This is how you put a classic car to bed for winter

Any car lover hates this time of year, especially those with old classics or cars known for being a tad “delicate” in winter. For me, I am talking about my Fiat X1/9.

This year, the summer was cruel. It was hot. Too hot to get the little open-top Italian out. Yes, I know there is a lot of irony there but this Fiat just doesn’t like getting too hot and documented problems of fuel evaporation are not stories of make-believe. With the X1/9 it happens and it has done so on numerous occasions.

And so the hot summer went and having had a number of press cars for TGUK, I went on a press car break so I could use my own and enter stage right, the X1/9. I managed to do 303 miles this year. And I can tell you every single journey it took including one to an Italian car breakfast morning on a Saturday that I attended on Sunday! 

So you can see, winters arrival is cruel because of 2 things; This is an 80’s Fiat and not know for longevity in wet salty English conditions, and the thing is ruddy awful in the wet. That said it can be fun but the concentration needed to drive it in the dry needs to be ramped up to 11! And the wipers are set for Italy, so not very good.

Preparing a car for winter hibernation isn’t that straightforward. It could be I suppose but if you like to tinker and fanny around, then it isn’t. I use a system called a “Permabag”.

It’s a massive bag of tarpaulin fitted with a divers zip. In it go 2 desiccators that absorb moisture within the bag and from the car and it keeps it all dry and the humidity within it controlled. 

I’m fortunate to be able to park up the X1/9 and leave it there, undisturbed for great lengths of time. The makers of Permabag also recommend that it is best left. Opening and closing the bag are not what this system is about. The idea is to reduce the humidity and leave it in its current state. This system doesn’t require any power either, so it is ideal for any garage, anywhere. If you need to move the vehicle regularly and have power, I can recommend the Carcoon system that I know many use. Check out the differences in the links below.

So it would seem strange when I tell you that what I did next was to wash the car. Ideally, you should clean any car you put away. After washing, a good polish is a great idea. It’s also a time to make a note of any areas of the body that will require attention next year. I spotted 2 areas of rust and then added another by pulling a drain pipe off from the engine bay. That is going to be fun trying to reattach that!

Now is a good time to attend to 1 or 2 of those small annoying jobs. One in particular for me was the moss and grime around the rear light seals. Quick wash and scrub with an old toothbrush and a poke with a cotton bud, and now all clean.

So this is something to do next year. It’s not recommended to do paint work and then store away with the system that I use.

I would normally recommend an oil change too. Reasons being are that old oil contains contaminants that can attack things like bearing surfaces. The oil has done just 1400 miles and still comes out clean on the dipstick so this time I’ve left it. I will do an oil change this time next year. Also, check the concentration of antifreeze and add any if needed. 

Now, this part might be a bit OTT but screen wash bottles, remove, empty, clean and leave empty. Several reasons why I do this. Firstly is stagnant water can breed legionnaires disease. You don’t want this. You’ll be horrified by how old the water is in your screen wash bottle if you don’t empty regularly. So bottles are very big, the X1/9’s is about 7 litres in capacity. I don’t use 7 litres of screen wash. 

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Secondly, the system I use removes moisture. A washer bottle is not sealed. So you can see where that is heading. It’s also a good idea to wash it out every so often because it’s an excuse to fanny around and tinker.

If you are lucky to have a spare set of wheel, now is a good time to fit them. It doesn’t do a tyre any favours sitting in one place for any length of time. Even my Tamiya shelf queens models are on raises to stop the tyres from getting flat spots! 

I don’t have a set of storage wheels for the Fiat, so I tend to over-inflate them by about 8-10psi. Doesn’t sound a lot I know but over time the car can lose tyre pressure and as the X1/9 can’t be seen inside the bag, I have no idea what it is doing so this offers me some piece of mind.      

Now you may just be about to stop me from putting the X1/9 away in the bag having only washed it and you would be right. I leave it in the garage for another week or so to dry out as best it can.

Then I’ll put it away, under a cover, zipped up in its bag and leave it. Leave it dead of power because whatever you do, don’t forget to disconnect the battery. And then count down those days. One Hundred and Seventy-Five I said and if April looks promising, it’ll be less. 

Opening it up will bring its own problems so I’ll let you know how that goes after 175 days time.

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About the author: Stuart M Bird

Motoring nurse or medical motorist? It's a difficult one. By day l nurse and by night l drive.
Fingers have always been grease deep in attending the motoring of an ageing fleet. And now l write about new and old.
If you have a car or motoring product you would like reviewed here for TGUK please e mail me:

Member of the Southern Group of Motoring Writers. (SGMW)

Twitter: @t2stu

Instagram: t2stu

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