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How to Winterize Your Car or Truck



This is no way to store a car for winter!

photo by Adam Wright, 2013

 Some vehicles don't get much use when it gets cold outside. The old Porsches don't like snowy, salty roads. Jet skis, lawn tractors, fishing boats -- none of these is going to move an inch once winter hits. One way or another, the toys are going into storage. Some people think it's ok to just park these vehicles, hang up the keys and wait for warmer weather. This is a mistake. When spring comes you can easily find yourself with all sorts of problems. Twenty years ago, the problems you'd encounter after letting a vehicle sit all winter were, for the most part, minor. Low tires, paint finish issues -- little things like that would pop up regularly. Unfortunately, with the introduction of high levels of ethanol in fuel, the stakes are much higher these days. An unprepared engine can suffer expensive damage just from sitting with fuel in it. That's why it's more important than ever to get your vehicle ready for a proper and planned winter slumber. 

Winterizing should focus primarily on the fuel system. Modern fuels that are a large percentage ethanol will deteriorate rapidly if left in the tank. As the fuel breaks down it leaves gummy deposits that can clog your fuel system and leave you with lots of work. Carbureted engines are the most susceptible to being gummed up by sitting fuel, but there are many components in a fuel injected engine that will suffer, as well. There are two ways to be sure your engine doesn't suffer from fuel breakdown and a case of the clogs.

Draining the fuel system. The old way of protecting a fuel system - and still quite effective - is a complete draining of the fuel system. This means you have to get that gas out of every corner of the system including the fuel tank, fuel pump or pumps, and the carbs or injection components depending on your system. Most fuel tanks have a method for draining, but it varies from vehicle to vehicle. Check here for some tips on draining your tank. Next you have to drain your fuel lines. To do this, disconnect your the lines at both the tank, fuel pump and the carburetor and let gravity drain all of the fuel from the line. With all of the fuel drained from the tank and lines, disconnect the ignition coil so it won't fire and crank the engine over for about 15 seconds. The vacuum created by the engine's cylinders will suck the remaining fuel from the carb and leave it nice and dry. If you've got a fuel injected engine the process of draining all of the fuel from the system is quite a bit more involved. First you have to drain the fuel tank, primary pump and then start disconnecting lines as you have to do with a carbureted engine. Next you have to ... wait, what are you doing?! There's a much easier way to get all of the fuel out of the system to avoid a gummed up engine in the spring. 

Running the fuel system dry. If you skipped the entire previous paragraph and jumped right to this section then you clearly have an intact sense of reason and efficiency and something drew you to this method rather than the aforementioned draining the fuel system. There's really nothing easier than running your fuel system dry. As winter approaches, let your fuel level run low so that you don't have a full tank to deal with as your trying to get your engine fuel free. It's not a good idea to run your car or truck engine until the fuel tank is dry because years of gunk may be waiting at the bottom of that tank to clog your fuel filter and ruin your pump. Instead, with the engine running, pull the plug on your injection pump and let the engine run itself dry ahead of the fuel tank. Then you can let your fuel pump dry out and wait until spring and fresh fuel! 

If your car will be on the road all winter, be sure you're up on important winter maintenance

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