When Andrew Singer brought home his newest collectible car in the spring of 2017, it failed the sniff test. Sugar the Singer family’s terrier, threw her forepaws over the left front fender of the 2006 Lotus Elise, and the yellow roadster advanced no further into the garage. Sugar smelled the spice of mice.
During the winter, as the result of the previous owner’s careless winter storage, the little rodents built a nest in the dashboard behind the speedometer. “They hadn’t damaged anything—just were hanging out,” Singer said.
Over a long winter, rodents can wreak more automotive misery per ounce than any car deserves, chewing up wiring, upholstery, and fabric. A popular mouse-fighting measure is to put dryer sheets in the passenger compartment. But some experts dispute the effectiveness, saying the smell may only offer an initial defense before mice get used to it. Mousetraps and mothballs on the garage floor may prove little more effective.
Singer has found an altogether foolproof defense for his collection. “The cat patrols the garage after dinner,” he said.
Rodent protection is just one consideration for those who decommission their vintage and collectible cars during the winter. Here are a few other tips to share with your clients
for protecting that special car:
Wash & Wax
Wash and wax the body and give the interior a once-over to remove specks, globs, and splats that might have a corrosive effect.
To prevent varnish from forming, fill the gas tank and add fuel stabilizer. Doing this will thwart contaminants. One source recommends running the engine a few minutes to circulate stabilized gas through the fuel system.
Change the oil and filter, which are likely to have corrosion-causing agents. Top off the levels of other fluids. Changing engine coolant, transmission fluid, and differential oil is optional and proves just how meticulous one can be.
A nice, dry garage is ideal for winter storage. Even if the car is garaged, a vapor barrier on the floor prevents condensation buildup on the underbody and suspension. Sheet plastic or a tarp will do the job.
“If your car will be in storage for more than 30 days, consider taking the wheels off and placing the car on jack stands at all four corners,” says Edmunds.com. Where winter isn't too long, adding extra air to the tires will serve to prevent flat spots.
Leave a car with automatic transmission in “Park.” Leave a car with a manual transmission in neutral and chock the wheels. Either way, do not set the parking brake, which would result in brake pads “freezing” against the drums or rotors because of corrosion.
Remove the battery and put it on a tender until spring.
Car covers are worth the expense. Our favorite purveyor of upmarket car-care items describes their triple-layer cover in technical terms that made us think we’d found NASA’s website by mistake. The cover should be breathable and have a soft inner layer to protect the paint.
There are more elaborate schemes for preserving a special car in the winter. Some owners are so fastidious, they might advocate having it shrink-wrapped and sent to the International Space Station. But the list we present here is just right for the average person’s Saturday afternoon and will keep 99.5 percent of the problems at bay—especially if, as our friend Andrew Singer attests, the dog and cat are living up to their end of the bargain.