Ultimate Guide to Classic Car Storage and Maintenance

Classic Car Storage and Maintenance Tips for Ontario Car Enthusiasts

If you own a classic car, you already know it's not "just" another car—it's a complete hobby. Many happy hours can be spent in the garage tinkering under the hood or cruising around town on a sunny day with open windows, enjoying the excitement on people's faces when they see your prized possession.

There are places in the world where classic cars can be driven year-round. Still, most Canadians choose to store their classic car during the winter—the conditions aren't conducive to keeping an older car in excellent condition But you also don't want to park your classic car in any old place and leave it there for months—or years—on end to be ravaged by moisture, vermin and grime.

That's why the brokers at Morison Insurance, specializing in classic car insurance, have compiled this list of classic car storage and maintenance tips to help car lovers protect their vintage vehicles and keep them in perfect shape for the next sunny day.

Maintaining a Classic Car

The truth about classic car maintenance is that it's not all that different from maintaining a modern vehicle. Maintaining a classic car might actually be a lot easier because they are typically analog and don't feature digital systems that can make modern vehicle maintenance more challenging. 

Classic car maintenance is also more accessible, or at least more fun, because most classic car lovers consider it part of the appeal of owning a vintage car or truck. While maintenance on a modern, everyday vehicle is a routine chore, maintaining a classic car is a pleasant pastime that many enjoy doing as a labour of love, and those who are interested in owning an older vehicle usually already have a pretty solid idea of how to keep it in good shape regularly.

Typical classic car maintenance tasks include tire rotation, changing the oil, maintaining the engine, checking belts and hoses for signs of wear, washing and waxing, and arguably the best part—taking it out for a drive now and then. You may not have access to a manufacturer's service guide for your particular vehicle, but if you do, it doesn't hurt to read and follow the suggestions in the guide.

Storing a Classic Car

Whether you need to put your vehicle in short-term winter or long-term classic car storage, there are some additional steps to protect your investment from deterioration you may not bother with if you're storing a modern vehicle. Here are some classic car storage tips to help ensure that your most precious possession is still in the outstanding condition the next time you're ready to do some work on it or take it out for a spin. 

Maintain Garage Environment

Before you even get to handle the actual car itself, you need to make sure you've got an appropriate place for classic car storage. Some people don't have the garage space available at home or prefer a purpose-built, commercial, heated storage facility, which is a perfectly viable option. But if storing a classic car at home is your preferred option, take the time to prepare the space appropriately. Here are a few tips on maintaining the right garage environment:

  • The ideal climate is a heated garage, especially for classic car storage that will last six months or longer. If you don't have a heated storage space, at least make sure to keep your garage dry. Moisture from high humidity levels or a leaking roof is far more damaging than cold temperatures. Keeping your vehicle in an indoor storage area will save it from many outdoor elements like bird droppings.
  • Avoid spaces with a grass, rock or dirt floor. Concrete floors are generally best, and for long-term storage, it's a good idea to put down a moisture barrier—especially in garages that may be prone to moisture exposure. This can be as simple as plastic sheeting laid across the floor in the area where the car will be parked to help prevent moisture from building up underneath and causing accelerated deterioration to the vehicle's undercarriage.
  • It's essential to prevent your car from getting extended exposure to direct sunlight, which can fade and damage paint, vinyl and other surfaces. If your garage has windows, this problem can be solved by installing curtains or blinds to block out the direct sunlight that could hit the car at certain times.
  • This may go without saying, but the cleaner your garage is, your classic car will be better off. Garages usually aren't perfectly immaculate, but sweeping or even washing the floor thoroughly and dusting shelves, workbenches and other surfaces can go a long way toward preventing dirt and grime build-up during classic car storage.

Wash and Dry Before Storing

Some people skip this step before classic car storage but keep in mind that you'll be placing a cover over the vehicle, and if it's already dirty, the cover can drag dirt across the paint finish and scratch it up. Give it a good wash, and make sure it's completely dry before putting it away. You can also apply a coat of wax for added protection.

