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12 Steps to Protect Your Classic Car in Storage

Whether you’re planning to store your classic car for the winter or looking for a long-term car storage solution, you want your car looking as beautiful coming out of storage as it was going in! Because your vehicle is older, it requires maintenance to preserve its vintage appeal and avoid corrosion. Keep these 12 steps in mind as you prepare to move your classic car into storage.

Things You’ll Need

  • Plastic sheet or tarp
  • Cleaning products
  • Car wax
  • Lubricant
  • Microfiber towel
  • Vacuum
  • Baking soda
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Oil and oil filter
  • Fuel stabilizer
  • Wheel blocks
  • Car cover

Step 1: Evaluate Your Classic Car Insurance

You’ve no doubt already purchased antique car insurance, but storing your car provides a good checkpoint to examine your policy. If you’ve had the car for some time, there may be different insurance options available, including ones that better match your unique needs. It’s also important that your insurance is active and up to date, as most storage facilities require proof of insurance. Talk to your agent and do some research to ensure you’re paying a fair price for the coverage you need.

Step 2: Find the Right Storage Space

One of the best vehicle storage options for your classic car is an indoor drive-up storage unit, preferably one with climate control. These units allow you to keep your vehicle out of the elements and in a controlled environment. Once you find the ideal self storage unit for your car, cover the floor with a sheet of plastic to serve as a vapor barrier that can prevent moisture from reaching the underside of the car.

Step 3: Clean the Exterior & Detail the Car

Black Classic Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Front Headlight. Photo by Instagram User @johan_pranger

Photo via @johan_pranger

Any dirt, salt, and grime that remains on your car’s exterior can cause deterioration, so it’s important that you wash your classic car thoroughly before it goes into storage. Apply a coat of protective car wax, preferably one with a liquid base. Lubricate door and hood hinges so they don’t jam up in your absence. If you own a vintage convertible, store it with the top up to prevent the fabric from shrinking.

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Step 4: Tidy Up the Interior

Classic Red Interior in Corvette. Photo by Instagram User @tom1980ny

Photo via @tom1980ny

One of the most overlooked tasks in vehicle storage is cleaning the inside of the car. Any crumbs or scraps left on the floor or between the seats are a welcome sign for pests, and dust and dirt can cause long-term damage. Avoid these issues by carefully vacuuming your car, cleaning all surface areas with a microfiber towel, and shaking out the floor mats. Preserve your vinyl, plastic, and leather surfaces by wiping them down with a conditioner or treatment. Finally, leave a box of baking soda inside to absorb unwanted odors that can develop over time.

Step 5: Prep the Tires

Tires can rot and crack if they’re dirty for long periods of time. Use a warm, soapy bath and a tire brush to wash away dirt and brake dust from your classic car’s tires, then let them dry completely. Check tire pressure and fill all tires—including the spare—to the recommended PSI, which can be found in the driver’s manual or on a placard on the driver’s side door behind the seat.

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Step 6: Change the Oil

Used car oil has contaminants and residue that can damage your car’s engine if left sitting for long periods of time. This can be especially detrimental to classic cars, particularly those that still have original engines. Change the oil in your vintage car—double check that you’re using the right kind—then go for a short drive to allow it to circulate for a few minutes. This helps introduce the oil to the car’s system and prevents corrosion. This is also a good time to consider checking and replacing your vehicle’s oil filter.

Step 7: Fuel Up

Person Filling Up the Tank of Their Car with Gas. Photo by Instagram User @wetaskiwincoop

Photo via @wetaskiwincoop

The ethanol in gas attracts moisture, so any empty space in your gas tank heightens the risk of rust and corrosion. Drive your classic car until the tank is nearly empty, then fill it completely. If you’re storing your car for the winter, consider adding a fuel stabilizer to prevent the fuel from hardening and turning to gunk. In addition, top off the coolant to ensure the engine doesn’t freeze during cold months.

Step 8: Cover the Tailpipe

Custom Tailpipe Sitting Next to Steel Wool. Photo by Instagram User @nmz__group

Photo via @nmz__group

Rodents love to make nests in warm tailpipes, especially in winter, and their presence can cause all kinds of problems for your classic car. Keep them out by covering your tailpipe or stuffing it with a ball of steel wool. Just don’t forget to remove the plug when you take your car out of storage! Leave yourself a reminder with a note on the steering wheel or a brightly colored flag or ribbon on the tailpipe.

Step 9: Disconnect or Remove the Battery

Car with an Open Hood Using a Battery Tender. Photo by Instagram User @vrviji

Photo via @vrviji

The last thing you want is for your car’s battery to die while it’s in long-term storage. If the battery terminals are left connected, the car will continue to use energy, depleting the battery despite its inactivity. At the very least, disconnect the battery and hook it up to a battery tender. If you’re storing your car for a long period of time, also consider removing the battery entirely, as battery acid leaks cause massive amounts of damage to car engines. If the battery starts leaking and you don’t check it for several months, the results could be catastrophic for your classic car. Once the battery is removed, take it home and store it in a controlled environment. When you’re ready to take your car out of storage, recharge the battery first.

Step 10: Utilize Wheel Blocks & Jack Stands

You want to make sure your car doesn’t move for any reason, but using the parking break for long-term car storage can cause the wheel pads to stick to the rotors. Instead, use wheel blocks to keep the pressure off of your vintage car’s suspension, increasing its longevity and effectiveness. You might also consider jack stands, which help prevent flat-spotting by lifting the car off its tires. This reduces weight and tension, helping wheels maintain their integrity over long periods of inactivity.

Step 11: Cover Your Classic Car

Classic Black & Yellow Mustang with a Car Cover. Photo by Instagram User @the.covershop

Photo via @the.covershop

An extra layer of protection never hurts, and a car cover helps keep out dirt and dust regardless of where you’re storing your vehicle. Look for a custom cover for your classic car made from breathable material that won’t trap moisture and create condensation. The inside of the cover should be made from a soft material that won’t damage the car’s surface or paint.

Step 12: Check on Your Car Periodically

If possible, it’s ideal to check in on your car to make sure everything is in order. If you’re able, try to take the car out for a spin every few weeks—if that’s not an option, at least run the engine for a few minutes. Doing so helps make sure everything is working as it should be and gives the tires a few valuable rotations. Any visit allows you to address small problems that can develop into larger issues over time, as well as check up on the condition and security of your storage unit.

Infographic Explaining How to Protect a Classic Car While in Storage


Looking for a secure vehicle storage option for storing a classic car? Extra Space Storage has self storage facilities all over the country that offer exceptional security, climate-controlled storage units, and other amenities to ensure your vehicle remains in great shape. Find a self storage facility near you!

Pinterest Graphic: Long-Term Car Storage: 12 Steps to Protect Your Car