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Winter Prep You’ll Appreciate in the Spring

The dog days of summer are often a hot, sticky mess here in Indiana. But the day of the SweetCars lunch was a pleasant surprise because of the nice weather. This led to a fantastic turnout of the area’s great cars and the people who love them. As the newest member of the SweetCars service team, it was my first time attending this event. The first car my wife and I owned as a married couple was a ’67 Mustang, so seeing Mustangs and Thunderbirds featured at the event brought back a lot of great memories.

I remember spending hours upon hours tending to our “baby.” It was a source of great pride and great frustration at times. After talking with the owners of the cars at the lunch, I see that I wasn’t alone. When maintaining any vehicle that you take pride in, whether it’s your daily driver or your “baby,” we at SweetCars believe it’s important that your service provider shares your passion.

My passion started when I was 12 years old. I started fixing old lawn mowers and reselling them to help my large family. The transition to cars helped foster my competitive drive. I served in the US Army, becoming the first person in the Army to be a certified Master Auto Technician by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. While stationed in Germany, I repaired European and American cars for fun and income. As the new Service Manager of SweetCars, I promise to bring all my experience and passion to solve your repair issues and help you maintain your vehicle to the highest standards.

With the sticky days of summer transitioning to fall and inevitably to winter, proper planning can help you maintain that pride of ownership. After more than 35 years as a certified Master Auto Technician, I’d like to share with you my winter storage checklist.

1: I clean the exterior and interior of the car. I get rid of everything that could freeze or deteriorate with time. I remember one time leaving an air freshener in the car thinking that it would make the car smell nice all winter. What actually happened, though, was the liquid in the capsule attacked the container, and it leaked onto the console lid. It stained the lid so bad I had to replace it. After that experience, everything comes out of the car.

2: I check the battery. If you have a vehicle without fuel injection, it’s fine to disconnect the battery. Many types of “quick disconnects” are available that we can install in line with the battery cable. Fuel injected vehicles have a memory that stores operating strategies for your driving habits, so disconnecting the battery means in the spring it has to learn everything all over. The low current draw of the memory means the battery needs to be good to last the whole winter. A good battery tender will help the battery last. Look for a “smart” tender that tailors the current flow to your battery size and construction. We can install a “quick connect” that makes using it as easy as charging your cell phone.

3: I test the antifreeze for conductivity and freezing point. Conductivity? I bet you didn’t know that worn antifreeze conducts electricity. This small electrical charge will actually eat the cooling system from the inside out! This also drains the battery prematurely, causing it to not stay charged the whole winter. In addition, modern coolants are a sophisticated blend of chemicals that manufacturers recommend for their metallurgy and gasket materials. Gone are the days of just green or orange coolants.

4: I add a fuel stabilizer to my full tank of gas. Filling the tank keeps condensation at a minimum. Modern fuels contain high levels of ethanol, which can degrade and attack classic car fuel systems — stabilizers keep this at bay.

5: I air up the tires to the maximum pressure on the sidewalls of the tires. Many people place their vehicles on high-density foam blocks to prevent “flat spotting.” You can put the car on jack stands, but unless you are familiar with the correct jack points, you could structurally damage the vehicle.

6: I change the oil just before putting it away. The acids created during combustion are flushed away by the engine oil. The acids attack engine bearings and gasket materials, causing leaks and premature engine wear.

7: Finally, I cover the vehicle with a soft, breathable cover. If rodents are a worry, a few companies make a bag that you can seal the vehicle in — kind of like a ziplock bag.

I personally don’t believe in starting the vehicle during storage. First, the temptation to “take it for a quick spin” will undo all your prep work. Second, running the vehicle, even briefly, exposes you to carbon monoxide.

We can help you with all these winter storage procedures. We offer all the products and advice you will need to keep your “baby” pampered during the long winter sleep.

Stop by and share your “baby’s” story.

I look forward to meeting you!

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