Prepping Your Corvette For Winter: Part 1 – Storage
If Your Corvette Is Family to You, Here’s How to Prep it for Winter Like You Love It
It’s almost Christmas and some of us have yet to commit to putting our Corvettes into storage. There are two different ways to make it through the long winter with a Corvette: you can either bite the bullet, get proper winter tires, and keep driving it, or you can properly store your car in the comfort of a shop or garage, not to be enjoyed for a handful of months. Depending on where you live and how you use your car, your decision may be made for you. In either case, we’re here to try to provide some guidance on the most appropriate way to tackle winter.
This especially goes for our readers in the North where the winters are particularly brutal. We assume you’ll be putting your ‘Vette away for the deepening freeze, otherwise as one of our forum members has joked, we’ll report you to Child Protective Services.
In this installment, we’ll discuss the proper way to store your car. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot simply park a car and let it sit over a winter without prepping it. If there is one thing cars dislike, it is extended periods of non-use. These tips are not really Corvette-specific, and similar steps should be taken on all cars you plan to store for the winter.
Step 1: General Cleanliness
Before you store your car, it’s a good idea to make sure it is clean. Treat the car to a nice wash, claybar, and wax treatment. Vacuum and shampoo the carpets. Wipe down the dashboard and leather with a nice moisturizing treatment. Clean all of the cracks and crevices of your car that normally collect coins, dirt, and bits of food (Who eats in their Corvette?), so as not to attract rodents to your nice, warm car for their winter hibernation.
Step 2: The oil
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to oil changes in regard to storage. Chief among them is to change the oil before going into storage, thus removing the contaminants from the engine before letting it sit for a long time. Some like to change the oil just before taking a car out of storage, but I wouldn’t recommend this as those contaminants will settle to the bottom of the oil and not completely drain with a cold oil change.
Personally, when storing a car, I will take it for one last drive of the season to get the engine up to temperature before draining the contaminated oil. I then change the filter for a new one and fill the engine with inexpensive, non-synthetic, SAE straight-30-weight oil for its time in storage. Once winter is over, and I’m ready to drive the car again, I’ll empty the 30-weight and add back the appropriate oil for running the car, keeping the “new” filter I installed before winter. This allows the contaminants to drain in the fall, the engine to be properly guarded against corrosion during the winter, and then filled with brand-new oil in the spring. Once the car is in place for the winter, I will also squirt a few ounces of oil into each cylinder through the spark plug hole and turn the engine over a few times without spark to ensure the cylinder walls are properly coated, again preventing corrosion.
Step 3: Fuel
When you go out for that last drive of the season, be sure to pick up a bottle of fuel stabilizer, dump that into your fuel tank, and fill it the rest of the way up. This will prevent water vapor from condensing inside your tank due to the cold, and diluting your fuel. This also prevents tank corrosion. It is always the best idea to store your car with a full tank.
Step 4: Other fluids
As a general rule, coolant should be mixed with distilled water at a rate of 1:1 until full to prevent the coolant from freezing in the engine and causing damage. If temperatures often dip below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, you should consider increasing the mixture to around 70 percent coolant to 30 percent water. Corvette Dex-cool is best purchased as not-premixed, as it allows you to control the mixture with distilled water. When replacing coolant, it is always best to complete a full flush to rid your system of any old coolant, as well as any contaminants. Additionally, it is a very good practice to ensure that your windshield washer system has fluid rated to the lowest expected temperature in your storage area. There is nothing worse than having the fluid container cracked and leaking due to frozen washer fluid.
This is also a good time to work through a full fluid flush of your brake system. To keep rust and water out of your braking system, it is best to do this annually.
Step 5: Tires
Depending upon your preferences, there are a few ways to ensure your tires will remain in good condition during a long winter slumber. Primary among most enthusiasts is the practice of overinflating the tires on the car to prevent flat spots. Some owners will inflate their tires to approximately 50 psi to prevent flat-spotting during storage. I am against this, as the tire manufacturers provide a “maximum pressure” rating for a reason: overtaxed rubber has a higher propensity for failure.
