Storing a Westy

Bill Forst

New member
I have my daughter-in-law's '84 Westy for 9 months while she is teaching in Switzerland. I don't need it (I have my own '84), so it needs to be stored. It can't have the garage (mine's in there). I have to just park it in the yard. I have disconnected the battery, will wash it occasionally, and have slightly opened the skylight. All sources have suggested not to start it up unless to be driven 20 minutes or more, but I can't do that... not registered. Any other suggestions, or just let it sit?
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A. Cooper

New member
There are already some good tips offered under WINTER STORAGE regarding battery maintenance, van covers, fuel stabilization, etc.. Also some additional suggestions on van covers under ACCESSORIES and SUPPLIERS.

For longterm storage, Capt. Mike mentions removing the spark/glow plugs to squirt a bit of motor oil into each cylinder, to prevent the formation of rust on your pistons and cylinder walls. A similar product I've used is a "fogging marine oil". Found at many automotive or boat supply shops, this product is intended for outboard boat motors and comes in an aerosol can with a small spray tube to easily spray it directly into the spark plug hole. There it forms an oily fog or mist which theoretically settles on and coats all the inner surfaces of your cylinder, piston, head, and valves, instead of pooling all in one spot. Regardless of which method you use, the protective oil is burned off the first time you fire the engine up again in the spring.

One caution regarding the motor oil: don't overload your cylinders with a 1/2-cup or some other ridiculous amount. Like most liquids, oil is not compressible and if you try and force the engine to turn over with that excessive oil in a closed cylinder, you can bend a connecting rod, blow a head gasket, or do other damage to your motor.

Capt. Mike

Good point -- I was going to suggest they put the oil in and turn the engine by hand a rev or two to coat everything but then had visions of them cranking with the starter and thus defeating the purpose -- or worse, starting the engine by forgetting to pull and ground the coil to distributor lead!

I knew a number of products that would have more cling characteristics but didn't know about the 'fogging' dispenser. Good suggestion.

Something else to consider. Even in a garage, critters get in and seem to have an affinity for nesting in vehicles. If longer term, one might put a cover (just a rag and rubber band) over the air filter intakes and be sure all of the heater and fresh air ducting flaps are closed. (In an air-cooled, this means the heat is "on" to close the venting flaps just in front of the heat exhangers.) I know one fellow that found a squirrel nut hoard in his air filter housing.

I would hope by now that everyone has finally realized the damage no fridge flue cover can bring. A bug nest down there can cost a fortune to remove the fridge and clear. I know the OE style plastic covers are fragile and a little pricy, but when the fridge isn't running they are essential. Ignore this advice and it will eventually come back to bite you in the butt! (My aluminum replacement is pictured on the tech drawings site.)
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New member
You should buy one of them fold up garage tent thing they protect the car and covers it or just buy a car cover


Capt. Mike

Do read the topics on car covers in the ACCESSORIES forum and "California Car Covers" in the SUPPLIERS forum. Improper type or use of a car cover can do more damage than it prevents.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate similar topics.

Winter Storage

MistaChurch Junior Member posted August 15, 2002 06:29 PM

I'm getting ready to store my 84 westy for the winter and am looking for some suggestions on everything I should do to prepare it for its hibernation.

I recently spoke with another owner here in the Twin Cities who parks their's in a pole barn in Wisconsin, drives it onto plastic covered with cat litter and mothballs, and then wraps the bus up like a present.

Suggestions? Check list?

A. Cooper Member posted August 19, 2002 03:31 PM

I live in neighboring Wisconsin, and as a fellow-Upper Midwesterner you've probably noticed that winter ain't what it used to be; last December found me camping the week of Christmas, unheard of in years prior to global warming. After several long weeks of cold and snow, we're usually back in the woods by the end of March, so I don't perform a full 'winterization' in the usual sense, but merely some cold-weather maintenance between trips.

Not sure what your friend is thinking with the kitty-litter and mothballs; I suppose it's meant to absorb dripping fluids, discourage rodent infestation, and leave your Westy smelling like Grandma's place. But any vapor-proof barrier like a polyethylene tarp wrapped around your van will not only keep rain and snow out but also keep harmful moisture IN. Repeated temperature fluctuations between warm and cold -- especially common in the late fall and early spring -- can encourage condensation build-up, and this can lead to problems with rust, rot, and mold. Moisture trapped against your van beneath a plastic wrap can do bad things to paint and clearcoat finishes. Better to purchase a quality van cover made of some sort of water-resistant but breathable fabric, to keep your van clean of snow, dirt, and pigeon droppings while allowing excess moisture to escape.

