Living in Canada we have two choices when it comes to what we can do with our vehicles during the winter; one, drive them; or two, put them in storage. If you are like many of our club’s members, you probably have a special Porsche you do not wish to drive during the winter months. This always leads to the question: “what is the proper way to store my vehicle?”
Over the years I have gone from just parking my 996 and doing absolutely nothing to prepare for winter storage (not recommended!), to doing everything possible that could be done, which is most likely a bit of overkill. Somewhere in between is appropriate for most of us.
When I do have the time to be thorough, following are the 10 steps I take to get my car ready for its winter hibernation:
1) Go Shopping: I drop in to my local auto/hardware store and stock up on a bottle of fuel stabilizer, some car wash, a good quality car wax, wheel cleaner, leather cleaner and conditioner, glass cleaner, sponges, towels, chewing gum and if available, the latest issue of Excellence magazine.
2) Once Around the Block: I try to pick a relatively warm day and go for one last drive of the year. In turbo cars I spool up to use the waste gate, and in all I shift through the gears many times to workout the gears and components. I take photos to refer to later during those winter days when I long for getting the car out for a drive. Oh yes, I also chew some gum when I drive.
3) Prepare the Garage: Ideally I have an inside parking spot. I sweep the floor and ensure the area is tidy and dust free. I try to ensure my space has at least one electrical plug for a battery tender or charger. To stop moisture from coming up from the floor and possibly encouraging rust to form on the undercarriage I place a thick (6mm+) poly sheet on the entire floor space where the car will be parked. I once stored my 928S for two years on a poly sheet placed over a partial concrete and dirt floor and afterward there were no signs of moisture on the underside of the car. A plastic tarp used to cover a boat or such, will also work.
4) Fill ‘er up: I get out my Visa and Aeroplan cards and go over to my local gas station and fill the fuel tank to the top, all the way. I retrieve that bottle of fuel stabilizer I purchased and pour it in the tank. This helps to ensure condensation does not form in the fuel tank when air cools down or warms up, and so the fuel maintains its proper chemical properties during the storage period. I once worked at a gas station when in high school and I remember the father of a classmate who brought in his 1976 Corvette for its first fill-up after a long winter storage, and the car would barely run. I asked him if he had used fuel stabilizer before storing the car, and he said he had not. Case in point. A few hours later after consuming most of the new tank of fresh gas, he drove back in and the car was working fine. Ever since, I have used fuel stabilizer.
5) Wash ‘N’ Wax: Now comes the fun part, that is, if you really love your Porsche. I get out all those cleaning products I bought and thoroughly wash and hand wax the car. I ensure to clean the brake dust off the wheels as this dust is especially corrosive, I polish any chrome trim items and muffler tips, I clean all the windows, and I put some tire shine on each tire, including the spare tire just for good measure. I also thoroughly clean the inside of the car and trunk, taking this opportunity to clean every nook and cranny so when I get the car out in the spring I am ready to roll. As well, getting the interior clean eliminates the chance for mold or mildew to form over the winter. I once neglected to clean the backseat center console tray in a car my two young kids often sat in, and just after three months of storage it looked like a science experiment was taking place back there. Some people even go as far as putting a couple of mothballs inside the vehicle to keep the air fresh and to discourage any critters from entering.
6) Change Fluids: This step may be better left to a mechanic if you do not have the equipment or desire to do this yourself. Following the instructions from Porsche, I change the engine oil and filter and brake fluids, as a minimum. The reason is contaminants can be in these fluids and may harm the engine and brake components when operated again in the spring. Used oils tend to absorb water and if this water sits over the winter it can lead to corrosion. In addition, I like to change the engine coolant and I ensure the windshield washer fluid is topped up with -40 degrees Celsius winter blend product so it does not freeze.
7) Pump Up: I am not one to advocate storing cars on jack stands or lifts, unless you plan to work on the car for some reason while it is in storage. Rather, I like to pump the tires to 40-45 psi each and let the car sit on the floor. I do this partially because I want the car to be able to be rolled in case it needs to be moved, say in an emergency like a fire in the building it is being stored in, and because of everything I know about modern radial tires that says these tires are not really prone to being flat spotted if they sit in one place for a few months with adequate pressure. An additional benefit is that if you want to take the car for a drive on a nice winter day, it does not take too much effort to get the car out.
8) Remove the Battery: Ideally I like to remove the battery and store it in an area that is heated. If your car storage location is already heated, you may be able to leave the battery in the car and add a trickle charger to keep the battery voltage topped up. In any event, you want to consider how to keep the car secure during storage, and how you will get back into the car to check on the battery or replace it, as needed. My 996 front trunk opener is electric, and the battery compartment is located within this trunk. So, if there is no battery in the car, or if the battery is dead, it takes some extra steps to get the trunk open once shut. There is a jumper cable connection under the dash inside the fuse panel to be used in such circumstances. Also remember to locate your radio code as it will be needed to re-activate the radio if your battery has been removed. The code should be in your owner’s manual, and if not, contact your Porsche service center for assistance.
9) Cover Up: I like to plug each exhaust outlet with a cloth (adding a sticky note on the dash to remind me to remove the clothes before starting the engine again) so no rodents try to make a home in there, I turn off all electric accessories before removing the battery, I shut off the heating system and close the air vents, and I cover the car with a breathable car cover if stored indoors. If stored outdoors, I use a weatherproof cover designed for cars. Never use a general-purpose tarp which may hold in moisture.
10) Enjoy: Grab the copy of Excellence you purchased, pull up a comfortable chair, get your favorite drink, and enjoy reading the latest Porsche news while spending quality time with your Porsche for perhaps the last time before spring.
Ensuring your car is properly prepared for its winter storage will help ensure the optimal operation of the vehicle for many years to come. There are perhaps other steps people do as well so please let us hear them!
Tech Editor’s Note: Please send your comments to me and remember, we’re always looking for, new ideas and new technical articles so please contact me and submit yours to: George@ONeillAdvisors.ca