Preparing to store your classic car for long term storage or even over the winter sounds like a simple enough process. And, generally speaking, it is. But it’s important to cover a few essential procedures before you put your vehicle away in your garage, someone elses garage or in a dedicated classic car storage facility.

After all, if you want to keep your classic car safe and in good condition, you’ll need to do a little more than just parking it up, throwing a cover over it and walking away for several months.

That’s why we’ve created this post – to explain the basics of preparing your automobile for storage and break the process down into manageable actions. With this list of ten simple steps, anyone should be able to confidently hibernate their classic car, even if you don’t have expert knowledge of vehicles and their inner-workings.

The benefits of proper servicing before long term car storage

Now, before you do anything else, if you’re not particularly handy with a wrench or have a fear of Swarfega, our first recommendation is always this: seriously consider getting your classic car serviced by either a good local dealership or trusted independent garage prior to storage.

Explain to them that you’ll be storing your classic car for an extended period. The garage will most likely prescribe basic topping up (or changing for new) of all the fluids to the correct levels – such as oil, coolant and brake fluid, as well as changing the oil filter.

Our 10-Step Guide: How To Prepare Your Classic Car for Long Term Storage

Let’s start with a quick overview of how to prepare your classic car for storage. Reading through the whole list first should help give you a better idea of the process. Then we’ll get into the finer points of each step.

Step 1. Get your classic car valeted inside and out.

Step 2. Check for rubbish under seats and in the seat, door and glove pockets

Step 3. Fill the fuel tank with fuel.

Step 4. Park up with the bonnet facing out.

Step 5. Attach your classic car’s battery to a fit-for-purpose battery conditioner.

Step 6. Leave your handbrake off and the classic car in gear (or in ‘P’ for park). Check your tyres and adjust the pressures.

Step 7. Leave a window open slightly for internal air circulation.

Step 8. Put a bung in the exhaust pipe(s) and cover air intakes, cover with a soft indoor classic car cover.

Step 9. Check your classic car every 30 days minimum.

Step 10. Leave a visible checklist of reminders.

Be sure to keep Step 10 in the forefront of your mind whilst preparing your classic car for storage – and maybe even keep a running list as you do the other steps.

Now, let’s look at each step in more detail.

Step 1. Get Your Classic car Valeted inside and Out

Get your classic car valeted inside and out – and make sure the classic car is completely dry before you put any kind of cover over it. To be sure, either take the classic car for a short spirited run (10-15mins) just after cleaning to dry the brake pads and other hard-to-dry areas. Spending the extra time to do this will avoid rust building up during winter storage.

Step 2. Check Under Seats and in the Seat, Door and Glove Pockets

Check for hidden litter in your classic car – especially anything perishable or edible, which could rot or attract unwanted attention. It’s obvious when you think about it, but believe me, you’d be surprised what I find under classic car seats, in boots and in door and seat pockets!

Step 3. Fill the Fuel Tank with Fuel

Fill the fuel tank to the brim with a premium grade fuel – this helps avoid condensation building up in the tank. If you’re worried about the fuel going off, you could try adding some fuel stabiliser to help.

Step 4. Park with the Bonnet facing out

When you store your classic car over winter for example, try to park in your secure, designated space with the bonnet facing out. The vast majority of classic cars have their batteries at the front, and even if they don’t, there may be points under the bonnet that let you connect to the battery. It’s far easier to revive or jump-start a classic car with a dead battery if the battery is easy to access.

Step 5. Attach Your Classic car’s battery to a fit-for-purpose Battery Conditioner

There is no real need to unattach and remove the car’s battery – although many car owner forums will have you do just that. However, it is a good idea to keep the battery maintained and charged. Buy yourself a good specific 12v or 6v car battery conditioner and you’ll be delighted when you classic fires up happily after a long rest. We use and recommend CTek battery conditioners.

