Design & DIY

How do I safely store my car for winter?

A car covered in snow By Thomas Dutour/Shutterstock

I want to leave a car at the cottage over the winter. How do I safely store it? -Alex Braden, Picton, ONT.

Ideally in some sort of structure, such as a shed or a garage, but if that’s not possible, leaving a car outdoors, under a breathable cover, will do. In either case, first change the oil and the oil filter, and top up your coolant, transmission fluid, and fuel. “You want to limit the space in the tank where condensation can build up,” explains Dave Vollmer, a professor of transportation technology at Fanshawe College. Some people also add fuel stabilizer to help keep the gas from degrading, which can happen after as little as a month in storage.

Check the tires, inflate them if needed and, if you can, put the car up on jack stands, says Rick Voskamp, the general manager of Gary’s Automotive and Prime Choice Automotive in Ottawa. This prevents tire flatspotting (when a portion of the tire becomes deformed because it’s been compressed).

As for the car’s battery, Vollmer recommends that you attach an “intelligent” charger, which will hold it in storage mode. No electricity to plug in a charger? Remove the battery and keep it somewhere away from extreme heat or cold.

Voskamp also suggests putting plastic wrap on the windshield to keep the wipers from freezing to the glass. “And don’t leave the parking brake engaged,” he warns. (It could seize up.)

Last but definitely not least: Mouse. Proof. Everything. “Rodents will make nests everywhere,” says Vollmer, who stores a muscle car at his cottage over the winter. (They’ll also wreck carpets and seats, chew through wires, and probably change your radio station presets.) Store the car clean and food-free, and plug openings, if possible. Vollmer puts mothballs on his car’s floormats and in the trunk, and he sets traps outside the car. “Basically, I just try to do whatever I can.”