How to Prepare Your Car for Winter Storage- [12 Insightful Tips]

Winter is a challenging time for both humans and cars. Freezing temperatures, slippery roads, falling snow, and rain cause drivers to store cars for many days without hitting the road. Preparing your vehicle for proper storage during winter is crucial. It ensures your car’s mechanical and electric systems remain unaffected and will function optimally come spring.

In this blog, you will learn tips on the following;

  • How to prepare your car for winter storage.
  • How often to start your car in winter
  • How to prepare for a road trip in winter and,
  • What you need in your car for winter driving.

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How to Prepare Your Car for Winter Storage

Your car’s electrical and mechanical systems are affected by freezing temperatures in winter and not using them for a long time. As such, you must learn strategies to ensure your car remains in its top shape during the spring.

Below are some precautions to take as you prepare your car for winter storage.

Change your engine oil

Clean, untouched lubricant is the best oil for winter storage. The used lubricant has impurities that might corrode a car’s engine parts. If you plan on keeping your vehicle unused for the whole winter, serious damage can be caused by small impurities in the engine oil, hence the need for clean oil. Using clean, pure lubricant when firing on your car for the first time in spring also provides an exceptional experience.

Add fuel stabilizer

You will often store your car with some fuel in it. Remember, fuel lasts 30 days only before going bad. Protect your gas tank and save gas money by adding a fuel stabilizer to keep your fuel in good condition before storing your car for long. Do this even when it is not winter.

Change your coolant or add an antifreeze

Coolant is essential for the proper performance of your car’s engine. Winter weather can damage your coolant, causing it to thin out and lose its effectiveness. It can also cause your car to burn out or seize. To prevent this from happening, make it a point to check and refill your entire cooling system before you put it in storage.

Cold temperatures cause water to freeze and expand. If this happens inside the engine, there will be catastrophic damage. Therefore, change your regular summer coolant and use a winter coolant. If you still want to use water, ensure the water-to-antifreeze ratio is 50:50 to prevent freezing.

Also, ensure that the coolant is compatible with the car’s radiator and that its level is not low.

Jack Your Car

Placing your car on jacks is an excellent way to ensure safety for your vehicle during storage. Use your car’s jack and place it underneath the front or rear axle, depending on which side you will place it on. This way, its suspension will remain adequately leveled, and your tires won’t wear prematurely.

Also, you should place your car on a level surface so it doesn’t result in any unnecessary stress or damage to the tires. It would be best if you also chocked your wheels to protect them from any damage during the winter.

Wash, buff, and wax your car

Acidic material in dirt eats away the car paint when left for a long time. Additionally, car covers could rub dirt around the clear coat and make scratches on your car’s body. Clean your vehicle before winter storage; you will find it clean when you use it in spring.

Also, clean the interior to avoid molds growing on your seats and causing foul smells.

Place a Car Cover on Your Car

A car cover is a handy protection tool to help preserve the integrity and value of your car during the winter season. There are many kinds of car covers on the market, but it is recommended that you use one that offers maximum protection and prevents dust from getting inside your car.

Also, the car cover should be long enough to cover all your car’s parts. A car cover protects the exterior of your car to ensure that the wood and metal parts are properly protected from dust, dirt, and snow accumulation.

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Block of exhaust and intake boxes

Rodents and critters love cozy places such as car exhausts and intake boxes during winter. Block such places before storing your car for winter to save yourself time and headaches the next time you use it. Ensure all air inlets are closed in the car and put steel wool in the air filter box’s intake duct. Check under your hood periodically during the winter to ensure it’s critter-free.

Disconnect the Battery

Fully disconnecting the battery is one of the best ways to ensure your car runs smoothly during winter. Removing the battery is necessary because, during the cold season, your battery could freeze and leak, causing damage to its casing. Keep the battery warm and fully charge it before storing it. This helps to start your car after the winter season easily.

You can also buy an extra battery and have it as a backup if you need to start your car during the winter. Avoid storing your battery on concrete, as this can cause it to discharge, making it hard to start the car.

Use Desiccant inside your car

There is no secret that the moisture or mist would find their ways into your car. Over time, the moist environment in the vehicle may result in a mouldy smell, especially when you open your car for the first time when the winter is over. This smell can stay with you for a couple of weeks and may be costly to eliminate.

Why wait for such frustrations? Get ready for winter. You can avoid this problem by purchasing a dehumidifier product that will suck moisture out of the air inside your car and keep your vehicle moist and mist free in the window period.

You can also choose certain types of moisture absorbers, like DampRid, available on store shelves. The DampRid works by absorbing moisture from the air using calcium chloride. In most instances, it is mixed with an air freshener to eliminate moisture and bring a pleasant smell to your car.

