Winter is coming.
No, this isn’t an episode of Game of Thrones, but if you don’t protect your car from the elements through winter, it might just end up looking like it has been through a battle scene in the notoriously gory TV series.
Winter can be harsh on cars if they’re not protected properly from the elements, and while cars are built to be tough, they do have their limits. A particularly harsh winter is all you need for damage to be done to everything from the paint job to the window glass, as well as the engine itself.
So, what can you do to protect your important asset from the cold, biting winter?
1. Wash it and keep it clean, before storing it
Keeping your car washed and clean is always good advice, but it rings especially true through winter. It’s best to wash your car on days above freezing temperatures, simply because this will prevent the water getting into locks and handles and then freezing them up. You should wash the car regularly through winter because otherwise, salt, sand and other debris can accumulate on the car, wear away paint, and expose the metal underneath to oxidation, which in layman’s terms means rush. This is especially true if you plan on storing the car through much of the winter; always clean it thoroughly first.
2. Give the car some cover
Storing a car in a garage is highly advisable through the winter months, as it will help to keep the vehicle dry, and prevent the extreme low temperatures from having such an impact on it. If possible, keep the car in a garage with a concrete base, to prevent moisture and debris from the soil from adding humidity to the space.
3. Treat the leather and vinyl before storing
Winter can also damage the inside of the car quite substantially. The cold air tends to draw the moisture out of any leather and vinyl that’s inside the vehicle, which can damage the integrity of it, or even lead to cracking. Before the cold sets in and this process begins, it’s a good idea to give all surfaces inside the car a thorough treatment.
4. Similarly, seal the paint on the outside
A good wax coating for the paint job will help to shield the car against any moisture or salt that might otherwise attack it through the winter months. If you’re not planning on driving the car around too much through winter, a single coating of wax will last the full season. If you’re continuing to use the car, give it a new wax every month or so.
5. Give the wheels a proper cleaning
This is the most time consuming part of the winter preparation job, but it’s worth doing; particularly if your car is an expensive one. Removing the tyres allows you to give each of them a comprehensive clean - front and back - and then a complete coating of silicone to seal and protect the wheels. It’s also a good idea to give the wheels a full inflation before putting the car into storage, as the air will naturally decompress through the season.
6. Consider investing in a new battery
Car batteries are especially prone to degradation through winter, and if your battery is more than six years old, it’s a good idea to replace it before putting the car into winter storage. The cold temperatures can accelerate the drain on a battery’s charge, and if you’re not going to be using the car much, it’s possible that the charge could be depleted entirely before the season is out. When you replace the battery, it’s a good opportunity to check and make sure the terminals and posts that connect the battery to the rest of the vehicle are free of corrosion or damage, and clean or replace as necessary.
7. Change your coolant and motor oil
You need to change your car’s coolant and motor oil once every year or so anyway to maintain its best performance, so you might as well do this when you’re preparing the car for storage over winter. Make sure there’s enough antifreeze in the cooling system, too. Generally speaking, those semi-regular maintenance tasks for cars are best done just before winter - that way, once spring rolls, around you’ll be able to enjoy the car again, knowing it’s in peak condition.
Keeping your car protected during winter storage
The last thing you want is to pull the car out of storage at the end of winter and discover that, even if you’ve done the right thing and stored it in a garage, the long three months have damaged the car in such a way that you’re up for thousands in order to get it running again. Preparing the car for the winter months can be a time-consuming process, but it can also save you a lot of money in the longer term.