Step 6. Leave Your Handbrake off and ‘in Gear’ (or in ‘P’ for Park). Check Your Tyres and Adjust the Pressures

When preparing your classic car for long term storage we recommend you leave your classic car either in ‘Park’ if it’s an automatic or in first gear, with the handbrake OFF – this will help prevent your brakes seizing over time. If it makes you feel more comfortable, like if there is a slight incline for example, place wheel chocks in front and behind each tyre to prevent the classic car from rolling away.

Check the pressure and condition of every tyre and make a note of these details on your 10 step checklist.

It’s often recommended that you take your wheels off the classic car and place them flat on the floor, whilst putting the car on axle stands. However, this is potentially unnecessary and certainly laborious for short lay up. If you’re worried about your tyres developing flat-spots while in storage you should either:

  • pump the tyres up to 50psi; this will avoid flat spotting (remembering to deflate when it’s time to drive away) or
  • roll the wheels and therefore the tyres every 30 days or so.

Step 7. Leave a Window Open Slightly for Internal Air Circulation

Always leave a small open gap (enough to get your little finger through it – but not a hand or small furry head!) in the driver’s side window. This vent will allow air to get into the classic car, avoiding any condensation build-up and rot due to excess moisture developing inside the classic car and potentially ruining interior leather or other internal materials and finishes.

Step 8. Put a Bung in the Exhaust Pipe(s) and Cover Air intakes, Cover with a Soft Indoor car cover

Depending on where you’re going to store your classic car over, certainly over winter, you may want to consider putting some wire wool in a Jiffy bag and plugging that into the exhaust, as well as any other inviting access holes so that nothing can crawl in and make a home for itself over the winter.

Step 9. Check Your Classic car Every 30 days Minimum

Whilst steps 1 to 8 will help you prepare your classic car for long term storage, ideally (but not essential for short periods of less than a month), you’ll want to go and check on the car. During this periodic check, you should:

  • Check the battery conditioner is happy.
  • Look over the car to ensure it is generally in good shape.
  • Check in the boot, under the bonnet and so on.
  • Check the tyres haven’t deflated – sometimes vehicles develop slow punctures that go unnoticed until the vehicle is put into storage.

You also might want to start the vehicle, to check it’s still alive – run it for 15-20 minutes, or take it for a quick drive until it’s up to temperature.

Remember to follow the rules in Step 10 should you decide to take the car out of storage.

Step 10. Leave a Visible Checklist of Reminders

Always leave a short checklist of reminders for when you come to take your classic car out of storage. If there happens to be a nice sunny day, and you do decide to take the car out for a spin during storage (like a trip to the Sunday Scramble in Bicester for example), and especially when taking the car out at the end of a prolonged storage period.

Please be mindful; Don’t rush it. Be sure you have unattached the battery conditioner, that you have deflated or inflated your tyres to regular running pressures, removed any objects protecting exhausts pipes and air intakes.

And lastly, before you drive off into the sunset, you’ll want to check all your ancillary functions are working correctly:

  1. Walk around the car and ensure the following are all in working order: lights, headlights, fog lights, brake lights and indicators.
  2. Before you go anywhere, let the car warm up slowly.
  3. On the first drive, drive slowly, test the brakes by applying them gradually and safely, listen out for anything unusual.
  4. Take a phone with you and perhaps start with a short 20-minute circular or looped-back route.
  5. Make a note of anything you feel uncomfortable with and speak to your local garage.

Finally, finally, if you made a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) for your vehicle prior to storage now is the time to un-SORN it. You should also check that your MOT and car tax are still current.

  • Taxing your car will cancel any SORN.
  • If you need an MOT, you can only drive the car if it’s to a garage for a pre-booked MOT.

Remember that, since the introduction of Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) in 2011, your classic car must remain insured while not being used unless you make a SORN. You can apply to make a SORN here.

How To Prepare Your Classic Car for Long Term Storage with Auto Classica Storage

If you’re planning to put your classic car into professional storage for the long term or indeed just over the winter, the steps outlined above should help to ensure your vehicle stays safe and in good condition until spring. We hope you’ve found this guide useful and we’d love to hear any of your tricks and tips in the comments section below.

And if you’re looking for a reliable, safe and secure classic car storage facility, please get in touch to discuss your requirements in more detail – 01908 216166