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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-16-2019, 10:42 AM Thread Starter
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Winter car Storage

I live in northern Vermont, and there are many stories about how to store your car over the winter, and how not to do so. Some swear by cold storage (the theory being that heat activates any salt that might be on a car that is driven all winter), while others want a heated garage. I "stored" a [non-Lotus] car outside last winter, and lost the instrument cluster. I noticed condensation on the inside of the windows, and suspect humidity and condensation as the culprit. Another car and another winter, this time in an unheated garage, resulted in a drive train bearing failing; I again suspect condensation. Another car and another unheated garage resulted in brake calipers rusted tightly to the discs, and $300 just to get the brakes freed up. Again I suspect condensation.

I considered purchasing a storage container to store cars in over the winter, but ran into a few horror stories about condensations and cars being ruined. It seems that ventilation is essential, but exactly how and what remains a bit vague.

I've looked around the web, and opinions are strong, and all over the place.

Anyone able to shed a light on this? I assume that heated storage is always better, but I'm not sure how bad cold storage is, or how to store cars safely in cold storage situations.
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-16-2019, 10:56 AM
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Is heated storage an option? Will you be driving the car during winter? I've always stored my cars in a heated garage whether storing them or driving them. If you keep them relatively clean, the salt activation isn't any more of an issue than it would be in cold storage and getting into a warm car is awesome.

If storing in a heated space without driving you need to take a bit of care to make sure little varments don't get in and eat your car.

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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-16-2019, 12:15 PM
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Yes, the container must have a vent for air movement. If you are renting one, the owner isn't likely to appreciate a hole you make.

You could use hardware cloth, with small holes so mice don't thru it as a slim "screen door", but attachment would, assuming you're not allowed to drill small holes, be via aluminum duct tape or something equally strong.

Note that around here, the containers are not too costly to buy, but in my town it can stay here for no more than 60 days.

I posted a bunch of hints about winter car storage so do a search.

NOTE: Many high performance tires are not to be stored below 20F as per mfgrs. Check yours.

ALSO note: My tires lose grip badly at below 45F.

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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-17-2019, 03:35 AM Thread Starter
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I do not drive my Lotus when the roads are below 45 F, and it is not equipped with winter tires, so I'm talking about parking the car in November and driving it again in May. I only have room in heated garages for 3 or 4 cars, and I own 5, so trying to figure out whether to send one out to a cold garage for the winter again.
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-17-2019, 10:51 AM
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When I stored ( Your) Elise, (it was ALWAYS garaged) non heated, and whenever it wasn't being used, it was plugged in to the Battery Tender. Never had a problem. I didn't start it at all during the winter, and never had a problem starting it in the spring; once the road salt was washed away permanently.

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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-19-2019, 09:35 AM
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Grew up in Northern Maine. Lived in (soggy) metro Pittsburgh for 10 years. Have a car habit. Moisture is indeed the enemy. The time the car and the atmosphere are well below freezing are of no concern. The time that the car is above the dew point in its surrounding atmosphere is of no concern.

Where you get into trouble is when moisture condenses on (and maybe in) the car. It is massive (even an Elige is nearly a ton of material). If the car is cold soaked from a cold late winter night, the sun comes out and starts melting snow off the roof of the building, the local relative humidity around the vehicle storage will go up to 100% quite quickly. The car, however, is going to stay significantly colder for hours unless something warms it up - it's in a structure under a cover - well insulated, so slow to change temperature. Condensation will plate out on the car, and cause everything you've experienced (except maybe the cluster failure).

The problem is that the ability of the air to hold moisture varies with its temperature, and you have wide temperature swings in Vermont, particularly in late winter and early spring. Relatively warm, moist (high %RH) air touching a cold surface causes condensation on the car. The worst case of this comes from parking on wet grass. I have a parts car that came out of Ohio and was driven on salted roads and parked in the yard. Not pretty.

