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Thread: Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

    How best to keep an occasionally used (or almost never used) vehicle in "ready to go" operating condition?

    This question comes up every fall - when antique/classic vehicles (and lawn/power equipment) are either retired for the season or used much less frequently. Road salt keeps antique vehicles indoors - and it's just too damn cold to ride a motorcycle.

    But it's not good for a machine to just sit there collecting dust for months on end. Especially if it's got a full tank of fuel in it. Gas does go bad - either from oxidation or from contamination, such as happens when condensation forms inside the tank/lines. Either way, it's a bad deal. Stale gas loses octane; varnishes form on (and in) small orifices, leading to starting problems - and rough running if you do manage to get the thing started. Moisture inside the tank/lines leads to rust - which flakes off into the fuel and ends up creating another set of problems.

    Come spring, it's an ugly scene.

    Ok, so what to do?

    There are lots of opinions here - ranging from "do nothing" to perform an elaborate pre-storage "prep" that may be overkill. I choose a middle of the road solution; it's worked for me - and should for you, too:

    * Try to top off the tanks of all the vehicles you expect not to be using much over the winter with fresh gas as late in the season as possible.

    Reason? One, the fresher the fuel you get, the longer you've got before it begins to go sour. Two, gas formulations change by season. If you leave "summer gas" in the vehicles/machinery, they may be harder to start (and not run as well) in cold weather.

    * Mix the fresh gas with Sta-Bil (or equivalent) so that all the fuel is treated before the vehicle/machine is put away.

    Fuel stabilizer helps delay the process of chemical oxidation that causes gas to lose volatility/octane. Ideally, mix the fuel/Stab-Bil, then operate the vehicle/machine for 15 minutes or so - to get the treated fuel into the carburetor/fuel system. It does you no good to have treated fuel in the tank - but untreated (and stale) gas inside the float bowls of the carburetor, etc. Be sure to top off the tank again afterward; the more full the tank is, the less likely it is that condensation will form inside. Make sure the gas gap is on tightly and does not leak.

    * Try to operate the vehicle for 15-30 minutes at least once a month.

    This is my personal trick - and the one I feel does the most toward keeping lightly used vehicles and machinery in ready-to-go condition. It can be a pain in the depths of winter - but the payoff is worth it, in terms of reduced hassle later on. And probably, in the form of a longer-lived vehicle/machine.

    This routine accomplishes several things. One, you're using up some of the old gas - which should then be replaced with fresh gas (also treated with Sta-Bil or equivalent). In this way, you're cycling the fuel; the new gas will help slow oxidation of the fuel that's already in the tank - prolonging its shelf life considerably. Two, by running the engine, you are also circulating oil - which will coat the internals with a protective film of fresh oil, keep seals pliable - and burn away any internal moisture that may have formed during periods of disuse. Three, if you're dealing with a car or bike or lawn mower with a battery, operating the thing for 15-30 minutes per month will help keep the battery charged. (A Battery Tender is even better - but this works, too.)

    For cars and bikes, I like to "drive" them when possible - even if I never leave the garage (due to road salt or poor weather). Running the engine in Neutral or Park doesn't do much for the rest of the driveline (transmission, axle, etc.). And it's not a good idea to just start a car's engine and leave it idling at low RPM for a couple of minutes; that may even do more harm than good. (Experts believe doing so may not allow the engine to reach full operating temperature, which in turn accelerates condensation build-up, etc.)

    If you have an antique/classic car, odds are it's rear-wheel-drive (and probably has a solid axle). This makes it easy to raise the drive wheels just slightly off the ground with a floor jack. Now use a pair of sturdy under-axle jack stands to keep them in the air. Now you can "drive" the car in your garage - without ever leaving it. I do this with my antique Pontiac. After starting it up, I put the transmission in gear and let it run - varying my "speed" between 0 and 35-40 mph or so. Applying the brakes cleans off the rotors/drums, removing the light rust that invariably develops when a vehicle is parked for a long time. This process also circulates gear oil in the rear axle, keeping seals nice and "wet."

    It's possible to do the same with a bike- provided, of course, that it has a center stand. You should also move the bike occasionally - to prevent flat spots from developing on the tires.

    I've been doing all the above for years, with very good results. I have yet to be plagued by a lawn mower that refuses to start come spring - or needed to tear down a carburetor for cleaning due to gunk build-up over the winter.

    Give it a try - or at least try to do some of the things listed above. The results ought to speak for themselves!

    END

  2. #2
    mrblanche
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    Re: Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    * Try to top off the tanks of all the vehicles you expect not to be using much over the winter with fresh gas as late in the season as possible.

    Reason? One, the fresher the fuel you get, the longer you've got before it begins to go sour. Two, gas formulations change by season. If you leave "summer gas" in the vehicles/machinery, they may be harder to start (and not run as well) in cold weather.
    Did you see the previous message I posted on this subject? This is contrary to the current advice.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Re: Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

    To see this article on the main site see the below link:



    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...3&Itemid=10816



  4. #4
    DonTom
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    Re: Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

    "ranging from "do nothing""

    So far, that has worked well for me with my bikes and lawn mowers, weed eaters, etc. Most are in NV that has real winters unlike here in the SF area.
    -Don-


  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    "ranging from "do nothing""

    So far, that has worked well for me with my bikes and lawn mowers, weed eaters, etc. Most are in NV that has real winters unlike here in the SF area.
    -Don-

    Having a temperate climate is a major advantage, no question. For one, you don't have the heat/cold cycling that leads to condensation; also, no salt on the roads - so you can drive a classic car year-round!

  6. #6
    DonTom
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    Re: Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

    "Having a temperate climate is a major advantage, no question. For one, you don't have the heat/cold cycling that leads to condensation; also, no salt on the roads - so you can drive a classic car year-round! "

    But the house in NV has a lot more room for vehicles than this one in CA. So we leave most there, and it gets below zero F. sometimes in December.

    Right now in NV we have:

    2002 DR200SE
    1984 Yamaha Venture
    2002 Mustang hardtop
    1997 Sebring convertible
    1999 Dodge pick up truck
    two power boats
    lawn mower (but isn't it stupid to have lawns in the desert?)
    weed eater

    And I do nothing special with any of these vehicles for the winter (at either home).

    Here in SSF we now have:

    1997 Jeep Cherokee
    1999 Mustang convertible (the car most used when Tom is driving).
    1996 Saturn SL2 (the car most used when I am driving).
    1971 BMW R75/5 (with gasoline now so old that I won't even think about trying to use it!)
    1983 Yamaha Venture (junk bike, but runs).

    BTW, on the subject of VERY old gasoline, can it harm anything other than the carb jets & seals?

    -Don-

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Proper "tuck in" for a long winter's nap....

    "BTW, on the subject of VERY old gasoline, can it harm anything other than the carb jets & seals?"

    It's not the gas, per se, it's the moisture (and subsequent rust formation) that can ruin a gas tank, rot fuel lines from the inside, etc. Old gas also turns into a gelatinous mess eventually; really hard to clean without disassembling everything and putting into a solvent tank...

    My attitude toward all this is that the expense/hassle of being "safe" (even a little overcautious) outweighs the potentially big expense and hassle of problems created by deteriorated fuel, etc.

    It's a penny-wise/pound foolish thing... kindof like being cheap about oil filters at the risk of subjecting the engine to inadequate filtration - or worse, an oiling-related failure.

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