how long you wish to store your classic for. Below are a few tips for those classic car aficionados who want to preserve the gleaming beauties from the withering effects of time.

First of all, you need to find a garage or a space to place your classic car. Then you need to take notes, so a good pencil and paper would be the second thing on your check list, so that you can write down and document what you have done so that when the car is re-commissioned, you know what you have to rectify.

Before anything else, give the car a good wash. This will remove any signs of bird mess, salt and allows a chance to inspect the bodywork for imperfections so that you can catch them before you store the car away.

Never, ever take out the oil from the engine. By doing that, you risk the engine seizing up, which you will never want to happen. There really is no need to drain out any of the liquids from the car, other than, maybe the petrol tank, if there is more than quarter of the tank left in it. Petrol will evaporate over time and will not harm the car in the atmosphere it is left in.

Protecting against rot
Your car’s enemies are sun, air and dirt. The ultraviolet rays of the sun fade or dull paint and cloth upholstery and dry the oils out of the leather. Dirt on the car helps absorb water on the car and holds it close to the paint and the chrome. It is the humidity in the air that reinforces oxidation of your paint and helps make chrome rust. To protect the paint on the body of the car, before storing it give the vehicle a good end-of-season washing, dry it thoroughly and apply a protective coat of wax. Lastly, cover the car with a well ventilated cloth cover. Cotton flannel fabric breathes and allows air to circulate through it as well as it is soft and easy on your cars paint and wax. Polyester fabrics have poor fluid resistance and trap heat and moisture and provide a fertile proliferation ground for rust. Remember those fabrics having a tighter weave than other and more threads to inch. Such fabrics are usually of better quality and lasts longer.

Make sure that your car stands on a nice clean and flat surface. It need not be spotless, but there should be no chance of anything growing underneath the car. So no grassy fields, as this will result in the onset of rusting out the floor and sills. Before the car gets stored paint the underneath of the car with oil. This will protect its floor.

For a confident start when you next want to use your car, make sure the battery remains fully charged. Each time you put the car away, wipe off the top of the battery to be certain that electrolyte mist and dirt haven’t combined to provide a leakage path for a tiny bit of current.

Rubber Seals
The rubber seals around the doors and windows are normally the first things to perish, therefore, I would recommend taking a silicone based spray can and coat all the rubber with a good quantity of silicone spray. This will protect the rubber and prevent premature cracking. If you cannot find any silicone spray, a coat of used motor oil will serve the purpose.

Wheels & Tyres
Jack up the car on axle stands and take off all the wheels at the site where the vehicle is to be stored. At this site the vehicle will stand for the length of its storage. Once the wheels are off, including the spare, deflate the tyres. This will relieve the pressure on the tyres preserving them as much as possible and preventing the expense of finding new ones when the car is re-commissioned. If you cannot store your car up on the jack stands and do not want to remove the wheels and tyres, let some air out of the tyres to reduce the strain on the shock absorbers and other suspension components.

Give the wheels a good polish and apply silicone spray or old engine oil before its being stacked off the floor on wooden beams and covered with an old blanket.

We all know that brakes seize when a car has been standing for a long time. Don't do anything silly like applying oil to them or they will never work again! Old shoes, pads, drums and discs will have to be replaced. Keep all the nuts and bolts well greased and away from the working parts. It's always advisable to break down the brakes and put them into boxes, all the parts being correctly labeled and a diagram or photographs to remind you of everything when required.

Engine Bay
Keep the engine bay well oiled and greased so that everything is best preserved. It's almost impossible to keep away mice in order to stop them eating the hosepipes. I would recommend putting rat poison underneath the car. This will minimize the problem.

Drain the water out of the engine and remove the top and bottom radiator hosepipes. This will indicate that there is no water in the radiator when the car is to be decommissioned. Plug the holes with old rags to prevent any little critters entering and blocking your cooling system.

