Winter is Coming. Are Your Stored Vehicles Ready for Cold Weather?

Sara Heins |
Unlike the lords, ladies and wildlings of Westeros, we know exactly when winter is coming - and it’s already started to creep up on us. Taking a few simple steps in preparation will save you from disappointment when it's time to retrieve your items in the spring.

General Vehicle Winterization Tips for Self Storage

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of your vehicles could be stored inside your very own garage or climate-controlled storage unit throughout the colder seasons? Due to space and monetary constraints, this just isn't always a possibility for the average person. Fortunately, many storage facilities have uncovered, covered and enclosed parking space available – and if you take the right precautions, you can safely store your vehicle in any of the options so it will last throughout the winter.

Stay insured:

First things first – remember that if you're using a storage unit to keep your car, boat or RV safe during the winter, many storage facilities will require documentation, including proof of insurance. It's best to have this ready and available. You probably won't be driving your vehicle throughout its duration, so you can save money by considering what kind of insurance will actually apply to your situation. For instance, comprehensive insurance will cover weather-related damages as well as vandalism.

Disconnect the battery:

This will not only preserve your battery life but also prevent it from freezing while in storage. Another option is a trickle charger that self regulates so the battery remains fully charged while it's not in use. This inexpensive piece of equipment charges at a low and consistent rate; without using it, you'll slowly lose power every day your vehicle's in storage.

Invest in jack stands and wood blocks:

Your tires and suspension are most at risk when your vehicle remains stationary for a long period of time. Jack stands are a great investment when it comes to preservation of both by minimizing the pressure created by the weight of the car. It's also best to not engage your parking break for long periods of time in the winter (as it can freeze and lock up), so those with a manual transmission who may fear rolling are advised to alternatively place angled blocks of wood underneath tires. use car jacks for storing vehicles

Fill up your vehicle:

Before leaving your vehicle motionless for months at a time, you'll want to perform an oil change and other routine services. If you're going to have oil sitting inside your engine for an extended period of time, you'll want to make sure it's as clean as possible to prevent corrosion. Top off all fluids; anti-freeze will help protect your engine from the cold weather, and keeping the gas tank full (with gas AND fuel stabilizer) will help prevent moisture from building up, causing water to enter (which can be a costly problem to fix).

Cover your vehicle:

Whether you're storing your vehicle inside or outside, invest in a cover. Covers intended for outdoor use are worth the splurge and can protect against weather, moisture buildup and, in general, getting blown off. If you're storing a classic car, be sure to find the one for your specific make and model for optimal protection. You're generally safe to purchase a standard car cover if you're able to store your vehicle in an enclosed space; this way, your vehicle's exterior can be protected against dust accumulation. However you're storing your vehicle, never EVER use a plastic tarp; this will trap moisture inside and potentially ruin your paintjob.

Covered car

Wash and wax your vehicle:

To prevent damage to the exterior of your car, you'll want to make sure it's nice and clean before it remains in a storage unit for an extended period of time. This will especially help prevent scratches if you decide to put a cover on your car.

Prevent infestation:

Whether it's an old Big Mac wrapper in your backseat or leftovers from your RV's last camping trip, be sure to remove all food from your vehicle before it's stored. As an added protection against bugs and vermin, place dryer sheets or good, old-fashioned mothballs (if you can stand the smell!) on the exterior and interior of your vehicle. Finally, be sure to cover the exhaust pipes with aluminum foil to prevent any small critters from climbing inside while they're trying to stay warm.

Vehicle-Specific Storage Tips

The generic tips listed above will help with storing any vehicle throughout the winter, but specialty vehicles like RVs, boats and motorcycles require some of their own individual care.

RV Winterization:

  • Run anti-freeze through the plumbing system to ensure no water is left behind. Frozen and busted pipes can be a costly fix. Read more about how to drain your water and add anti-freeze.
  • Vacuum the floors and furniture thoroughly to remove any crumbs
  • Wash all of the sheets, towels, etc.
  • Clean up the cooking area, disinfect the stove and other surfaces that could possible have dried on food or liquids to prevent critters.
  • Take out anything that could possibly freeze – from electronics to cans of soda to the bathroom soap.

20081203 RV In Storage (101)

Boat Winterization:

  • Remove electronics and store in a climate-controlled environment.
  • Fix anything that's broken before you store. Repair now so any small problems don't turn into big ones!
  • Place baking soda throughout your boat to help absorb moisture, especially if you’re storing anything that could potentially still be damp (cushions, sails, life vests, etc).
  • If you have faucets, showers or a water heater, make sure to add anti-freeze to the supply lines to prevent pipe breakage.
Read more about protecting your boat in the winter.

Motorcycle Winterization:

  • Lube your cables and tighten any loose screws.
  • Treat any leather with a high quality dressing.
  • Avoid storing your motorcycle directly on concrete; place on carpet or plywood instead.
  • If possible, store your motorcycle on a stand to relieve the wheels of the bike's weight.
By taking a few simple steps, we're positive you'll be much happier with the outcome of your stored vehicle. For more advice on preparing your car, boat, bike or RV, consult our Storage Tips section, call a self storage facility near you and read your owner's manual for model specific advice on keeping your specific vehicle safe throughout the winter. Sources: Cars.com Flickr - Greg Berdan