Keep Pests Away

You may think there's no way rodents or insect vermin could get inside your garage, but those opportunistic creatures have plenty of time to spend looking for ways in. Once they access the garage, their next mission is to get inside your classic vehicle and cause major damage, from ripping up the seats to chewing holes in hoses. You can do a few things to ensure that even if they do get in the garage, they'll stay clear of your classic car. That includes steps such as:

  • Removing any trash, food or other vermin attractants from the car in particular and the garage in general
  • Putting rodent repellent around or in the vehicle
  • Placing a few dryer sheets under the hood to deter mice
  • Stashing mothballs in the vehicle, especially around fabric components
  • Blocking off the exhaust pipe with aluminum foil to prevent rodents from crawling inside

Fill Tank With Fuel

This classic car storage tip is straightforward. When storing a classic car, always put it away with a full fuel tank of premium fuel. If the tank is only partially full, moisture from condensation can build up in the empty space, creating the perfect environment for rust and causing the gas tank to deteriorate from the inside out. For long-term storage, adding a fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank is also a good idea to prevent the fuel from thickening and eventually hardening. After adding the fuel stabilizer, drive the car for 10 or 15 minutes to ensure it's worked through the system, then top up the fuel before storage.

Change Oil

The following steps for classic car storage are to change the oil and swap out the engine oil filter. Leaving old, dirty oil in your vehicle is a one-way ticket to accelerated engine deterioration and rusting. After you change the oil, take your car out for a brief drive to ensure everything is properly lubricated. Speaking of lubrication, this is also an excellent time to remove your spark plugs and lubricate the cylinders before replacing them or keep them out of the vehicle during storage to prevent the car from being driven without your permission. 

Remove Vehicle Battery

Suppose you are planning classic car storage for an extended period of time, and you won't be starting the engine periodically. In that case, the best practice is to remove the battery entirely and store it up off the ground in a heated area to prevent it from seizing up in the cold. If you notice signs of corrosion on the battery terminal when you remove it, clean it off carefully with a cleaning solution of distilled water, petroleum jelly and baking soda before storing it away. If you don't want to remove the battery entirely, just disconnect the negative cable or attach a battery tender before storing your classic car.

Top Up Fluid Levels

It makes sense to make certain other fluids are also topped up for similar reasons as topping up fuel and changing oil. That includes brake fluid, transmission fluid, antifreeze and even windshield washer fluid to prevent condensation build-up inside the fluid tanks that can lead to premature rusting on the interior.

Air Up Tires

It's no secret that tires are expensive to replace, and taking the time to make sure they're well-maintained before classic car storage can help them last longer so you can cut down on those replacement costs. Fill them up with air to the maximum recommended psi (pound-force per square inch). Also, remember that your vintage car shouldn't have vintage tires. You do eventually need to replace the tires for the health and safety of the vehicle, as the rubber will harden over time and could become dangerous to drive on.

Use Jacks to Raise Car

If you plan for your classic car storage period to last longer than six months, consider lifting the vehicle up on jack stands. This lifts weight off the tires and suspension system, so it's not suffering damage needlessly while the vehicle sits there.

Cover Your Classic Car

Finally, the best practice for classic car storage is ensuring the vehicle is snug and safe in a high-quality cover. Even a flawlessly clean, climate-controlled garage will eventually gather dust, and a cover is a simple, inexpensive way to keep it away when storing a classic car. Make sure to thoroughly shake any dust or debris off the cover before you put it on so it doesn't drag dirt around on the paint and leave unsightly scratches behind.

Getting the Right Classic Car Insurance

People sometimes assume there's no need to insure a vehicle that is currently in classic car storage, but that's not the case. We all know that any vehicle must have insurance coverage to be legally driven on public roads in Canada, but why do you need classic car insurance for a vehicle in storage? There are actually a couple of good reasons why.

You can't get classic car insurance coverage that only applies to part of the year, so if you want to be able to drive your classic car when the weather is warm, it needs to be insured throughout the whole year, including when it is in classic car storage during the winter.

But even more importantly, it's a mistake to think your car is completely protected from perils that could cause severe damage or destruction while it's being stored. As solid and well-protected as your garage may be, it's not impervious to damage from factors such as fire, extreme weather patterns or even an exterior impact from another vehicle or a falling tree. That means your classic car isn't impervious to damage, either. If it gets damaged or destroyed, you'll need the financial protection of classic car insurance to restore it to its former condition or replace it with a vehicle of similar value.

Classic car owners often assume it'll be a hassle to insure their vehicle because they'll have to go through an appraisal process, but that's often unnecessary. Sometimes, you need to give the insurance company the VIN for your car so they can look it up in their system and use an evaluation guide to determine the correct coverage limits. If the agreed-upon value of your vehicle matches up with verifiable market values, there's no need for an appraisal. The more information you can provide to the insurance company, the smoother and more painless the process will be. That includes information such as originality, how many people owned it previously, documentation and after-market modifications.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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