You want to keep the temperature of the car above the dewpoint of its surrounding atmosphere at all times. There are several ways to accomplish this:

1. you can store the car in a naturally dry place. A really dry building on top of a hill (a barn with free airflow and a great roof is often a good choice, because rain falls past the drip line, which might be 20 feet away if it's a big barn). Structures like this are often not easy to find. This won't save you from falling damps (that is atmospheric moisture blowing through the barn, leaky roofs) but will save you from rising damps (soil and vegetation moisture plating out on your car). Mice tend to really like barns, though, for the same reasons they're good for cars. If there are resident barn cats, storage in a barn can be pretty good, which is why 'barn find' cars are a thing.

2. you can maintain the car temperature above local atmospheric dew point with some sort of heater and leave the windows cracked. You won't need a lot of heat to do this if the car is stored in a fairly airtight place. Note that the car doesn't have to be warm, it just needs to be warmer than the dewpoint of the air around it. Something like a Lotus with an aluminum monocoque chassis would seem to be easy to keep warm with a contact or infrared heater under the chassis. Mount a thermostat on the chassis and keep it a few degrees above ambient temp. Downside: costs electricity and setup effort. Not turnkey.

3. you can remove the humidity in the air around the car. This is easy in warm, damp climates like where I live now - just plug in a dehumidifier and wait (presuming the condensate leaves the car storage area reliably). If there aren't any violent temperature swings, everything will be as dry as you want it to be. Dehumidifiers also add heat and circulate air as they run, which, if the car is in a reasonably airtight space, will help with the whole condensation on the car thing as well. The bad news is that they do use some electricity, and get progressively less effective below about 60F, so you really need something like DampRid and a quite tight airtight space around the vehicle to make this work if at low winter temperatures.

4. You can replace the air around the car with something with no/very low moisture. This is the extreme 'car in a bag' model. A big ol' LD240 Dewar flask of LN2 will probably keep the car in a dry nitrogen environment all winter, in combination with a ball flowmeter and a pressure regulator on the evaporator coil output. Once you purge the bag of breathable oxygen, whatever's in there will die, so rodents stop being a problem. Likewise, you've purged all the moisture from the bag as well. Downsides: The gas in the bag is fatal (an asphyxiant) to everything and everyone else living, too, so the bag needs to be in a well-ventillated area and curious children and pets needs to be kept away from it. Uncorking the car to go for a drive is a bit of work. The tank of LN2 and demurrage on the cylinder aren't free.

Car-in-a-bag with DampRid should work very well and not be deadly, as long as you check on the desiccant every few weeks and do something about rodent control (they'll chew into the bag just because they chew everything).
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-20-2019, 03:45 AM Thread Starter
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@steelypip : I love it! Thanks!
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-20-2019, 06:13 AM
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ANOTHER thing !!!........... Get a few boxes of dryer sheets and put them IN and AROUND the car.....the more the better.....or else....critters may get in and chew up your wiring.......they don't like the smell of the dryer sheets. I did this every year, and never had a problem.

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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-20-2019, 08:35 AM
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ANOTHER thing !!!........... Get a few boxes of dryer sheets and put them IN and AROUND the car.....the more the better.....or else....critters may get in and chew up your wiring.......they don't like the smell of the dryer sheets. I did this every year, and never had a problem.
This! We have a camp trailer, and mouse proofing is always a challenge. Stinky dryer sheets (we use some smelly variety of Bounce, I think) and little bottles of candy maker's peppermint oil with the lid unscrewed are your friend. If you're going to be around, set good mechanical traps (I use the victor gravity operated trap - it works even better than the traditional one) If you're not going to be around much, place glue traps where you think a path might be.
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-20-2019, 09:28 AM
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If you keep the car above 40 degrees it negates much of the condensation. One can always tell a car that is stored outside or uncontrolled.

White powder on the aluminum, light rust on everything, condensation staining on everything.

Keeping a mostly airtight indifferently insulated garage above 40 degrees is not a huge expense.


Mice

Don't get me started on mice...........
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-20-2019, 11:15 AM
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-20-2019, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by exigegus View Post
Mice

Don't get me started on mice...........
You and me both, brother. This house is surrounded by many acres of mature chestnut oak forest. Mice live very well off acorns, it turns out. I have more rodent damage to my stuff here than anywhere else I've ever lived. Snakes and owls live well on them, but there are always more.

