winter use or abuse

Winter use or abuse?

There’s a big decision to be made at this time of year. Do you continue using your older Dub throughout the worst of the winter weather, or do you mothball it – offering your classic VW the luxury of sitting out the cold, wet and possibly snowy conditions in a state of hibernation until next spring? Here’s some arguments for and against…

It makes sense to keep your old Bus, Beetle or early water-cooled VW tucked up in a cosy, dry garage over winter. Yet for many of us the lure of using our vehicle throughout the year, regardless, is just too strong to resist. And, let’s face it, chances are it might actually be your only form of transport anyway – so you might not have a choice!


It goes without saying that rust is the prime reason to keep your car off the road when it gets wintry. With salt on the road when the roads become icy, more rain and less sun to dry things off it’s inevitable that your prized period metalwork will be more at risk of dissolving.

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Then there’s the other worries of driving during winter, like the notoriously rubbish air-cooled Volkswagen demisters which can make driving hazardous (especially if you’re running holed heat exchangers), and then, of course, there’s also the risk of someone else ploughing into you.

If you’re still running 6-volt electrics, then you might also have problems seeing where you are going – and if it’s pouring down as well and you need your wipers on – forget it!

Tucking up your car in a garage for months on end, however, isn’t without its pitfalls. Put a damp car in a garage and it will do more harm than good, and often vehicles that remain unused for long periods don’t seem to survive as well or prove as reliable as ones that are used more regularly. Moreover, if you find yourself having to rent a lock-up, there’s the issue of security to consider. At least when a car’s on your driveway you can keep an eye on it.

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Needless to say there are precautions you can take before storing a car for long periods, like changing the oil before laying it up to prevent sludge forming in the sump, ensuring it’s totally dry – both on top and underneath – and even getting it up on axle stands to reduce the risk of flats forming on tyres and bearing surfaces. A cover will help too, although it’s important that it fits well to prevent chafing and ideally it needs to be breathable to prevent any condensation forming.

If you’re one of the brave souls who continue to use their cars whatever the conditions, there’s also things you can do to protect it against the elements. A good underbody wax treatment is the obvious first step, and it will help if you are able to keep the bodywork and chrome clean and not let the worst of the winter road muck wreak its havoc. Of course it would also make sense to ensure the battery and ignition system is in good health, and on air-cooled Dubs still running 6v carrying out a 12v alternator conversion would make a lot of sense.

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At the end of the day, it’s down to personal choice whether or not you use your car over the coming few months. Garaging my Mk1 Golf GTI (below) one year ended up causing me more anguish than it did using it. I found myself worrying about all sorts of things – drips from the leaky roof, the interior going moldy, a mouse getting in a nibbling through the wiring loom… You name it – I stressed about it.


However, it has to be said – in general there’s probably nothing more satisfying that looking out on a cold, windy and wet winter’s day knowing your gleaming pride and joy is enjoying the same comfort, protected from the elements.

Tell us what you’ll be doing – will you use or hide your VW away this winter?


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage

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