By Larry Barnett
Ol’ Man Winter is here. This means some of us GearHeads store our “baby.” Even though we had an above average temperature fall, Dufferin County snow is here. While depressing, I remind myself what my friend’s father said about storing his 2006 Mustang ragtop: “yes, sad, but in the spring, it’s like driving a new car again!”
My own Mustang is now 10 years old! She only has 45,000 kms on it. She’s my rain or shine, summer DD (daily driver). It still looks new, thanks to never having seen the dreaded Canadian road salt. To me it’s worth storing.
The insurance saving covers the storage fee. Yes, I need an additional vehicle. In my case, it’s a cheap-to-insure pick-up truck 4×4, & all weather (not all season), chunky tires. We drive it year round, as it’s so handy. Christmas trees; lumber yard; & hauling stuff to my daughter’s (“Daddy, will you please bring…?”) house, which is 2 hours away. Try doing that with a sub-compact. I’ve tried to convince my wife & son, we really don’t need a truck. So far, I’ve lost that battle. It is very handy, though.
You may say having 2 vehicles is foolish. In the long run, I say it’s a break even, or maybe slightly cheaper. I hope to keep my Mustang for many more years! My last pick-up truck lasted 11 years. I replaced it last year, with a 2010. My car & truck are probably worth approximately $25,000 together. It’s hard to buy a decent sized vehicle today for under $30,000! Do the math – that justifies your summer ride!
I met an owner of a small engine dealer. He said he makes most of his money on repairs, due to old gas. He said, “regardless of the size of the engine (whether a common 3 ½ horsepower lawnmower, or a big V8, ALWAYS fill the tank with premium fuel, when storing.” Add fuel stabilizer. This prevents the fuel from gumming up, & varnishing. Most automotive parts retailers carry it.
Now, the science of fuel. In the past 10 years or so, the gas pumps state regular unleaded may contain 10% Ethanol. It is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane. Mid grade may contain 5%. Premium contains NO Ethanol.
I only use premium fuel & stabilizer, in my riding lawn mower, weed whacker, & snow blower, too. I’ve never had a problem!
There are four problems with ethanol:
1.) Ethanol is hygroscopic – it likes water.
2.) It is corrosive when in contact with certain materials in fuel storage and delivery systems, including some rubber compounds and the zinc and aluminum alloys used in carburetors.
3.) It acts as a solvent in older engines, dissolving the varnish and other deposits in tanks and lines. These then are carried to the carburetor or injection system where they can clog the small orifices involved.
4.) Because it is an alcohol, ethanol dries out the rubber components in a fuel system. This leads to cracking and brittle fuel lines, floats, seals, and diaphragms.
It appears fine to use in most modern “Flex Fuel” vehicles. Also most vehicles have “fresh” fuel put in them frequently. In the USA, regular fuel may contain 15% ethanol. Canada is the 6th largest producer of ethanol. My Mustang calls for regular fuel, which I use during the summer. The jury is out on whether using premium fuel, if your vehicle’s manufacturer specifies regular. Some say, you’re wasting money. Some say it’s cleaner on the fuel system. Flip a coin. However, some cars require premium fuel, especially if turbocharged. Many engines are today.
Here is my “recipe” for storage:
- Obtain a secure, & dry storage location
- Rust proof if a summer daily driver, every 5 years or so
- Wash & wax the vehicle
- Vacuum & clean the interior
- Change the oil. Use the specified grade
- Fill the fuel tank & add fuel stabilizer (as above)
- Buy a breathable cover ($50 and up). Prior to covering, use waterless car wash spray for touch-ups, before covering.
- Check the vehicle Owner’s Manual regarding storage. Some manufactures say, do not disconnect the battery. If there is power available, consider a trickle-type battery charger
- Some say, pump up the tire air pressure (5 PSI over specs)
- I’ve heard dryer fabric softener sheets, keep rodents away. Some place on the floor around & under the vehicle. Luckily, I’ve never had a problem
- Cancel liability & collision insurance, but keep comprehensive (cheap!) coverage on/active
- Store the car
- My car sits unheated, on chip board, with rigid 1 ½-2” Styrofoam sandwiched above the concrete pad. In the spring, there is no rust on the brake rotors!
- If you must store outdoors, DO NOT park on grass. That almost guarantees excess moisture, which equals rust! Be sure nearby trees don’t shed needles or leaves. They can clog water drainage gallies, in the body. In bad storms branches may break, or whole trees could land on the body
- If it’s being stored on ‘unsealed’ concrete [rough, dusty, porous], it should have a vapor barrier for the vehicle to sit on
- Start the car a couple of times during the winter. Run for 10 minutes. Turn on the A/C, to circulate the refrigerant, which helps the seals. If you can, put in gear/drive, then reverse, just the move the power train a bit.
- Call your insurance company 1 week prior to getting out in spring. This is due to the MTO. If their computer system, doesn’t see liability coverage, they won’t renew the license sticker.
In 9 years of storing, touch wood, I’ve never had a problem re-starting in the spring.
The old-school theory was to put the vehicle “up on blocks.” Years ago, I stored my ’78 Z28 that way, one time. It accelerated rust on some of the suspension parts.
I hope this helps! Enjoy winter!
I look forward to getting my “horse, out of the paddock,” next spring.
NOTE: The author assumes no liability