Putting your Bug to Bed
Story and photography by Wayne Dean
Every year around the 1st week
of November I perform a ritual that I really don't look forward to. It
marks the end of another season of Beetling and the beginning of hibernation
time for my Bug. I'm talking about storing my VW for the winter or as
I like to call it, "Putting your Bug to Bed."
Storing your VW for the winter, or for any other extended period of time,
doesn't have to be a pain in the neck or the wallet if done correctly.
There are differing degrees of storage that can range from parking it
on your driveway, which is not really recommended, to storing it in a
climate controlled, hermetically sealed, plastic bubble in a guarded vault
at Fort Knox. Okay, I know went a bit too far with the last one there.
So if you don't have your own garage and live somewhere like New York
city or pretty much anywhere in Canada you may want to look into a storage
unit or your VW during these cold winter months. With many different schools
of thought on storing a vehicle I'm going to go over as many different
suggestions as I can. You can decide just how far you want to go when
it comes protecting your air-cooled treasure.
Your VW Indoors
This is a must. Dampness, water or snow when combined with salt in
the air or on the ground (depending where you live), is going to try
and rust your vehicle. If you are lucky enough to have a dry, heated
storage area for your VW, then you can pretty much rule out the dreaded
"R" word. But if you're storing it in your cold, damp, garage
at home, you should place some sort of vapor barrier beneath your
vehicle. You can put a piece of heavy gauge plastic or a sheet of
plywood on the floor underneath your VW. This will help to keep the
moisture in the concrete from getting to the bottom of those pristine
floor pans. Try to minimize the number of times that the garage door
is opened and closed during the winter months. Every time that you
slowly open that door, damp air is going to blow in, around and under
sure that your storage area is free from mice and other vermin. Mice
can enter your VW through a gap as small as a dime. I've heard of
mice entering through the heating ducts and making their way into
the glove box, where they happily chew up the owners' manual to make
a nest. There are plenty of ways of ridding your garage of mice, but
the first thing you should do is to make sure there are no food sources
there. A leftover bag a bird seed will feed those little critters
all winter long, so beware. You could try traps, poison or a more
humane product called Mouse Away. This natural pest control is made
with an exclusive formula that combines pure peppermint oil with pure
spearmint oil in just the right combination to provide maximum repellence.
Mouse Away doesn't harm rodents; they simply hate the smell and move
away ASAP! A couple of mothballs in the engine compartment are effective
to keep them away from the wiring, but be warned it is a bit stinky.
I put a little steel wool into the tailpipe and cover it with a plastic
bag held on with an elastic band. The steel wool keeps the really
adventurous mice out and the plastic creates a moisture proof barrier
for the exhaust. Insects can also make their way into your vehicle
while you're off watching chestnuts roasting by an open fire. A couple
of aromatic cedar shingles placed inside your VW will help to absorb
moisture and keep the bugs out (they hate the smell of cedar for some
reason) during the winter. You could also try putting a bar of Irish
Spring soap in a tin can placed in the trunk and interior. This will
make insects think twice about making your car a bed and breakfast.
If you leave the battery in your VW for an extended period of time
without starting it you can count on it being dead and pretty much
useless come spring. Remove the battery and take it inside your house
then place it on a shelf away from sparks. Invest in a battery charger
and charge that battery once a month to keep it fresh and ready to
go. You can also pick up a product called BatteryMINDer or some variation
at your local Pep Boys or Canadian Tire. These units remain connected
to the battery while it's in or out of the car. This mini charger
keeps the battery fully charged so you don't have to remember to charge
it every month. When spring comes you simply disconnect it and off
you go. Oh yeah, if you have a radio that uses a security code, now
is a good time to write it down on a piece of paper. Stick it to the
fridge with a festive Christmas magnet so you don't lose it, or else
it will be Ho, Ho, Oh, No!
Wash it and Wax it
your VW a good wash and wax before putting it down. Be sure to pay
special attention to areas where dirt can collect. Hit the inner fenders
with high-pressure water to dislodge any gunk that has built up over
the summer. Always wash your vehicle from the top down and use a high
quality wax after you've finished washing it. Some people recommend
applying wax to the vehicle and not buffing off the haze coat, DO
NOT do this. That coat of un-buffed wax will be as hard as a rock
by springtime and you'll need arms like Schwarzenegger to get it off.
Making sure that your VW is clean when you park it will get you back
on the road faster in the spring. And a clean, waxed car will not
be scratched by dust when you put your car cover on. It is also not
advisable to treat your VWs interior (seats, dashboard and door panels)
with any kind of protectant spray. Most of these contain water and
over the months will actually encourage the growth of mildew and mold.
There is a moisture-absorbing product on the market that is intended
for marine use but can be used for automotive applications as well.
Damp Away ll by MDR will absorb over 25 times its own weight in water
from the air, and it's reusable by popping it the oven or microwave.
If you want to save like Scrooge you can go the less expensive route
and put a tray filled with about ½ inch of baking soda in your
VW. This will help to absorb moisture and any odors too, just make
sure you leave enough to bake some cookies for Santa!.
When you drive your VW the oil gets contaminated as it begins to
break down, so you don't want this toxic mess sitting in the sump
of your engine for months on end. Grab your socket set and change
the oil. You can leave cleaning the oil strainer for now if you
want, I don't because I'm "Super" fussy. And guess what?
