23rd November 2021

Preparing your classic for hibernation

It’s the time of year when classic cars and bikes traditionally become a rare sight on our roads. Whether to preserve a vehicle’s condition, or due to concerns over unreliability caused by the cold and damp, many retreat indoors and won’t be seen till spring. The question is, what should you think about when planning the hibernation of your pride and joy?

If you won’t use it between now and April, then the first consideration is registering the car as SORN. This is easy and can be done online in minutes. You also need to consider getting the correct level of insurance cover – you’ll want to make sure the vehicle is still protected from theft, fire, etc. If you have a Footman James policy, you can easily switch your policy to a laid up policy if you want to take this route.

Fuel degradation can be a real issue, and if you’ve not used a vehicle much this year, what’s left in the tank could already be long in the tooth. Use a fuel stabiliser to prolong the life of the contents of the tank – there’s a several on the market from well-known brands, and run the engine a little so that it’s properly circulated.

Pay attention to your fluids, and make sure the coolant/antifreeze is topped up correctly. Some mechanics also say that you should consider an oil change before a long period of inactivity. However, depending on when your classic was last serviced, that may be a little excessive. Do think about lubricating and greasing important components and joints.

Cleaning your classic is also a good idea – which can also include giving the wheel arches and the underside of a car a spray with a hose or jet wash to remove accumulated dirt. If you do this, don’t put your classic away in a garage if still wet – you’ll want it thoroughly dry to avoid moisture sitting for a prolonged period.

On the subject of storage, if you’re fortunate enough to have a garage it’s the perfect place to stash a classic. However, you should make sure it’s dry and has decent air circulation. A dehumidifier will help keep the ambient humidity under control, and needn’t cost a fortune. You’ll want to stop a car’s interior developing a musty smell, so think about leaving the windows slight open while it’s inside and consider using a desiccant. You can also use a car or bike cover, to keep dust off, but make sure it’s breathable so any moisture isn’t trapped.

Older chrome components can develop tiny rust spots if there’s any humidity about, but you can help mitigate this by wiping WD40 over brightwork with a soft cloth. If your car has a hood, then put it up to ensure it doesn’t shrink, lose its shape or develop deep creases. The application of vinyl and rubber cleaners and conditioners will also help keep preserve appearance and condition.

Colder weather can easy kill old or frail batteries, so consider using a conditioner to keep the battery topped up and in peak condition. It’ll make restarting in the spring a lot easier.

If you’re using the winter months to work on the vehicle you may have it on axle stands, but if not, you should consider over-inflating or using cradles to preserve tyre shape. You should also chock the wheels and leave the handbrake off, so it doesn’t seize.

It can be tempting to start the engine, even if you’re not intending to use it, but if you do make sure you run it until everything reaches operating temperature. You want to make sure that all condensation and water vapour is removed from sections like the exhaust. The best way of doing this is obviously take it for a drive (insurance and SORN status allowing) but you’ll probably want to make sure the roads are dry and free from the salt and muck that the winter months can bring.

The information contained in this blog post is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.