Saturday, April 21, 2007

Proper Storage of Your Collector Car by Brad Conley

There have been many articles on the proper storage of a classic or “show” car and I am sure many of you already take steps to properly tuck your baby away for the winter. In this article, I will tell you the methods I use to store my cars for their long winters knap.

Every caretaker of a car should take steps to make sure their car is preserved in the best possible manner, if nothing else for future generations. After all, we’re all here on this earth for a short period of time and it is up to us to make sure future generations will have the “real deal” to peruse after we are gone. This always begins with the facility in which the vehicle is stored. It does not have to be the Taj Mahal but should be dry, secure, and free from pests. I will touch on each of these subjects in this article.

A concrete floor is a must, in my opinion, but there is a problem with concrete. It will release moisture up under your car unless you take steps to protect your car from that release of moisture. I do the following: I first lay down a layer of Visqueen, a heavy duty plastic sheet, as a moisture barrier. I tape it down on all four sides with heavy duty tape directly to the floor. This is your first layer of defense from moisture. Secondly, I go to the carpet store and ask them if they have any end of rolls or leftovers they want to get rid of cheap. Usually they are happy to make a few bucks on something they otherwise would have to pay to throw out in the trash. I place the carpet on top of the Visqueen, taping it down also. I now have my foundation complete and any moisture from the concrete is contained and unable to reach the underside of the car.

The next thing to consider is the environment in which the car is stored. It should be temperature controlled, both summer and winter. Yes, I air condition my building and some say that is overkill but remember we are trying to prevent moisture from attacking any and all surfaces of the car, not just the underside. Humidity control is the key in preservation and to control humidity, you must also control the temperature; otherwise your car will attract moisture from the air much like a cold bottle of pop will on a humid day. I also use a dehumidifier in my situation to keep the air as dry as possible. Ohio is known for having high humidity during certain times of the year and I have to, in those times, further control the humidity with the dehumidifier. In winter, the building is heated, again to control temperature swings and prevent the formation of water on the surfaces of the car. In winter, the outside air is generally dryer and it is much easier to control the humidity in your storage area. When air is heated, it tends to dry out, but if you allow the air to become too dry, bad things can also happen like seals and weather-stripping will become aged. For that reason, everyone should have a hygrometer, or humidity gauge, in your storage building. You should have between 35% and 50% humidity in the building on a year-round basis and in some times of the year you may actually have to introduce some humidity into the facility by leaving out a pan of water or sprinkling the floor (not covered by your “foundation”) with water in order to raise the relative humidity inside.

Pest control is another consideration as vermin such as mice will attack your car damaging everything in their wake. Moth balls, slices of Irish Spring soap, Bounce dryer sheets are all common methods of dealing with mice. I have never found those ultrasonic plug-in-the-wall things to work, so save your money on them. There are other kinds of pests…the two legged variety, who will do things we don’t even want to think about. All those people with a valuable car should consider a central station alarm system. They are not very expensive, but do require a monthly fee for monitoring that is very reasonable for the peace of mind it gives. Most alarm companies will install an alarm system at very little cost as they really make their money in the monitoring fees. I, for example, pay about $30 per month to have my entire home and building monitored for both fire and break-in. Most people spend more than a dollar a day on a pop from a vending machine, so use that money to protect your belongings. Report your alarm system to your auto and homeowners insurance company. There are discounts available for having a central station reporting alarm system installed. One more thing on alarm systems, have the alarm company install a cellular backup instead of solely depending on the telephone line to dial the monitoring station. This only costs a few dollars more per month, but if the bad guy clips your phone line, you’re still covered.
Now, on to car covers. I have used everything from a 100% cotton cover to storage bags to “bubbles”. If you are going to just use a cover, the best one’s out there now are made by Covercraft and use a material called Dustop. The covers using the Dustop material will prevent dust and other nasty things from going through the cover and laying on the painted surface of your car. They are NOT waterproof, so you still need to use care with anything “wet” around the car (brake fluid, gasoline, etc) but they will prevent dust from going through the cover like a cotton cover will allow. Cotton covers are “old tech” dust bags and should not be used as a barrier on your car. They can cause more harm than good.

The next type of cover is a bag. You simply unzip the bag, drive your car in, throw in a couple of bags of desiccant and zip it back up. Their advantage is they are very portable and can be used even away from your storage facility such as at a car show, to protect your investment. Mice don’t seem to like them and they will completely seal off your car. Once your car is inside, you should not open the bag up until you are ready to drive the car again. For that reason, showing off your pride and joy to friends and family is not very easy once the car is inside and tucked away.

The last type of cover isn’t really a cover at all, it’s a bubble. I use a bubble on each of my GSX’s to protect them from all kinds of trouble. They are clear plastic with a “basement” made of heavy duty material that not only protects the top of your car, but also the undercarriage from moisture from the concrete it sits upon. They use a small electric fan that keeps the plastic from touching the surface and also allows air to circulate in and around your car. The manufacture advises that you keep your windows down and trunk lid ajar to allow the air to freely circulate. Friends and family can view your trophy through the clear plastic without you having to unzip. The car is also protected from small objects that may be accidentally dropped on the car; they simply bounce off the bubble! The manufacture advertises than you can drop a 5 pound sledgehammer on the bag and it will not touch the car or cause damage to the bubble…I personally have not tested this theory but can say for certain that handles from leaf rakes, shovels, etc. that have been accidentally dropped will bounce off and not strike the car inside. They use less than 25 cents of electricity per month to keep the small fan running and the bubble inflated. Mice do not like the vinyl it is made from, so they leave the car inside alone.

Two last things: Batteries and gasoline. By now, everyone has heard of Sta-bil gasoline stabilizer. Use it. The gasoline today will go stale in as little as 3 months or less and cause real harm to your tank and fuel system. If you do not “use up” the gas in your tank in one year, remove the fuel and use it in your lawn mower or something else and re-fill your tank with fresh fuel and Sta-bil. This should be done at least on an annual basis for cars not driven enough to use the fuel in the tank.

Batteries. DO NOT KEEP YOUR BATTERIES IN THE CAR WHILE THEY ARE STORED!! You should remove the battery from the car and attach it to some type of maintainer. I use the Battery Minder brand that keeps the battery at full charge and also desulphates the battery while it is stored. Sulphation is the leading cause of battery failure and the Battery Minder is the only charger/maintainer on the market today that will desulphate the plates of your battery.

There you have it. This is exactly what I do and my cars were restored now over 10 years ago and look as good today as they did when they first rolled out of Dave Kleiner’s shop. If you follow the simple steps above, your car will look as good in 10 years as it looks today!

Brad Conley is Show Director and Advisor for the Buick Performance Group, a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the performance, preservation. maintenance and restoration of Buick powered performance cars. More information can be found at


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