Bounce sheets will help keep them out of a confined area. We use them in the closets and cubbies in the trailer. The Elise lives in the attached garage, as does a rangy old tabby cat. He does a pretty good job of managing rodents in his bedroom. I typically find 1-3 on the floor of the garage per winter the morning after they quit being fun toys to play with. Keep in mind that this is a pretty tight garage, and the only easy way for a mouse to get into it is to run in when the big door is open - usually only during daylight.

There are thousands of the little beasts in the yard outside, and anything left out there that looks like mouse habitat quite quickly develops rodent chewing and nesting damage. I've had to take the cowling off the mower engine twice in a year to clean a mouse nest off the cylinder.

Bulk rodent management for something outside (mower shed, parts car) I generally do by leaving a few mouse poison bait blocks on a paper plate in an enclosed area. Tractor supply carries them in 50 unit bags. The cat keeps the garage pretty clear. In the basement I use traps.

I've found mouse nests between the valley cover and the intake manifold of the 4.6 Ford, in the HVAC plenum and cam cover of the Toyota (ruined the ignition wires), and all over the parts car. It's a never-ending battle.
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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2019, 09:40 AM
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My Elise is kept in a non-heated attached garage. During winter I don’t drive it (Canadian winter and salty roads), it’s always connected to a battery tender, however, I run the engine every 2-3 weeks and let it idle until it reaches operating temp (knowing that it takes longer for the oil to warm up). I ‘drive’ it on my salt-free driveway as I believe that engine parts would benefit from moving. I also avoid tire flat spots. Does it make any sense to keep doing it?
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2019, 12:15 PM
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My Elise is kept in a non-heated attached garage. During winter I donít drive it (Canadian winter and salty roads), itís always connected to a battery tender, however, I run the engine every 2-3 weeks and let it idle until it reaches operating temp (knowing that it takes longer for the oil to warm up). I Ďdriveí it on my salt-free driveway as I believe that engine parts would benefit from moving. I also avoid tire flat spots. Does it make any sense to keep doing it?
Not to me, as idling may not get engine up to full operating temp.

If you have high performance tires, they may get ruined in moving the tires in cold temps.

See Tire Rack for one version of instructions.

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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2019, 01:50 PM
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Depending on where you live having a vapor barrier under the garage slab along with insulation can be a night a day difference in condensation. The attached garage with vapor barrier and I suspect insulation where my Lotus resides has zero condensation problems but my larger garage gets such bad condensation depending on weather conditions that I have to use a squeegee and dehumidifier to keep everything from being coated in rust.
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post #16 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2019, 03:28 PM
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A customer asked me how to tell if the damp concrete in his facility was condensation or moisture coming up thru the cement floor.

"Duct tape a piece of thin clear plastic to the floor. If the moisture forms on the outside, it's condensation. If it forms under the plastic, it's coming thru the floor."

No idea how I knew that...

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post #17 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2019, 06:01 PM Thread Starter
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@steelypip : what do you think of this technology (not necessarily the exact product)?

https://www.calcarcover.com/product/...age-bubble/684
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post #18 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-21-2019, 09:03 PM
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I live in northern NH and store 2 cars in an unheated garage and another in a garage that's unheated but under the house so temps aren't as low. I've not had any problems with condensation or damage from same. Nov. and April can be pretty damp, but the winter months are so cold that humidity isn't much of a problem. Mice are another issue altogether, and there's a lot of folklore about the best prevention measures...traps, dryer sheets, mothballs, peppermint oil, pepper spray around the garage door where they could get in. I've used them all. A good cover, extra air in the tires, check anti-freeze concentration, Sta-bil, Battery Tender, no salt on it when you put the car away and wait until it's all off the roads before you take it out, and you'll likely be just fine.