You're going to change oil and and clean the strainer in the spring
before you take that first sweet drive. Oil does break down over
time and it's best not to take a chance when an oil change is such
cheap insurance. Some people take the time to put some oil into
the cylinders before the big sleep. Just pull the plugs and squirt
a little into each. This certainly can't hurt and you should be
sure to crank the engine over by hand to make sure that the oil
coats the cylinders evenly. Be prepared for some smoke and possibly
some fouled plugs when it comes time to fire it up. How many psychiatrists
does it take to change the oil on a Beetle? One, but the oil has
to WANT to change!
Fill 'er up and Stabilize
you park your VW it's a good idea to fill your fuel tank. This stops
condensation from forming inside the tank and rusting it from the
inside out. Add a fuel stabilizer to the full tank and run it for
at least ten minutes to allow the mixture to get through the entire
system. POR-15 offers fuel preservative and stabilizer in one product.
By adding this to your tank, oxygen is chemically isolated preventing
oxidation and corrosive compounds are neutralized stopping rust formation.
Remember when you fill your VW DO NOT fill it all the way up the fuel
filler neck. Fuel can get into the fuel tank ventilation lines which
can cause problems. As a rule for filling the tank in any vehicle,
wait for the first click and then stop. Do not add any more fuel after
this and you'll be good. Now you can add the winter fuel treatment
and putt-putt off home. This Fuel treatment/stabilizer will help to
keep the fuel from breaking down and turning into a gummy mess while
you're off skiing somewhere.
Cover your VW with a good quality fitted car cover made out of a breathable
fabric. Make sure that you DO NOT use a tarp or any other kind of
plastic to cover your ride while the snow flies. These can actually
trap moisture on your vehicle and then we'll be talking about that
"R" word again. BTW, the "R" word that I m always
talking about is rust for those of you not paying attention. I fitted
my Super Beetle with a funky car cover from Bug Rug. These cotton
and polyester covers boast double-sewn construction and are made by
the leading car cover manufacturer. Each one is custom made and hand
tie-dyed and no two are exactly alike. Unfortunately you can't but
these covers anymore so try Mid America Motorworks, CIP1 or JBugs
to see what is available from these VW parts vendors. Be sure to order
a cover that is specific to indoor or outdoor storage as they are
completely different products. If you're in a pinch and your VW is
stored inside you can always use an old blanket to keep the dust off.
Just don't use one off the bed or you'll be getting a bag of coal
you park your Volkswagen for an extended period of time do not apply
the parking brake. This stretches the cables and you don't want them
to possibly seize with the brakes on. Leave your standard transmission
in gear with a block in front and behind one of the wheels or with
your Autostick in the park position. Check the brake fluid but do
not add any unless it is completely empty, and then only add enough
to get to the low level mark. Brake fluid goes down as your brakes
wear and will go up once when shoes are installed. So if the level
is low you need new brakes or you have a leak somewhere. Be sure to
pump the brakes once a month to make sure that the master and wheel
cylinders are free and not starting to stick. Taking care of your
VWs brakes is important as I've been told that stopping can be a good
If you're running radial tires inflate them to the maximum recommended
pressure as listed on the sidewall. As a rule radials don't suffer
from flat spots the same way that bias ply tires do. Most tires will
lose a few pounds, as I wish I could after Christmas dinner, while
being stored. So be sure to check and re-adjust them before your first
cruise of spring. If you do have old-skool bias ply tires, or if you're
just feeling energetic, remove your tires and wheels and store them
lying flat at the recommended maximum pressure. If you are going to
store the tires you will need to put your VW up on stands for the
next few months. Make sure that you put the stands on the strong suspension
arms to maintain proper loading on the shocks or struts. **Please
use caution as it can be dangerous if not done properly. If a
shock is fully extended the shaft can rust which will ruin the seals
once the suspension is back in action agian. If it is time to re-tire
your Volkswagen check out all of these tires
especially made to fit your Classic Beetle.
Last But Not least
washer fluid can freeze if it's not the proper strength. If it does freeze
it can crack your washer fluid reservoir and make a mess in the trunk.
You can take the time to test the WWAF (windshield washer antifreeze)
or just don't take any chances. Dump that old fluid and fill it up with
some fresh -30 or just leave it empty for now. Good news! Since your Volkswagen
is air-cooled you don't have any engine coolant or a radiator to worry
about, nice! Call your insurance company and take the collision or comprehensive
insurance off for the time your VW will be in storage. Remember you can't
drive it while this portion of the insurance is off and make sure to reinstate
the coverage in the spring before heading out. Now you're ready to have
a good time slip sliding away.
All of these items
can be done for next to nothing, all you have to supply is time and a
bit of elbow grease. The first year that I stored my Beetle I did the
absolute minimum. I left the battery in and drove it for an hour once
a month when the roads were dry. That charged the battery up, heated the
exhaust. wiggled the suspension and kept the brakes free. But I never
thought about the salt dust that was still on the dry roads and a few
years later I was shelling out for some rust repairs. Did those winter
excursions contribute to the rust? Who knows? But I'm not taking any chances.
I'm giving my Beetle the "Royal Treatment" each and every time
I tuck it in for a long winters nap. Good luck and good night...see you
in the spring!
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