Winter car storage

Q: What do you recommend for winter storage of a car? We have a 2005 Ford Mustang and a 2006 Mazda Miata. Should we put plastic down on top of a gravel surface, or should we store them on a concrete floor, and should that be covered or not covered with plastic? We have bought gas line stabilizer to put in before we store them with a full tank of gas. Is this correct?
Ron and Nancy

A: If the gravel or concrete parking area is well drained, I’d skip the plastic as it can hold just as much moisture from the top as it prevents from coming up from underneath. Fuel stabilizer is a great idea and yes the tank should be filled before putting this treatment in. If the vehicles are not going to be moved, consider mounting them on four jack stands each to take the load off the suspension. Removing the batteries may bring headaches such as anti-theft systems going wonky or radios locking up, so leave them in if possible. (There’s a great battery charge maintenance unit called Battery Tender sold by Marine Magic in Spencerville. It can be left plugged in indefinitely without risk of overheating the battery and the price is reasonable).

Unless you’re absolutely dead sure there are no critters in the vicinity (e.g. mice, squirrels, or chipmunks) get some natural peppermint oil from a health food shop, mix it about one-to-eight with water (more water than oil) and spritz the mixture with a spray bottle on to the floor inside, in the trunk and in the engine bay about once or twice a month. This will keep the furries out, because if they get in to nest, you can come back in the spring to major wiring and trim damage.

We’ve had the first major snowfall of the season so a few tips on surviving the driving of winter would be appropriate:

– If you want to avoid overnight inner windshield and door glass frosting, lower the humidity level of your car by drying out floor mats once a week during the heavy snow and slush season. Take them into the home and hang them on a rack near a heat source. In between drying treatments, try lowering the vehicle’s air flow and temperature to the floor for the last few blocks of the commute home. By cooling the floor, you can avoid the dampness of the carpets and floor mats from migrating to the glass where it becomes an opaque coating once the overnight temperature drops below zero.

– For quicker morning defrosts and more comfortable in-cabin temperatures, keep the heater fan off the top speed. At high speed the amount of contact time between the air flowing through the vehicle’s HVAC system and the fins of the heater core is reduced, thus lowering the air temperature. One speed setting down from the top will give you more heat and a quick clear view of the road ahead.

– To keep windshield wipers from sticking to the glass, give them a spray of silicone lubricating compound (available at most auto parts stores) from time to time. This handy treatment can also be used to keep rubber door and window seals from freezing as well. Just be sure to spray these components before the deep freeze hits.

– As little as one hour of engine block heater use on nights when the mercury drops to below -15 C can bring almost instant heat from your vehicle’s HVAC system on morning start-ups as the engine coolant that this system uses for in-car heat is partially pre-warmed. It can also reduce fuel consumption as the injection system leans out faster with a partially warmed engine.

– Keeping a full tank of fuel will not only reduce the chance of water contamination due to condensation but will provide more stable handling on snow-covered roads as the extra weight of the fuel is located close to most vehicles’ centre of gravity.

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