The calcium chloride crystals absorb the water and release them into your car’s bottom chamber. In such an instance, you will need a tarp to help collect the water released to avoid wet floors that can also encourage mould growth over time and destroy your floors

Leave Some Gas in the Tank

A little gas in your tank during winter is crucial for the engine’s performance and overall safety. Gas in the tank prevents air and excess moisture from entering the fuel line, which can cause rust and corrosion. If your car isn’t used during the winter, you can leave half a full gas tank. You might also need to start your car in extreme conditions requiring enough gas to run.

Lubricate the Chassis

Your car’s chassis is made of many moving parts, and all that friction can lead to rust. Also, the chassis is constantly exposed to the effects of salt during winter, which can cause many different kinds of damage.

Lubricating your car’s chassis is essential to keep everything working smoothly, especially during winter. You must lubricate your car’s chassis by using a special type of oil spray during the fall before the real cold weather hits. Lack of proper lubrication for your car might cause performance issues such as:

  • Slipping gears
  • Engine oil leaks and cylinder seizures
  • Stalled engines

Park Your Car on a Tarp

A tarp, also called a tarpaulin, refers to a large sheet of water and fire-resistant plastic or cloth material made of polyethylene, polyester, or canvas. Tarps are handy to prevent mess when painting or when you suspect leaks or want contain and collect debris.

When storing your car over the winter period, you may suspect oil leaks over time from your car’s engine to your garage floor. You do not want to go through the stress of scrubbing the dark spots from your garage floors when the spring is over caused by oil stains.

You can immensely benefit from a tarp by placing it under the engine or any other leaking component of your vehicle to trap the leaks falling into the ground from where your car is sitting.

The video below explains how you can properly store your car

How often should you start your car in the winter?

A car functions optimally when it is used regularly. Therefore, prolonged hibernation and restricted usage during winter affect its mechanical and electrical systems. The only solution to this problem is to start your car regularly, and it is associated with various benefits, including;

  • The car will be ready for use again in spring.
  • You will avoid costly and avoidable repairs.
  • Starting your car regularly during winter extends the life of the vehicle.

The big question is, how often should you start your car in winter?

 You should start your car once each week and keep it running for 10 – 15 minutes. This ensures that the vehicle is operating at the normal temperature, the engine coolant is heated, preventing it from freezing, and the car’s battery is recharged.

Additionally, turn on the car’s electrical systems, such as the air conditioner (AC), for maximum benefits.

However, it is essential to note that starting your car charges the battery and involves the electrical systems only. Drive around for a few minutes to activate the mechanical systems, such as the braking system, suspension, transmission, and power steering.

If you face challenges when starting your car during winter, it is often because the battery is running down. In this case, you may need to jump-start the battery, especially if your car sat idle for too long, for the engine to start.

Ensure you have turn off other electrical systems, such as the radio and AC, and turn them on 10 seconds after the engine starts running. This gives the battery a chance to recharge.

How to prepare your car for a winter road trip

Driving in winter is different from the summer. Falling snow, slippery roads, freezing temperatures, and low visibility pose challenge to winter driving. When you plan to drive your car for a winter road trip, it is necessary to make your car ready for the harsh conditions in winter.

Here are things you should do to prepare your vehicle for a winter road trip.

Check your battery

A car battery lasts between 3-5 years. If your battery has exceeded its lifespan, change it. Also, ensure that the battery is corrosion free and all the connections are tight. This will ensure electrical systems such as AC and lights function correctly. It is important to note that more current is required to start the engine at low temperatures, so keep your battery in the best possible conditions.

Check your tire pressure

Air pressure drops rapidly during winter. Experts say that for every 10-degree drop in the temperature, there is a 1Psi drop. It is, therefore, essential to ensure your tires are properly inflated. Proper tire pressure allows the best possible contact for safe traction. You can also change your tires and use tires specially designed for winter driving.

Change the wiper blades and wiper fluid

During winter, there will be winter precipitation and salt on your windscreen. Ensure your wiper blades are less than a year old to clean your windscreen properly. Better still, use wiper blades that are designed for winter weather. While at it, ensure you use a low-freezing temperature wiper fluid.

Furthermore, with winter comes an increased likelihood of window fogging. Wiper blades will be required to be in good working order to ensure that your vision is clear and you can see what is on the road. Also, make sure that they are installed correctly to avoid damage.

Check the antifreeze mixture

Make sure the water-to-antifreeze mixture is in a 50:50 ratio. This will prevent the coolant in the radiator from freezing. You can check the ratio by buying an affordable antifreeze mixture from a local auto shop.

Use Winter Tires

Even if you don’t travel in winter very often, the right winter tires can make a big difference when handling snow. They have special treads that do not lay flat on the road and provide much better traction than normal tires. They will help keep your car from sliding, which is extremely important when driving in snow or ice.

If you live in a particularly frigid part of the country, it might be well worth your time to purchase snow tires for those months when you are most likely to drive in snow and ice.

Get a Winter Emergency Kit

An emergency kit is crucial for any road trip. You will have a kit with extra supplies and an emergency contact number should something go wrong. It is essential if you are going to be traveling in remote areas, as well as locations that may not be populated.

