- Decide whether you’re keeping your motor on or off the road
- Protect your bodywork against the elements
- Be clever in order to get the best results
Keep your car dry
Moisture is a car’s worst enemy as it causes components to rust, ruins electronics and eats away at seating and upholstery.
“Fighting off the damp is a full time job,” says Director at Hexagon Classics Jonathan Franklin, one of London’s leading classic car dealerships. “Most vintage cars should always be stored in a garage overnight, better still if it is heated and has a dehumidifier.
“A soft cover can be an added protection for hibernating cars, but you must make sure there is room for the air to circulate and I’d recommend taking it off every couple of weeks on dry days to let the car breath,” he continues.
Keep your car clean
In winter the roads are covered with salt to keep the ice at bay, but this wreaks havoc on your vintage bodywork.
“I recommend giving your car a thorough jet wash after each winter outing,” says Franklin. “If the car is being stored, dust can be a real nightmare too as it attacks paint, so before laying the vehicle up, valet it and then give it a loving few layers of wax.”
Maintain your battery
“Investing in a good quality trickle charger will change your life,” says Franklin. “Batteries suffer from the cold and lack of use in winter, so a trickle charger will keep it topped up and you will never have to suffer the ignominy of turning the key in the morning and discovering you’re out of power. If you’re storing your car, simply disconnect the battery from the car. Old circuitry drains much more than modern electronics.”
Petroleum jelly is a natural water repellent so it’s a useful ally for classic car owners, albeit a rather messy one. A classic favourite for winter preparation is covering all rubber joints with the stuff (especially door seals) to prevent them from stiffening up, splitting and freezing over.
This is still a valid option but silicon sprays are now available to do the same job. Don’t put the Vaseline away yet though, as it can be rubbed on delicate chrome parts to stop the expensive metallic finish from pitting and rusting.
Don’t scrimp on antifreeze
Antifreeze is an essential ally in winter, not only because it stops your engine from freezing over but also because it prevents the water your cooling system uses from corroding everything it touches.
“Whatever you do don’t go cheap on antifreeze,” says Danny Hopkins, Editor of Practical Classics Magazine. “It’s the quickest and easiest mistake to make in the book. If it’s too weak or of poor quality it can ruin an engine which is why I rely solely on classic brands such as Bluecol.”
Discover the joys of silica gel
If you never knew what to do with those tiny little sachets of silica gel that seem to come in the packaging of just about everything nowadays, here’s a good chance to start recycling them.
“Silica gel can become your new best friend,” says Hopkins. “These sachets are designed to absorb moisture so collect them and put them to good use in your classic car – in the glovebox, door pockets… You can even put some in your toolbox to stop your spanners getting rusty.”
Just because it’s winter, that doesn’t mean you should forget all of the regular checks you make on your classic car: fluids, brakes, headlights, tyre tread, wiperblades, etcetera. Constant checks are essential if you want to take care of your classic car, but the right insurance could also help give you peace of mind.
Taking care of your car is even more important in winter as any trouble can leave you stranded on a cold roadside. One final thing to prepare is a small survival kit made up of a blanket, a torch and some chocolate – just in case the worst does happen and you’ve got a long wait until the recovery vehicle comes to pick you up!
John Silcox is an experienced car journalist and regularly contributes to a number of car magazines including Auto Express