This is from November 1999, but useful anytime!!

Laying up your classic car for the winter


If like many of us you live in a country where the winter months mean your beloved classic is confined to the garage for months at a time you will be well advised to take certain precautions to ensure that your car is thoroughly protected.  Put together here is a simple guide to help you ensure that when your classic does emerge from its winter hideaway you're not greeted with any nasty surprises.


Perhaps the first question you need to ask yourself is where you're going to store your car. We would always advise against leaving your car outside, so if you don't have a garage of your own you may want to consider hiring one over the winter. Another alternative is to put your car in the hands of the storage experts, who can offer secure storage in a climatically controlled environment, but at a price! It depends on the climate where you live but dampness can be a real problem. This will be more common in brick built or concrete garages than in wooden ones. Ventilation is the key to avoiding any build up of condensation. If this is a problem open the garage doors and windows on fine winter days or consider hiring a dehumidifier. In severe temperatures you may also want to think about heating the garage, we would always recommend electric heaters as the least hazardous form of heating, but beware they can be costly to run.

Protect your Car's Exterior.

Now that you're happy with where you're going to store your classic lets turn our attention to the car itself, starting with the bodywork. Give the car a thorough wash and then using a good quality wax give the bodywork a good polish. When applying the wax polish don't forget the underside of doors, bonnet and boot. Also leave these areas as well as the brightwork unpolished when buffing up the bodywork, as this will protect them from condensation. If you haven't already thought about it now is a good time to consider a more permanent means of protection like Waxoyl.

The Interior

Wind down the windows leaving about a 1-inch (3-cm) gap to prevent the interior from becoming musty and damp. Protect chrome fittings with a layer chrome polish. If you have a leather interior begin by wiping it down with warm soapy water, before applying a liberal coat of saddle soap. If you don't plan to use the car at all over winter leave the saddle soap on as this will keep the leather supple as well as protect it. To protect wooden and vinyl dashboards from cracking and splitting never leave them in direct sunlight, even during the winter months. We would always recommend covering the car with a dustsheet, but avoid using the plastic variety.

Engine and Running Gear

When cleaning the car don't be to concerned if the engine, gearbox and chassis are covered in oil as this will help to keep the rust at bay. Now turn your attention to the cooling system which you will need to drain down, before refilling flush out the system to remove any build up of sludge which can effect the efficiency. Then refill with a solution of antifreeze mixed to the right proportions. When draining the cooling system it's also a good idea to change the oil as harmful combustion products can damage the engine.

Disconnect the Battery

Always disconnect the battery, we would also advise you to remove it from the car, as you will need to give it a trickle charge throughout the winter. Modern chargers allow you to keep the battery on a permanent trickle charge, or alternatively you can just charge the battery in the normal way once a week. It's also a good idea to check the level of electrolyte and if necessary top it up with distilled water. Remember you shouldn't fill it right to the top, it should just cover the lead cells.

Fuel Tank

The fuel tank can also suffer from a build up of condensation on the inside, which in extreme cases can lead to tiny holes appearing. To prevent this always fill up the fuel tank this will also help prevent the fuel from becoming too stale.


All the car's bulbs should be removed and the contacts covered in a protective layer of petroleum jelly. This will protect the contacts from oxidisation and can be left permanently in place. Again if you are not planning to use the car at all over the winter months you should consider raising the car up onto blocks of wood or axle stands to prevent tyre flat spots. To avoid any damage to the chassis or suspension when raising the car always refer to the owner's manual.

Handbrake Off

Always leave the handbrake off to stop the brakes from seizing. It's inevitable that rust will build up on the drums but this can be minimised by spinning the wheels occasionally. Finally, soak all the locks and hinges with a spray lubricant such as WD40 as they can easily seize through lack of use.

Weekly Checks

Despite taking all the necessary precautions we would recommend that from time to time you carry out the following:

Spin all the wheels.

Check for leaks (coolant, brake fluid and oil) under the car.

Check the battery electrolyte levels and refit it if removed. Then run the engine at low revs for a few minutes, checking again for any leaks, this will also help to reduce the build up of condensation. With the engine running and the handbrake applied, select top gear (manual cars only) and release the clutch pedal just enough for the engine note to fall slightly. Pump the brakes and operate the handbrake, not forgetting to leave it off.


Caution: When running the engine make sure the garage is well ventilated.


In summary, with a little care and attention any classic can survive even the severest winters and emerge from hibernation ready for another season of trouble free motoring.