Check the Car’s Fluid Levels

Ensure your car is in good working order by checking all fluid levels. These include oil, transmission, radiator, brake fluid, and battery. If you are low on any of these fluids, it might be time to get them checked out. It is also advisable to have a few extra fluids in reserve if there is any spill.

Get an Emergency Roadside Kit

A roadside emergency kit comes in handy when you are forced to take your car off the road. It will have extra flares, jumper cables, jacks, tire iron, and other essential tools that can come in handy if something goes wrong. This kit will also help keep you from making service calls on the side of the road, which can become quite costly.

What do you need in your car for winter driving?

Winter driving is a challenging experience. If you are coming into the season unprepared, you could be in for a bad time. While it may be easier to leave your planning until the last minute, it will also make things much more dangerous if you need to figure out what to do in advance.

To help you prepare for winter driving, here is a list of supplies you should have in your car.

Ice scraper

Ensure you have an ice scrapper in your car, preferably with a long handle, when driving in winter. You will use it to clear off thick layers of ice on your windows, lights, and mirrors.


A shovel is the best tool when you get stuck in a mud puddle or a snow pile. You can dig out from around a spinning tire or add fresh snow or dirt to the mix to improve the tire’s grip. Look for a short foldable shovel that will easily fit in your trunk.


A flashlight is an essential item to have in your car for winter driving. You can use it to signal to other cars, dig around the trunk after dark or check for issues under the hood. A flashlight is also crucial when walking to get assistance at night.

Blankets and extra-cold weather clothes

Blankets and extra-cold weather clothes are invaluable when getting out of the car. They will protect you from the extreme temperatures of winter. Keep a few of these items in the trunk; you might help another person or change if you get wet.

Phone charger

Always have a phone charger in your car when driving in winter. You don’t want a dead phone and are stuck in the cold with no means of calling for help.

Jumper Cables/Battery Charger

It is always good to carry jumper cables if your battery dies while driving. Driving with a dead battery can be extremely dangerous, especially in an area without cell service. Jumper cables will allow someone to drive behind you and give your car enough power to continue.

If you are in a remote area, consider carrying a battery charger to avoid running out of power altogether.

Extra Flares/Jack Stands /Spare Tire

If you experience a breakdown on the side of the road, you will need to have some supplies on hand to keep yourself safe. These supplies include flares, jack stands, and a spare tire. The flares will help warn other drivers that something is wrong and keep them from crashing into you.

The jack stands will hold your car up while you work on fixing it. The spare tire will prevent you from making a more costly trip to the shop. If you do get a flat tire, change it and continue traveling.

How much gas should you leave in a stored car?

When storing your car, ensure its tank is at least 2/3 full. Preferably, the tank should be full. Empty tanks are risky for car storage as they accumulate condensed water from the air.

The condensed water may result in severe problems with the water separators on the equipment. For instance, the water may result in the explosion of the fuel injector tips, which may subject you to expensive repairs.

Moreover, your engine is also at high risk with the condensed water. Often, the slugs of water in your fuel tank may suddenly cause engine cooling and reduce its longevity.

As a result, when storing your car, it is essential to have 2/3 of the gas tank full at least and then add a fuel stabilizer. You can add products such as Sta-Bil or Briggs and Stratton gasoline stabilizers. The fuel stabilizers can keep your fuel fresh for up to 2 years and eliminates the need to drain fuel before storage.

In addition, the fuel stabilizers ensure that you will not struggle to start your car in the summer as they prevent the gum and vanish build-up in your engine’s fuel system. You can easily find fuel stabilizers at gas stations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I disconnect my car battery when storing it?

Yes, this is a good idea if you are storing your vehicle for an extended period. This practice will keep the battery from losing power. The battery can only start your car when you need it most if the power drains.

Should I change the oil before storing my car in winter?

Yes, this is a good idea if you plan to store your car for an extended period. Changing your oil will keep moisture from building up inside the engine and causing damage.

Should I let my car run before driving in winter?

Yes. It is paramount to let your car run for about 1-2 minutes before you drive in winter. The aim is to get your car’s engine warm. You can do this while getting out of the car and putting on any necessary clothing. Also, there is no harm in letting the car run for up to 10 mins if you want to get everything warm, including the cabin, before the winter drive.

Do I need to start my car every day in cold weather?

You don’t need to start your car every day in cold weather. However, according to the experts at AAA (Federation of motor clubs), starting your car at least once every week is a good idea. By doing this, you will keep the oil from becoming too dense and keep the battery charged.

Also, based on the AAA reports, if your car does not use a carburetor, it would not be necessary to warm them up in the cold to keep them from freezing.


Winter is a challenging time for cars. You can keep it in a garage all winter long or drive it a few times during winter. Either way, you should ensure your car is in the best condition possible. We have seen how to prepare your car for winter storage properly and prepare it for winter driving. In addition, we have covered items you need in your vehicle any time you drive it in winter.

Kind regards. Leave comments if you need any clarification or have a question for me. Thank you.