Each year as winter approaches many owners look to put their precious Aston away for a few months of hibernation. I’m fortunate enough to live in a climate where I can drive my DB9 all year round (I’m not bothered by her getting wet in the few days of California rain we have each year). If you are going to put your Aston away for more than a month, there are definitely a bunch of steps you should take so that she’s all ready to hit the road in the spring.
As usual I’ve checked a number of sources, in particular:
- The official Owners Manual in my DB9 Glovebox – Section 12 Vehicle Storage (check out the pages here).
- The official Aston Martin Vehicle Storage and Battery Care Manual
- This read is good for a laugh or two. Wash the car every month, don’t park it within 2 feet of another vehicle, and rotate the tires a quarter turn every week. This guide is focused on storing new cars so we need to filter out the applicable parts for us.
- I canvased the Aston Martin Owners Facebook Group to see what the word on the street was regarding this and got a ton of feedback from other owners and their annual rituals.
What follows is my distillation of what I think matters to most owners in most situations.
The Aston1936 Recommended Storage Guide
What is “Storing”? I think it breaks down into three ranges:
- Up to 4 weeks (1 month) – Nothing to do
- Going on a vacation or similar.
- The battery gives up at 30 days, so you can’t ‘stretch this’.
- Just starting the car for 5 mins once per month does NOT relieve the necessity to properly store it. This can actually be detrimental.
- 1 to 6 months – Short term storage
- Putting her away for the winter months
- This is what this article is all about
- 6+ months – Long term storage
- Parking her up for a long stretch as an investment vehicle, etc.
- This has additional steps needed like draining the fuel, oiling the cylinders, etc. Maybe another article someday in the future….
This guide covers Short Term Storage like you are putting her away for the winter.
Getting your car completely ready will probably take you a few hours on a sad Saturday as you get her ready for her Winter sleep. I’m approaching this list as I would tackle it in order that day.
The modern fuel in our cars will start to deteriorate (oxidize) after as little as 30 days. Leave it sitting long enough and it will turn into gooey varnish and eat all the rubber fittings in the fuel system. The worst fuels are the ones with Ethanol (like we are cursed with in California) as the ethanol really destroys rubber and gaskets plus absorbs water and can lead to rusting the fuel system from the inside out.
While the absolute best thing to do would be to completely empty the entire fuel system (tank, pump, pipes, fuel rails, injectors, filters, etc) this is highly involved and impractical.
The next question that comes to mind is would it be better to have almost an empty tank (1/8th or less) and then top it up with fresh fuel in the spring, or, put her away with a full tank of fuel? The argument centers around that with a low fuel level there will be an air space above the fuel for vapor (that might have moisture in it), and with a full tank there is less vapor space. The answer is definitively top it up completely with the highest grade fuel you can. Minimizing the air space is key.
If you can buy fuel without Ethanol, that is a definite must do. Even if you have to drive across town to find it. Ethanol in fuel absorbs water right out of the air, and can eventually lead to a buildup of water in the tank and ultimately rust. In California EVERY fuel company (BP, Shell, Chevron, etc) sells ONLY 10% ethanol fuel (known as E10 fuel). The rest of the US, Canada and UK have better options. It appears that many of the top brand fuels (Super Premium Unleaded) might be Ethanol Free (known as E0 fuel). In the US and Canada you can look for an E0 gas station near you here on the Pure-Gas.org website. If you normally run fuel containing ethanol and are going to store your car with E0 fuel, plan ahead and drive your car until your tank is about empty of fuel with Ethanol and then fill up with E0. Maybe run E0 fuel for your last tank or two to make sure you’ve purged the ethanol fuel from your system.
My advice is to make your last trip in your Aston to the gas station.
On the way buy a bottle of Fuel Stabilizer. Sta-bil is a well known brand. Fuel stabilizer is designed just for this purpose and will keep fuel fresh for 12-24 months. Check out their YouTube video here.
Based on the Sta-bil website, an 8 oz. bottle of their “Sta-bil Fuel Stabilizer” is the right size for a 20 gallon tank. The DB9 is fitted with an 21 gallon (80 liter) tank, so this is the size bottle I would go for. You can get an 8 oz. bottle from Amazon for just $6.32 USD including free Prime shipping (check out the link here). You can snag one from your local parts store too for under $10 USD.
When you get there, put the bottle of fuel stabilizer into the tank first, then fill your tank. This allows the fuel and stabilizer to mix better.
With your Tank full it’s time to head for home (its a good idea to drive at least for 5 minutes once you’ve added the Sta-bil to the tank so its all the way through the fuel system).
We want to store the car clean for several reasons. First, you want to have that ‘Ahhhh’ feeling in the spring when you pull the covers off and she’s all pristine and wanting to go for romp. More importantly it would be a disaster to put her away with harmful contaminants sitting on the paint. I am speaking about bird poop. Bird droppings are very acidic, and car ‘etch’ your clearcoat after even a few days. Leaving a bird bomb on your paint for months will certainly leave a permanent mark.
