How do you Store a Classic Car?
In the 21st century, the way that we make cars has dramatically changed.
Bespoke, hand-crafted manufacturing has given way to enormous production lines, and innovative, aesthetically driven design has been scrapped in favour of design that is made to fit a new piece of technology.
There are equal parts cliché and truth to the sentiment “they don’t make them like they used to”. The fact is that the world has changed, and with that so has the production of cars and the way that we use them. Quantity, efficiency and technology is the new currency in the automotive world.
At the end of the day, modern cars are faster, safer, more reliable and have all the features that make driving a simple task of going from A to B without any issues. The difference between modern and classic cars in this age comes down to end-use.
“Modern cars are almost purely for getting to a destination, with a classic car- the journey is the destination.”
Classic cars are an investment. They require time, energy and financing in order to restore them to their full glory. For many, this restoration is part of the experience of owning a classic car. It’s not just to be admired; it’s made to be experienced. It becomes your chance to feel like James Bond or Steve McQueen, owning and driving around in a piece of living, breathing history.
So, you’ve checked off everything in a long list to make your classic car as clean and fine-tuned as it can be. How do you make it stay that way? You will need to store it correctly.
What do I need to consider when storing my classic car?
There are multiple factors to consider when you store a classic car, from the materials used in the construction of your garage, to seasonal temperature fluctuations, to climatic concerns.
A garage is hands-down the best place to store a classic car. There are places like pre-cast concrete units, but these are known to cause the vehicle to sweat- especially in cold conditions. If you don’t have constant access to a facility like this in the cold, then you will be facing a build-up of rust and other corrosions within 30 days. Garages, primarily wooden and brick ones, are always the best places to store your classic car. Merely placing your car inside won’t fix all of your concerns over its state. This is simply step one to ensure that your pride and joy looks just as good as it did during its heyday.
The time of year has a considerable effect on materials that make up classic cars. While materials are unaffected by temperature, they are affected by humidity, and the combination of temperature and humidity create what is known as a dew point. The dew point is the point at which the air is fully saturated with moisture. Full saturation renders the air unable to hold any more water and sparks the build-up of liquid upon every surface in your garage.
The lower the temperature, the faster that the air reaches its dew point. This means that during the winter, there is going to be a higher chance of corrosion because of the effects of the deposit moisture on the materials that make up the car. In the UK, this is an especially important factor to consider due to its humid climate.
Climate should be your primary concern when it comes to making sure that your car doesn’t show signs of corrosion. The relative humidity level is expressed in a percentage that illustrates the quantity of water vapour in the air compared to how much water the air can contain, i.e. how saturated the air is with moisture.
“For somewhere like the UK, there is an extremely high RH level all year round, averaging around 80%.”
This means that regardless of the season, the ambient conditions surrounding your car are at a level that allows corrosion to form very quickly. This information is based on the material corrosion curve, which shows that above a 60% RH level, all materials most commonly used in classic car manufacturing begin to show signs of degradation.
As previously mentioned, it is vitally important to keep your vehicle in the right conditions during the winter months due to the lower temperatures making the air more saturated with moisture. This does not mean that in warmer temperatures, your vehicle remains unaffected though. Due to the high RH levels in the UK, the drop in temperature would only have to be minimal in order for the airborne moisture to become a risk for the materials that make up your car. The continually fluctuating temperature levels make corrosion an inevitability rather than a possibility.
What methods exist to prevent corrosion?
There are a few methods that are common practice for assisting in the battle against corrosion. These all have varying levels of success at preventing dirt and moisture build-up, but none of them actually fix the problem of RH levels at its source.
The first method is ventilation. There are benefits to this method of moisture protection and has a lot of use inside properties for rooms that have high fluctuations of moisture in the air like bathrooms and kitchens. The benefit to extractor fans are clearly apparent, they can be extremely effective at removing the moisture-laden air from your garage, but the question marks over their effectiveness as a solution to the issue of corrosion outweigh its advantages. Once the moist air has been removed from the space, what type of air takes its place? The answer is the same, untreated and equally saturated air. This means that whichever ventilation system you have in place, it needs to be constantly running in an endless cycle, only to have a minimal effect on the state of the ambient conditions, and by proxy- your vehicle.
Many recommend placing a cover over the car. This is meant to act as a barrier between the materials and the elements, but this is not a complete solution. The material cannot be waterproof or hydroscopic and has to be a highly breathable fabric. While this successfully prevents any dirt or dust from building up, it won’t have any effect on the amount of moisture in the air and requires occasional removal to help with air circulation around the car. This is more of an extra precaution to an already existing system than it is a fully formed solution.
Heating seems like the obvious solution here. If the air has a higher saturation of water at lower temperatures, then surely raising the temperature will ensure that the moisture never reaches its dew point, and everything will be okay? While this does add a layer of security to helping prevent corrosion, this is an extremely inefficient and unreliable form of protection. The heating system in place would have to take into account the current temperature, the current RH levels and then work in tandem with that information in order to prevent a dew point from being reached. In the winter, especially this would be a process that would require a huge expenditure of energy just to maintain a temperature at which the other ambient conditions will not be having any effect on your vehicle.
So, if none of these methods are effective, what will work?
Now that we know the fight against corrosion is a battle against humidity, the solution to protecting your classic car is abundantly clear.“Just because these cars weren’t made in the 21st Century, it doesn’t mean we need to protect them with technology from the past.”
Desiccant dehumidification is a process that lowers the relative humidity levels in your garage and ensuring that moisture isn’t an issue in the first place. Ventilation and heating affect the way that the ambient conditions interact with the materials around them, dehumidification changes those ambient conditions so that they aren’t even a concern, to begin with.
The way that this bespoke system works is simple. Sensors that are monitoring the RH level feed into a desiccant dehumidification unit. The moist, untreated air is then passed through a silica-coated rotor which will absorb the moisture and release the newly treated air out into your garage. This treated air will be released through ducting at an RH level that is ideal for every material that is used in the manufacturing of your vehicle.
The new relative humidity level within your garage will be at a point between 30-50% RH, which is the sweet spot for preventing corrosion in metals and rubbers without drying out the softer materials in the car like the leather. This means that your garage can reach the highest highs or the lowest lows in temperature and your car will remain unaffected as all it feels is the moisture levels.
This is also a much more energy-efficient way to prevent corrosion than something like heating. With heating, there is a need for practically constant usage during the winter and sporadic usage throughout the rest of the year, but this would be something for you to monitor and adjust accordingly. With a dehumidification unit, those issues (and energy bills) are nullified as the unit is only active when it needs to be, leaving you with peace of mind that your pride and joy is sitting safe and sound in an environment where ambient conditions won’t have any effect on it. This is made even more convenient for you through a tablet that is connected to your dehumidification system, providing you with live feedback on the conditions and showing you exactly what is happening in your garage.
Protect your pride and joy
Classic cars are more than just a vehicle. They require dedication, passion and financing just to have one in the first place. When you own something that valuable in a personal, financial and sentimental sense, protecting it from being eaten away by moisture should be at the top of your priorities. At the end of the day, protecting your car isn’t just for Christmas. Desiccant dehumidification will do this year-round, no matter the weather.