Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 21st November 2018

For any enthusiasts or collectors, keeping their classic car in mint condition is an absolute must. However, many old models are more susceptible to damage in adverse weather conditions, and this especially applies during the harsh winter months.

Winter isn’t quite here yet but many classic car owners will be getting ready to place their prized vehicles back into storage ready for the colder climate. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of any planned trips in the classic car though. If conditions are particularly harsh, and the roads are full of ice and damaging salt then it’s best not to take the car out for spin. However, when the weather lets up, classic cars can still be driven, even in winter.  

With this in mind, we’re looking at how the winter weather can affect your classic car, how to prepare it for storage, and how when conditions are right you can still take it out for a drive without causing unwanted damage.

How Your Classic Car Gets Damaged in Cold Weather

There are many ways your classic car can suffer in the often freezing temperatures of winter. Firstly, the car’s fluids such as oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid etc, can end up thickening in the cold. This results in fluids not moving as freely as they do in warmer weather, leading to multiple internal issues.
The car battery is at risk when temperatures plummet, as it will need to work much harder to start the car. Tyre pressure can also fluctuate in the cold, decreasing when the car is stationary and then increasing when it’s moving, which results in more tyre wear and even blowouts.

Often the UK winter weather can fluctuate, going from cold to warm on a daily basis. Any metal and plastic can collect condensate due to the constant freeze-thaw cycle. This then turns to water and then to ice, leading to leaks, and potentially hazardous malfunctions in the steering or brakes. Salt is also a problem in winter, the roads are often littered with it to melt the snow. Salt sticks to metal components of the car, causing them to corrode.

Storing Your Classic Car Away For Winter

If you plan on keeping your classic car safely stored away for winter, then there are still a few steps you need to take to make sure it stays in good condition. Of course you need to ensure  that you store your car in a cool, dry and closed area, where it will be suitably protected from the elements. But before you put it away for winter, you also need to consider:

  • Washing and polishing the car, as this will give the paint a protective layer, help remove any dirt, and stop things like bird droppings and tree resin from biting into the car’s paint job.
  • Treating any aluminium and chrome parts if your classic has them. Use acid-free Vaseline or with water-resistant silicone spray on bumpers, door handles and wheels to give them an extra protective layer against oxidation.
  • Changing the car’s cooling system if you’ve already had it for three years. Cooling fluid offers protection up to a temperature of -25°C, but this will decrease over time. After three years change it before putting the car into storage.
  • Filling up your fuel tank, so that all the metal isn’t exposed to the air. This will significantly decrease any risk or rust.
  • Stepping on the brake and clutch pedals every so often when the car is in storage, as this will help them stay flexible and avoid sticking. Put it in gear instead of using the handbrake, to avoid the brake pads rusting on the brake disc.
  • Changing the engine oil, preferably after the last drive of the season, so that the oil is warm enough to change. This will help get rid of any dirt and debris that has got into the oil, and improve lubrication.
  • Removing the battery from the car, or just simply disconnecting it. Help to keep the battery in top condition by charging it with a trickle charger during winter, then let it discharge a little before charging it again.
  • Pumping up your tyres to a minimum pressure of 3 bar to help avoid any loss of air pressure. Also, you can put the car on axle stands in order to take the pressure off the wheel bearings.
  • Cleaning dirt away from the undercarriage and wheel arches of the car. Don’t be tempted to use a high pressure hose instead of a normal one, as the added water pressure can potentially damage the protective layer.

Driving Your Classic Car During Winter

Many prefer to keep their prized classic car stored away in winter, but the darker months don’t have to mean a complete end to any more treasured trips in your pride-and-joy.

A classic is meant to be driven and by making sure you follow these helpful tips, you can still occasionally venture out in winter without causing unwanted damage to your car:

  • Before heading out, check that every component of the car is in good repair. If anything is worn or needs replacing then it’s essential this it taken care of first.
  • An already recharged battery can be temperamental in the harsh cold air, leaving you in need of a jump. Make sure to set a fresh battery in the car for the winter drives.
  • Consider fitting tyres to your classic car that are designed to cope better with slippery conditions. Tyres with a strong tread and winter capabilities are recommended.
  • Drive slowly at first to give your classic the chance to properly warm up and get the oil circulating. This will also allow the car to better burn off any condensation from the cool air.
  • Make use of a spray to protect against corrosion when your classic car is exposed to the elements. Solvent-free preventatives and lubricants made with lanolin are recommended.

Remember, the best way to avoid any damage to your car is to take it out when the weather is not difficult to drive in. If you want to go out for a spin in the winter, then pick the cold and clear days, to ensure that you have the most enjoyable drive.