You might use a detailer, or wash her yourself, but I would at least be sure the car is well washed and dried. If you want to wax and polish her go for it, a little extra protection always helps, but I don’t think this is essential. Be sure she’s completely dry before your park her. After the wash I’d also suggest a final 5 minute drive around the block to get the brakes up to temp (and dried).
Just clean and dry.
You shouldn’t just assume that all the fluids are ready for storage, you need to check.
A few people online suggested performing your annual service just before you store the car. I’d actually disagree with this. Many of the fluids that get services are hygroscopic – meaning that they absorb moisture (even out of the air). Why put fresh oil and brake fluid in now to just have them deteriorate for 4 months? I’d aim for doing my annual service right as I take her out of storage, or perhaps while she’s in storage (if you are a DIY person).
Be sure these fluids are topped up to max:
- Engine Oil with the proper grade (check out my article on this)
- Brake Fluid with proper fluid (check out my article on this)
- Coolant Level
If you store your car in a climate where the temperature will be below freezing, you have to worry about a few more things. If the engine coolant AND/OR the washer fluid is allowed to freeze, it expands and breaks expensive stuff. Even if you store your car in a heated garage, what happens if the power fails and the garage cools off to freezing even for just one day?
Using a proper antifreeze testing tool to check the temperature the existing coolant is good for. As long as your car has the proper antifreeze mixture as spec’d you’ll probably find its good for up to -30 °F or colder. Don’t assume – be sure. You can pickup an antifreeze tester for just about $5 USD at the local autoparts store.
Often overlooked is the windshield washer fluid tank. If you’ve just been filling it up with tap water it will freeze hard. This could damage the reservoir, the tank, the hoses, and the spray nozzles. Don’t forget that our headlights have washer units too, so even more to worry about. Usually in cold climate areas the local auto parts stores will offer windshield washer fluid that has antifreeze in it (typically alcohol). You’ve seen them, the blue bottles of the stuff. Pay attention to the temperature that its rated for, the industry appears to make 32°F (uhh, that’s plain water) and -20°F formulations.
This is definitely something to buy local vs. online due to the shipping weight. You can pickup a gallon bottle of the -20°F rated blue stuff for about $3 USD at the local auto parts store or gas stations.
If your cars washer system is full of plain water, you’ll want to purge that out with the new fluid. You could use a vacuum extractor and suck out the old water from the reservoir, or pump it through until dry (careful not to kill your washer pump doing this in one continuous pump). Check out Mike’s article on how to Siphon out the old fluid here. Then refill the reservoir with the winterized fluid and then take the time to run the wipers/sprayers until it is spraying the new solution (you’ll smell the ethanol a bit in the mist). This way you can be sure all the hoses and pumps are full of the new solution. Ahh, and do this step BEFORE you wash the car since spraying all this around will make a mess.
Your tires are made of rubber, and leaving tires loaded in the same position for months can leave them with ‘Flat Spots’ that may never go away. In the spring when you go to drive her for the first time you’ll feel like you a bumping along and there will likely be vibrations galore through the steering wheel and seat of your pants. Your round tires are now only MOSTLY round, except for that 8” flat spot.
The solution starts with INCREASING your tire pressures WAAY above normal. Aston Martin’s Vehicle Storage Manual recommends 60 psi front and rear. This makes the tires even more ballooned and rounded, minimizing the crushed flat area. Of course in the spring you’ll need to adjust these back down to normal (36/38)before you start her up and drive anywhere.
Another optional step would be to come out to the garage every few weeks and roll her forward or back a foot or two so a different spot on the tire is loaded. Aston Martin’s guide recommends a quarter turn. But, this is a pain in the but if you’ve got her all disconnected. It would be a real mistake to come in and start her up for 60 seconds to drive her 1 foot. The wear and tear on the engine isn’t worth it. If you can put her in neutral with the engine off and push her a foot, sure.
Aston Martin Vehicle Storage and Battery Care Manual Similar to the tires, the wiper blades are made from rubber and under constant pressure from springs pressing them into the windshield glass. Leaving them that way all winter will deteriorate them.
Aston Martin suggests taking paper towels and placing them under the full length of both blades to act as a barrier between the glass and the rubber. I guess they are worrying the rubber may leave deposits on the window.
My suggestion would be to take the load off them completely but taking a microfiber towel and folding it over multiple times to make it thick enough to be a stand between the wiper arm and the glass, allowing you to suspend the wiper blade load free.
A few optional things to consider for the interior.
Clean her up
Like the exterior, it would be a good idea to store her completely clean. In particular vacuum the carpets to get any debris out. Remove any garbage. We don’t want to leave anything that might deteriorate and get gross, or worse yet, attract rodents. Don’t leave a tin of Altoids or mints in the car.
If you live in a moist/humid climate you might need to worry about moisture buildup inside the car. This is very bad, and usually takes the form of mold and mildew.