Additionally, the vehicle’s weight is adding stress to not only the tires, but also the wheel bearings and suspension as the car sits through the winter. My preferred method, however, involves placing the car on jackstands for the winter months, and storing the wheel and tire packages flat in the corner of the garage, separated by sheets of corrugated cardboard box. This method puts the least amount of stress on your tires. Plus, you’ve got a good opportunity to properly clean and protect your wheels when they’re off the car. If you want to go wild on that, you can follow this video from Larry at AMMO NYC. He tends to be a bit more obsessive with his car care, as that’s his job.
Step 6: Battery
Batteries are hit hardest by winter cold, and it is imperative that your Corvette’s battery stay in tip-top condition over the winter. The best practice is to remove the battery from the car and store it on a battery maintenance trickle charger (either a CTEK unit or one from Battery Tender will work wonders). Before pulling the battery on your newer Chevy, ensure that you have the radio code at the ready for starting it back up in the spring.
Step 7: Rodent Prevention
There is little worse than stepping into your car for the first time in what seems like ages, only to find rodent droppings, seat material nests, and peanut shells in your heater vents. Ask me how I know. Take these few steps to protect your special car from rodent infestation during a hard and cold winter, and you won’t have to bear the hardship. First, ball up a few wads of steel wool and pack them tightly in your exhaust tips. This prevents any unwanted critters from creating a home in your muffler and clogging it up. The old go-to of mothballs may not be the best idea for your Corvette. First of all, mothballs smell terrible, and come with possibly unwanted olfactory connotations of grandma’s attic. Second of all, the chemicals in mothballs are not always the best for your carpets and leathers. The best thing to do, in this case, is to carefully place shallow dishes or cotton balls filled with peppermint oil, as well as bricks of cedar in the car. Rodents are repelled by these ingredients to a much higher degree than mothballs, and they are actually appealing to smell after sitting in your car for a few months. As is always the case, it is a good idea to place a few rodent traps and/or poisons around your storage area, though be sure to choose which to use wisely dependent upon whether you have children or pets that will frequent the area. I prefer humane traps, but these need to be checked more frequently.
Step 8: Corrosion Prevention
Don’t let the fiberglass body lull you into a sense of false security. Your Corvette is just as susceptible to rust and corrosion as any other. Fasteners, nuts and bolts, exhaust flanges, subframes — there are a number of components on your Corvette’s underside that need some rust prevention. This is a very time-consuming and very dirty job, but all the same I recommend committing to this process once a year, whether you drive your car in the winter or not. If you prefer, this process can be done in the spring as the weather warms, or in the fall before it gets too cold. Either way, it needs to be done if you want to keep your car in tip-top shape for a lifetime.
First, get your Corvette into position elevated off the ground on jack stands or a nice lift. Once into position, remove the wheels, wheel liners, belly pans, and rocker covers, and go to town scrubbing. You’ll want a good soap and a stiff bristle brush. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a pressure washer here, either. The underside of a car is often the most neglected part of the car, and when it is out of sight, it is often out of mind. We, as Corvette owners, probably spend 20 weekends a year washing our cars and making them clean enough to eat off of. Spending one weekend ensuring rust won’t eat through the underside of your gleaming beauty is worth it, right? Once the car is scrubbed clean from the rockers down, make sure to coat each and every bolt, nut, and square inch of floor pan in some form of sprayable rust inhibitor (The WD40 company makes a good one called “Specialist Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor” that can be found for about $14 per can). Make sure your car completely dries out before you put it into storage.
Step 9: Storage
If you are storing your Corvette in an area with a porous cement floor (most garages and shops), it is always a good idea to lay out a fresh plastic drop cloth under the car. A car under a cover can actually collect moisture pulled out of the ground through the concrete. Simply roll the car on top of the drop cloth (you’ll want at least a 3-mil sheet here) jack it up, place it on jack stands, and you’re ready to sit for a good, long winter. Place large desiccant packets inside the car to prevent any further moisture buildup in the carpets or seats. Give the car a last brush-off to make sure you aren’t trapping any dust or dirt that can scratch the paint, and then install a soft, flannel, indoor-style car cover. If you have one of the car cocoons, as depicted in the photo above, you’re even farther ahead of the game. If you want to be extra careful, plug in a dehumidifier in the storage space. And there you have it: a nice, warm, dry, safe space for your Corvette to reside for the harsh, cold, biting winter.