I’ve been smelling burnt rubber for many years and have had the opportunity to talk cars with many guys. One skill you learn is whether guys actually have the baddest ride on the street/strip or if they only dream about it and know theory. Some of you may know what I mean, the guy who tells you how to modify and run your ride but he hasn’t driven anything fast since he bounced his momma’s ’77 LTD with a 351 and the air cleaner cover flipped over to give it that WHOMP sound (don’t judge me…I did that on my dad’s ’77 Bonneville, but I’ve owned faster rides since then!) Then there’s “money guy”, who really only has a fast car because it attracts ladies and he has money. His car is only used to its potential on freeway ramps or when he’s running late for work.
I would bash “Vette-guy”, as many of those guys fit the money-guy description, but that would be disrespectful to the Woodward Dominator, “Raw-Dog”. Raw-Dog earned his name as a guy who tells it like it is and has the knowledge and the ride to back up whatever he’s telling you. But best of all, my man is humble, a great father and a wealth of wisdom that he’s always willing to share. He is the man I call when I need knowledge on car care (any many other things as well) as he has worked in the business of detailing money-guy’s rides in his early years and knows cars and how to care for them inside and out. Now, the man has quite a stable of his own, one that would make the GM fan-boys proud. When he talks, I get my notebook and grab my camera to shoot his rides.
I consulted Raw-Dog before the snow began to fall as I needed his expertise on how to prepare the Mustang. In a few weeks, it’ll be time to pull the Stang out for some good times and I wanted his knowledge on unwrapping the mummy. However, I figured this would be a great time to share his knowledge with all of you as well as it may help some of you CSDs out there who may store your rides during the winter, when you’re being deployed or at rebuild time.
Trust me, you’re going to want to bookmark this post.
I won’t tell you how fast his ZO6 is in the quarter, but let me say that he runs with the folks pulling their wheels way off the ground and resting on nice trailers, while he turns on his A/C, cruise control and tunes to make the 40-mile trip back home from the drag strip. His ride is not exactly stock (well, I guess it depends on your definition), but it’s certainly not a trailer queen and he has no problem running on the dragstrip or road course.
How many years have you been storing cars over the winter?
I’ve been storing cars through midwest winters since 1998 when I bought my first car, a 1988 IROC-Z. My methods have evolved slightly over the years, but essentially boil down to a few important steps with everything else more preferences than anything.
First, I fill them up with gas at the gas station and drive it right to my storage location to have a full tank for storage. The less air space in the tank, the less moisture can develop. I never use fuel stabilizer, and usually just burn through the first tank of fuel the first week of spring (that fuel has slightly degraded – lower octane now so be nice and play it safe and avoid detonation!) . Fuel stabilizer could help, but I always worry about putting anything foreign in the fuel system and have never had an issue with my method. My IROC is 25 years old this year, original fuel pump, original injectors and runs like a top. Same with my other cars, so this works for me. If you are storing a car for longer that one winter I’d say drain the tank. That typically dries out injector seals and such, but after more than a year gas turns to varnish, so you’ll plug everything up anyway. Lose-lose on storing for more than a season here.
Once at storage location, I fully clean them and dry them, inside and out. If you don’t clean them and you use a cover, the dirt particles left on the surface can be rubbed/dragged over the paint by covering and removing the cover, and can do more harm than good. Also, you want it fully dry to avoid any moisture, mildew issues. Then I do all my battery disconnect/trickle charger connection stuff, inflate tires to proper pressure to prevent flat spotting, drop a mothball or two in the engine bay to prevent rodents chewing wires and making homes, then throw the cover on. Some people put their cars on jackstands to unload the suspension, but I have been told this can cause issues with seals in struts being unloaded for so long, so I don’t do that. Figure your suspension wears just slightly less sitting there than when driving, so what’s the difference right? Why risk it?
What are you storing right now?
Currently I am storing that same ’88 IROC, my 2006 C6 ZO6, and I attend to my father’s toy as well, which is a supercharged 2002 Z28 Camaro.
What advice do you have as we prepare to unwrap that gift from the winter?
Certainly how your car comes out of storage has a lot to do with how it went into storage. I’ll get into some details in the next few questions, but I usually put my cars into storage and take them out the same way each year.
In my opinion, there are 3 critical areas to pay attention to: the battery, the fuel (I explained in point 1), and then the oil. The first and most important item to me is the battery. The worst thing to do is leave the battery connected to a car that is stored through a winter. Some feel that simply jumping in the car and running it occasionally through a winter to keep a charge is a good idea. I feel that there are two reasons why this is not ideal. First, in between instances of running, the battery will drain (even if not too low to start) and begin to lose some of its capacity that will never come back even when recharged. I always used a trickle charger and have my battery plugged into that, and never have anything connected to the car itself. Also, cold dry starts have plenty of moisture but little oil is present on things (pistons, bearing, cranks etc.), and this just can’t be better for internals than sitting still until spring with fresh, warmer, quicker cold-start lubing oil is in the car. I always leave old oil in my cars for the winter then change it fresh the first day out. Oil accumulates condensation and moisture, so there is no reason to change it before storage, and then drive on degraded oil in the spring.
If someone just left the car outside all winter and/or didn’t prep before snow, what should they do before cranking it up?
Did this person disconnect the battery or at least put in a fresh new charged battery? If that isn’t a concern, I would certainly check under the hood and tailpipes for any debris in the way, then leave the hood open and check everything immediately after startup. If you hear something weird, or see/smell smoke, kill it and then look it all over again. Once mechanically sound and running again, that paint is definitely going to need some love. So I’d advise a wash, clay, high-speed polish and a wax immediately.
Did you ever find you had problems in the spring that you didn’t have before storing the car?
Yes! Before I began using trickle chargers, I ALWAYS had battery issues in the spring. Now, I never do. Sometimes you have other things happen, a mysterious leak or flat tire or something like that, but usually its the way you left it.
Any other nuggets of wisdom you think may help us novices out there?
Change the oil the day you take the car out of storage. Also, the car may run rough the first week out of storage, but like I noted above, likely due to that degraded fuel and will improve with the first fill up. DO NOT GO WIDE OPEN THROTTLE ON THIS OLD FUEL (the octane has significantly dropped over this time), and detonation kills ring lands!!!
Where’s the first “non-purpose” place you’re going to drive when you pull your ride out for the summer?
To this question I’d usually make a joke like – “To the dealer to trade it in to pay for my kids day care”, but I know when the weather breaks I’ll be going right to Woodward to see some action and meet up with you.
Hot-mod plans for 2013?
No big plans as last year was a big mod year with the heads and all that. I think I’m just planning on upgrading my dry sump oil tank from an 8 qt to a 10 qt to mitigate cooking a bearing out on the racetrack (oil starvation). Also probably a new C5R timing chain to keep those ridiculously expensive new heads/valves in one piece during track days at Waterford, Gingerman and Grattan.
Hopefully I can get Raw Dog to drop some fatherhood knowledge on us as well in the near future. This man’s garage is impressive, but his family is far more precious and most importantly, he knows it! I really appreciate his time and the great answers.
If any of you have any tips or comments, please let us know below!