A solution to this might be to buy a large bag of desiccant and open it and leave it sitting on the passenger seat while stored. Desiccant will absorb moisture out of the air, keeping the car dryer inside. Once opened, it can only absorb so much, so keep this in mind. I’d open it just before I close the doors and windows for the last time. A product with two 500g (1 pound) packets is available for as little as $16 USD on Amazon.com with free Prime shipping (check it out here). The packets are rechargeable (just pop them in the microwave to dry them out).
If you live in a super dry or cold winter climate, there isn’t much point to the desiccant (unless you park it in the fall when its still damp out, or leave it in storage until after spring when the air is humid again). The most important step for these colder climates I think would be the leather conditioner I noted above.
You’ll want to be sure all your windows and doors are fully closed when stored. We want to keep bugs and vermin out of the car at all costs, so close it up tight.
If you have a convertible Aston advises to always store the car with the top up. Makes sense so that the fabrics aren’t squashed and folded, and the interior is closed up.
OK, with the most of the service items out of the way, time to pull her into the garage and park her in the spot you are going to store her.
Keep in mind that if you have a battery disaster and for some reason you have to change the battery before you can get the car started or moved, you’ll need to be able to get in and out of the right hand side of the car to service the battery. One owner was relating the nightmare issue he had with a completely dead battery, and had parked up in a shed where he couldn’t get either door open more than about 1 foot, and the nose of the car was right up to a wall. Trapped, unable to change the battery or boost it. Windows won’t roll down, automatic transmission wouldn’t shift out of Park.
[Update for 2020] If this happens to you and you need to push the car out of the garage, see my Video on how to engage Park Override and get it into neutral with a dead battery. Check out the video here.
The official Aston Martin Vehicle Storage Guide has PAGES of details on checking battery condition before, during and after storage. This is in fact the most likely thing that is going to bite you in the ass.
The reason for all the fuss is that even while turned off, our Aston Martins have a significant amount of parasitic draw. Fancy term to say that all the computers and electronics in the car suck power from the battery even when its off and locked. The computers nibble a little power to keep all the stored settings alive. The alarm system is monitoring the sensors. Even the remote entry key fob brains are listening for a signal from that key in your pocket. In fact, this parasitic draw will drain a full battery in about 1 month of storage to the point where it can’t start the car. If you left it for a few more months, it really damages the battery by sucking every last electron out of it. The parasitic draw just keeps pulling at the battery until its completely flat. This is really, really bad for a car battery. Even if you attempt to recharge it in the spring it won’t ever be the same.
You really have two options:
- Completely remove the battery and maintain it elsewhere. This takes some effort as removing the battery isn’t that simple (see my article on this).
- Put the battery on a “Tender” to keep it in good condition through the hibernation.
Using a battery tender is what most people do. In fact, Aston is so aware of the parasitic draw issue my car has an official Aston Martin battery tender included in the trunk.
The tender is supposed to be more than just a battery charger. A good tender will ‘cycle’ the battery. It will allow the parasitic draw to drain some of the battery, and then the tender will top it back up again. This cycling keeps the battery much healthier. A simple over the counter battery charger will not do this. Choose a battery tender wisely. Many people in the forums rave about the CTek chargers. Me – I will use my original Aston Martin one since I have it (leave a comment down below what Tender you are using).
Aston Martin recommends that you press the “Battery Disconnect” switch in the trunk as you put it away for the season and connect the battery tender. The name isn’t completely truthful – it only disconnects some of the parasitic draw from the battery. It still uses the battery to keep critical functions alive. Mostly it reduces the parasitic draw which means the tender will have less work to do. Keep in mind in the spring when you take her out of storage you’ll have some work to do, including pressing the battery reset switch (hidden under the right rear seat squab in a DB9) to turn the rest of the systems back on before starting.
Connect the battery tender to the port in the trunk, and run the cable out of the trunk carefully and close it trying not to crush the cable to much.
One a month have a peek at the tender to make sure its still plugged in and on. If the tender ties or the cord gets knocked out, you don’t want to destroy your expensive battery too.
DON’T Set your park brake while stored. If you did, you might come back to find your brake is frozen on, or has deposited the pad material onto the rotors.
If your car is an automatic, just put it in Park (P) properly.
If your car is a manual, put it in first gear or reverse and/or block the wheels.
With everything else now done, time to wrap her up in a snuggy for her sleep. Not technically essential, it is a good idea to keep dust and debris from blanketing her. Covering her up also keeps a few months of harmful UV rays from attacking the paint and interior. It might also make it more difficult for bugs or vermin to get into the car. Even if you have a cat in the house, might keep them from walking directly on the painted finish.
You could use an official Aston Martin fitted interior or exterior cover. You could use an aftermarket item too. Some large bed sheets could serve the purpose as well.
Whatever you use be sure that the surface that contacts the finish is clean. Don’t put a dirty cover on the car.
That’s it. In the spring there are a few things you should do as you wake her up, and I will cover those in another article [coming soon].
Did I miss some step that you do? If so, please leave a comment down below to share with everyone. Please try and include why you do the step.
Do you store your car each year? Please take a moment to vote in this poll. I always think its neat to learn what everyone else is doing.
Here is a short video of me going through the routine on my car.