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Hints for Happy Hot Rod Hibernation

Hints for Happy Hot Rod Hibernation
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If you live where it’s cold, it’s time to get your hot rod ready for its long winter nap. Some rods like roadsters, lakesters and cars with open engine bays require better seasonal protection than a regular car. Even coupes, “tudors” and sedans need some preparation for long-term storage.

Where You Store It
In a large building you can keep your hot rods and other garage items separate. In a smaller building the cars may have to be squeezed in with the other items. A heated garage is nice, but if it isn’t well sealed, it will quickly attract more varmints than a cold garage. An unheated garage can lead to a frozen engine block if sufficient antifreeze isn’t used, especially when that Hemi or small-block Chevy has no hood around it. It pays to think in advance about your storage area and how it can best be organized and what the temperature will be. Ever thought about covering up that open engine? Now, there’s an idea!

Most rodders have been to shows where those plastic blow-up “bubbles” are on display. They have small blower motors that fill them with air. But even if you don’t want to spring for a bubble, how about covering the whole front end of your rod with a big plastic bag and sealing it around the cowl with bungee cords? That will keep dirt and mice from getting in your engine. Think they can’t? I just read about someone who found a mouse on top of a piston during a teardown.

Storage Aids 
The type of storage area you have may dictate some aids you’ll need to safely store your hot rod. If your garage isn’t heated, you should think about a dehumidifier and electric service to run it. If the storage area has a dirt or gravel floor, you’ll need a moisture barrier (thick plastic sheeting). If the storage area is shared with other items, you can mount other items such as shovels and rakes on the wall and hang bicycles from the ceiling. Just be sure they’re secure.

Car Covers
“Breathable” covers are best for hot rods. Some are made of cloth and others are made of high-quality “paper fabric.” Most covers have the manufacturer’s name on the front for proper positioning. You’ll have to poke holes for radio antennas and other accessories. Few people store hot rods outdoors, but if you do, don’t use a cover. The wind will rub it over your paint like sandpaper and it may trap moisture inside.

Storage Area Steps
Make sure your storage area is well organized. Shelves near the car should leveled so they don’t tip over. When storing an open car, make sure the top is up to keep it from getting misshaped by the cold and to help keep varmints out of it. Roll up the windows or snap on the side curtains or make storage covers for rods that don’t have windows or curtains. Avoid paw prints or caved in curtain windows on roadsters by keeping the area free of pets.

Avoid storing chemicals, detergents, liquids or spray cans near your hot rod. You may want to use a rubber wheel stopper to halt your rod at a safe distance from the wall (electronic parking devices are also available). If you are using an automatic door opener, make sure nothing is against the door.

Maintenance Steps
Change the oil and filters before storing the car if your oil change interval is near. Lubricate the chassis. Tighten all hoses so they won’t seep. Check for a 50/50 antifreeze mixture in the cooling system. If you live in the snow belt, be sure you have freeze protection for sub-zero temperatures. If your hot rod has a window washer system (many don’t) drain the fluid in the windshield washer jug or add windshield washer fluid with antifreeze.

Cleanliness Counts
Wash your hot rod. Clean up the engine and engine compartment. Any oil or fluid left on a shiny engine part for months may leave a stain. Apply a good wax to the body and buff it. Go over the waxed car with a “Califoinia car duster” to remove wax residue. Clean and vacuum the upholstery, carpets and luggage compartment. To remove odors, park the car in the sun with a Yankee Candle under the seat before storing it away.

Details, details, details
Fill your gas tank. A partly-empty steel tank will allow air and moisture to mix inside, causing rust and corrosion. Putting dry gas in the tank helps to absorb any moisture already inside. Cover openings mice can get into, especially exhaust pipes. Use plastic wrap and rubber bands to seal the pipe.

Fuel for thought
Some hot rodders run the fuel system dry to avoid varnish formation. Others remove all the spark plugs and squirt oil into the cylinders for top-cylinder oiling purposes. Remove the battery, top off the battery water (the level should be above the plates) and use a battery maintainer to keep the charge up to snuff. Battery maintainers operate on very low, safe current. Put an extra five pounds of pressure in each tire, but remember to remove it in the spring.

Inside advice
In a closed body rod, lower the inside sun visors so rodents or bugs don’t nest between the visor and the headliner. Use cardboard to hold rubber wiper blades off the windshield. Make sure that the emergency brake is off so it doesn’t stick in the “on” position. Take the keys out of the ignition and store them in a lock box or inside your house. Record the key numbers in a safe place. While you’re at it, make sure that all titles, registrations and insurance cards are in order.

Write down all of storage procedures you carried out so you can reverse them before driving your hot rod again.


Using a breathable car cover is strongly recommended.


Battery maintainer will help the hot rod start right up in the spring.


Fasten those brooms and rakes securely to the wall.


If close to oil change time, do it before you store the hot rod.