Monday, December 3, 2007

Tech Tip - Winter Storage

Thunderbird Scoop -- Oct / Nov 1990 -- Storage Tips by Alan Tast, Scoop Editor

Over the years, members have contributed several tips for the storage of their Thunderbirds during the winter months. This timely text is provided to help you get prepared for the winter months ahead.

What should be done before putting the car away?

There are several things you should do before putting your 'Bird to bed for the winter. Many of these items fall under the heading of normal maintenance, but are even more important for a car that will sit idle for an extended period.

1. Change the oil and oil filter. All that driving you did during the summer and fall may not have put many miles on the odometer, but regardless If you drove 30 or 3000 miles, used oil will break down over time due to contaminants, such as gasoline that washes down cylinder sidewalls and into the oil pan. Some recommend doing this before removing the car from storage in the spring instead of when it goes in. Either way, it will need fresh oil before start-up in the spring.

2. Cooling system check-out. Check the radiator and surge tank (only on big 'BIrds) for leaks and repair as needed. Examine heater. and radiator hoses for sponginess, cracks, etc., and replace where needed. The coolant also must be brought up to snuff: Check how low it will go. (In northern climates, It would be a good idea to go with 50-70% antifreeze/water.) While the car may be sheltered from cold winter winds, garages are not exactly warm places (unless you're fortunate enough to have a heated one - even so, make sure your antifreeze is in good condition, because if the power fails and you loose the heating system in the garage, you've got insurance against such maladies like 'blown freeze plugs). While you're at it, if your antifreeze doesn't have a rust inhibitor, dump some in the radiator. Again extra Insurance.

3. Prepare the fuel system. Some recommend draining the fuel tank to prevent varnish and gum build-up, which results when the gas breaks down from prolonged storage, and filling with "white gas" which won't leave a varnish. For prolonged periods, it's also advised to drain fuel lines and pump after running the car on "white gas" to get it into the carburetor. Others however, simply fill the tank full and add a preservative, which can be found at parts stores and automotive departments such as at K-Mart. One product that comes to mind is called 'Sta-bil.' Another suggestion is to use powdered butyl-hydroxytoluene (BHT), to a tune of 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons.

4. Charge the battery and/or remove it from the car. Keep it off concrete floors - store on a shelf near 'the car so that you can put it back in when you start it later on. Some recommend using a trickle-charger, also available at your favorite parts place. The battery's life can be extended by using a chemical called tetrasodium EDTA to clean the battery's plates. Also known as 'Cyquest' and 'Sequestrene' it should be added to the battery during the charging process. The battery should be agitated frequently to distribute the EDTA on the plates for a few days, followed by a full charging.

5. Clean and wash thoroughly! Make sure to get all painted and plated surfaces. Unpainted items, such as suspension and steering parts, should be coated with Vaseline to prevent them from rusting if your garage floor allows moisture to form or if it's humid in the space. Before putting it away, give the car a good vacuuming, and wipe down the interior. For leather seats, make sure they have been treated with mink oil or a similar preservative to keep them from drying out. Stay away from products that contain silicone, such as 'Armor-AII' which will evaporate and leave a hard-to-clean film on windows and chrome. Silicone-based cleaners/preservative, if not continuously used will cause the vinyl to dry out, which is the exact opposite of what you're trying to prevent. Try products like 'AII-Clear' that don't have silicones and polymers.

6. Prepare the storage space. Concrete floors are notorious for allowing moisture to condense and, in effect, allow the underbody and chassis to 'rust out' from sitting. Place a plastic drop cloth where the car will sit to act as a vapor barrier. A few sheets of cardboard or drip pans are a good idea to catch oil and fluid from a leaking motor or transmission.

Once the car is in the garage ....

1. (For extended periods) Put the car on jack stands or blocks at lift points on the body. Avoid placing weight on the springs and suspension to reduce stress on these items. All weight should be off the tires, so that they can be rotated by hand every month or so. Doing this will prevent bearings from taking a 'set' and keep the tires from developing a 'flat spot.' Inflate the tires to 1/2 of their normal pressure for this type of storage, and don't forget to 'air up' prior to putting the car back on the ground. One train of thought is to simply "park" the car in the garage and move it occasionally, changing the car's position in the garage to prevent the tires and bearings from returning to the same place for months on end.

2. Disconnect the battery after finalizing the car's position.

3. Fill the master cylinder with brake fluid. If you're Inclined to, you could flush the brake fluid and replace with new if it becomes contaminated or has been in for a long time.

4. Place a few items in the interior and trunk to aid in pest control: moth balls are a perennial favorite. Some also use a rag soaked in lemon polish in place of moth balls to avoid the smell and replace it with a more-fragrant scent. Crack open the vent window to allow air to circulate. Place mouse poison outside the car: putting it inside only entices mice inside to get food. (And gives them a comfortable place to die.) If you don't have pets, put it next to the tires. Or, put it where pets won't go, such as on top of tires or the suspension.

5. Cover the car with a good cloth car cover. A water-repellant cover that doesn't breathe is not advisable: assuming it's in a garage, a light cotton one will keep dust off quite well.

During the interim ....

1: (Every two weeks to one month) Reconnect the battery. Start the car and run it for 20 minutes at fast idle.

2. (Every month) Work all operable items (locks, windows, heater, air conditioner, lights, radio, transmission, windshield wipers/washer, cigarette lighter, turn indicators, power seats, etc.).

3. Turn and rotate the front wheels so that the bearings and seals are also worked. Check for leaks.

4. Before bringing the car out for the next cruising season, don't forget to air up the tires, change the oil and filter if they weren't when put away, and then simply put the car back on the ground and drive away.

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