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post #19 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-22-2019, 05:44 AM
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My Elise is kept in a non-heated attached garage. During winter I donít drive it (Canadian winter and salty roads), itís always connected to a battery tender, however, I run the engine every 2-3 weeks and let it idle until it reaches operating temp (knowing that it takes longer for the oil to warm up). I Ďdriveí it on my salt-free driveway as I believe that engine parts would benefit from moving. I also avoid tire flat spots. Does it make any sense to keep doing it?
Honestly, cars (like airplanes) like to be either completely pickled or regularly driven. The longer they sit, the more likely you are to have things seize up, lubricants get hard, seals set in place, etc. EFI gets us away from the carburetor issues associated with infrequent operation, but not from the other stuff. Being able to actually move the car around up and down the driveway is probably a big help as it shifts some oil around in the (sling/splash lubricated) transaxle. I've been known to jack a car up at the suspension uprights and put it in a direct gear at warm idle to stir the driveline before loading it on a car that has set for years or decades. I suspect that what you're doing is not doing any harm as long as you change the engine oil come spring and you take the car out on long enough drives during summer to get the CVs and wheel bearings warm through for a few hours (redistributes the grease and resets the seals).

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Depending on where you live having a vapor barrier under the garage slab along with insulation can be a night a day difference in condensation. The attached garage with vapor barrier and I suspect insulation where my Lotus resides has zero condensation problems but my larger garage gets such bad condensation depending on weather conditions that I have to use a squeegee and dehumidifier to keep everything from being coated in rust.
This is really good advice. I've seen the use of huge sheets of heavy polyethylene vapor barrier over dirt to help with the rising damp problem. Really dry concrete lasts longer and stays stronger, too. Obviously the right way to do it is to put the vapor barrier down before pouring the concrete, but not everybody is building a new garage.

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A customer asked me how to tell if the damp concrete in his facility was condensation or moisture coming up thru the cement floor.

"Duct tape a piece of thin clear plastic to the floor. If the moisture forms on the outside, it's condensation. If it forms under the plastic, it's coming thru the floor."

No idea how I knew that...
Also awesomely useful advice. I've observed this, but never realized it could be used as a diagnostic. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jon_bondy View Post
@steelypip : what do you think of this technology (not necessarily the exact product)?

https://www.calcarcover.com/product/...age-bubble/684
That's what I mean by 'car in a bag.' There's nothing wrong with the idea, but I can think of a couple of issues: 1. What if there's a power outage (I have them regularly)? I think you'd still want to put a normal cover over the car to keep the bag from settling on the paint. 2. How do you control the moisture content of the air the fan is pushing into the bag? Blowing moist air in would be worse than almost anything else you could do. It seems like you'd need the cans of DampRid in there at least 3. What happens when mice chew through the bottom of the bag? Trust me, they will. Honestly, I think I prefer the tents with hoops to the blower thing - less to go wrong.

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A good cover, extra air in the tires, check anti-freeze concentration, Sta-bil, Battery Tender, no salt on it when you put the car away and wait until it's all off the roads before you take it out, and you'll likely be just fine.
It's all about the temperature swings. The killer is when you have a cold car (say 25F) with warm moist air creeping over and under it (say 40F and foggy off the melting snow pack). Moisture coming through the floor is especially bad because airflow under the car is usually quite limited. If you don't have these problems, be grateful.
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post #20 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-22-2019, 06:35 AM
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It's all about the temperature swings. The killer is when you have a cold car (say 25F) with warm moist air creeping over and under it (say 40F and foggy off the melting snow pack). Moisture coming through the floor is especially bad because airflow under the car is usually quite limited. If you don't have these problems, be grateful.
For a long time, I only had one car, my daily driver (a Ford Focus ST). I don't have a garage but instead have a car port attached to my house. Then I bought an Elise and my Focus ST was demoted to being parked on the street. I was pretty amazed at seeing how soaking wet my car can be during some summer mornings, while my Elise is bone dry, being covered by the car port. This wetness was not from rain but instead condensation. All this wetness was on my car long before sunrise. I never saw this when I had a single car. I'm not sure why being under the car port prevents this condensation from appearing, but I am far more comfortable storing my Elise there than I would be before I saw what happened to my Ford out in open.
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