Petrol Tank
To keep the petrol fresh and the system safe, add a container of fuel stabilizer to the gas tank, and fill the tank to the top right before putting the vehicle into storage. Take the car for a brief drive before putting it in the garage so the stabilized fuel will circulate throughout the system.

Grease Nipples
Take out your grease gun, get under the car and make sure you grease up everything. Also take some excess grease and coat the nipple and any nuts and bolts you may need to loosen in the future. This will keep everything protected and cut down your workload in the years to come.

Moisture is a major car killer. It encourages mold growth on fabric and leather. Keep your upholstery supple and prevent cracking by investing in good quality upholstery cleaner. If your interior is leather, treat it with a very good quality leather treatment and daub it evenly. Vinyl will also crack, so find a treatment to help keep it supple and apply to every surface. In addition, it is very important that the interiors of the car are under right atmospheric conditions. The best way to create an environment for the car that seals it off from moisture producing condensation is to park your car indoors and cover it properly. However, prior to covering your car, be careful of the points below:
1. Do not cover a freshly painted car. Allow at least three months for the paint to cure and vapors to evaporate;
2. Wash your car a day before you cover it. Time is required for all nooks and crannies to dry completely. Leave the doors half latched to allow water to drain out;
3. Do not cover your car when the engine is hot, be sure the car is cool
4. Check and correct leaks in the air conditioner;
5. Check and correct any oil leaks. Specially, if it is a petrol leakage, do not cover your car until the leakage is completely repaired; and lastly
6. Enclose desiccant pouches within the car. Desiccants absorb moisture out of the air.

Convertible with top up
If you have a convertible top, leave it up and the windows and vents closed. Convertible tops shrink and also develop creases if they are kept in the downward position for an extended period of time. Treat vinyl tops with silicon. Before you complete covering up your classic be sure that the hood is on.

Storage Environment
Once you are ready to cover up the car with a car cover, you must prepare the environment. Of course, no leaky roofs as the damp will create humidity. The environment should be kept as dry as possible to ensure that your car is kept away from any possible rot.

All kinds of small animals find vehicle wiring, seats and carpet delectable, and they think cars make a nice den. To keep critters out, place mothballs inside the car, including under the dash and cover the tailpipe.

You must keep the garage well ventilated. Often a cracked window or a gap under the door is enough. This will prevent the air from becoming stale.

Keep heavy items off the overhead shelves in your garage. The last thing you want in the event of a storm is a can of paint coming down and smashing your windscreen or denting your bodywork. Worse still, spilling it's contents over your car, even if it is covered up.

Before you encase your classic in its cocoon, the last things to do are:

1. Roll down the windows to allow circulation;
2. Place open boxes of baking soda or desiccant bags in various places to absorb moisture;
3. Put a plastic bag over the carburetor to keep moisture out;
4. Stuff an old rag into the tailpipe to keep vermin out;
5. Remove the windshield wiper blades and store them in a dark place. Pad the ends of the arms and secure with a nylon tie;
6. Lastly leave a check list on your driver’s seat detailing all things you will need to do when you plan to use the car.

Storing a Classic Car can be tricky, thus, adding unnecessary miles to keep the vehicle 'in tune' could decrease it's value and risk further damage. Yet not using it can also cause harm to your classic, thereby resulting in the deterioration of its brake system, fuel system, suspension bushings and various other components. Therefore, a good storage facility is a must. However, on the other hand, by providing a good storage facility to your classic, the work and expense on it will reduce to half when the car comes back in the daylight. No classic car is beyond having the interior re-done, whether that means stripping it bare or simply fixing a tear in the seat. It all depends on what level of restorer you happen to be.

However, I believe that the best thing to do to a stored car is to visit it once a month and take it for a short drive. This keeps everything in good shape, preventing things from getting corroded and seals drying out.

Diljeet Titus is a Founder Member and General Secretary of the HMCI

Join Us
HMCI in the Press
Subscribe to the Magazine
The registered office:
R-77A Greater Kailash-I
New Delhi – 110048
Tel: +91-11-2680100/800/900;
Facsimile: +91-11-26480300;