It's important to keep the battery charged through your off-season, to prevent depletion and freezing. Taking the van for a drive every week or so through the winter should keep the battery functioning properly, but for longer storage periods remove it from the van and keep in a warm garage or basement, periodically trickle-charging it. There's already a good thread on this topic elsewhere on the site: TIPS > Care and Feeding of Batteries.

Fuel additives are usually unneccesary for daily driving, but for long-term storage you may want to consider a fuel stabilizer to keep your gas from getting all funky. Simply add to your final fillup (read the directions) before putting the Westy in storage, to prevent fuel-system problems in the spring. Note that gasoline and diesel fuels require different stabilizers!

In the kitchen you have the water storage tank & sink drain system to attend to. The VW Camper Owner's Manual instructs one simply to drain the water storage tank, then run the sink pump until dry. That's what I do between trips and have had no problems, but I'm a little concerned about residual water in the pump line and sink trap freezing and cracking the plastic components. I suppose I could take a (clean!) toilet plunger to the sink, to force any leftover drain water from the trap, but I still worry about the pump and line. I've also considered using an RV water system anti-freeze, available from any RV shop and many automotive stores. NOTE: this is NOT engine coolant/antifreeze -- which is POISONOUS -- but rather a food-grade, alcohol-based additive intended for RV and sailboat drinking-water systems. My only hesitation on using this is potential chemical damage to the rubber pump impellor and other plastic components, and the fact that I've had no problems by following the book.

An extended camping season is only one of the many benefits of the Westy, and we try to utilize it to the fullest. By camping long into the fall and resuming early in the spring we avoid much of the heavy summer traffic on highways and hiking trails, never need to make campsite reservations, and seldom have to endure noisy yahoos belting out drinking songs around the campfire late into the night.

Yo ho ho, it's the Westy life for me ...!

ee.yor Member posted August 20, 2002 03:02 PM

Sink trap antifreeze.

Boaters for generations have winterized their galley sink drains by pouring in the last of the season's rum. Seems a bit of a waste, but certain rituals seem to self perpetuate - like christening the launching of a vessel by cracking a bottle of champagne on her bow.

kathleen Junior Member posted August 20, 2002 03:03 PM

Winter storage

I am a new westy owner in western Massachusetts, I also do not want to drive the camper through the winter, but hope to bundle her up for the winter, so I appreciate all the tips coming through this site. kathleen

kathleen becker

A. Cooper Member posted August 22, 2002 11:30 AM

Sink trap antifreeze

Hmm ... rum, eh?

I like that. It's definitely alcohol-based, and many consider it food-grade.

And I like the 'tradition' aspect, too. One could appropriately bash a bottle o' bubbly on the front bumper when a Westy comes under new ownership, or after a full restoration, or before embarking upon her maiden voyage out of state.

As you mention, ee.yor, sailors have had their traditions and superstitions for eons; are we Westy pilots any different?

Capt. Mike Tech Writer posted September 07, 2002 08:05 AM

RE: Winter storage

MistChurch: I'll try to get back to this post later and provide a more detailed set of storage instructions I have, but for the interim . . ..

DO NOT wrap the vehicle in plastic or any cover that will not breath. See the posts under ACCESSORIES and SUPPLIERS about car covers. There are some excellent ones out there. Non-breathing covers will trap moisture, ruining the paint, plastic trim (that fake chrome) and the interior. It breeds mold, mildow and harbors all sorts of little critters. Personally, I use a premium light cotton cover (from California Car Covers) and store my vehicles inside. Even inside, they need something due to dust, insects & the enivitable bird that gets in just to do a bombing run. There is no good cover for extended outside storage -- there I would suggest one of the premium breathable weather-protecting car covers (same company) AND under some sort of shelter, even if just one of the canvas car-port style. The cover alone is not sufficient for long-term storage.

Placing some mothballs inside probably won't hurt. Some use a watertight tray of charcoal to absorb moisture and odors. There are a number of good commercial dehumidifiers. Electric (sporting goods dealers for gun safes, etc.), silica gel packets, and some new ones that use refills or are disposable. See RV & boat supply sources. Crack a window for moisture escape.

Pump tires to max sidewall pressure and park on a paved surface -- even if just decorative walk pavers from the building supply -- to slow down tires deterioration. Sitting on moisture holding surfaces like grass or dirt seems to accelerate it. The max pressure is to reduce the sidewall flex.

Completely drain your water tanks and sink system. Then you shouldn't need an anti-freeze. The Westy doesn't have the extensive drain piping of an RV to trap water. If still worried, use one of the anti-freezes from the RV suppliers in the drain. Nothing in the now empty & dry water tank.

Disconnect batteries (and preferably remove to a dry cool but not freezing storage). See the posts under TIPS and BATTERIES in their respective forums.

Make sure engine antifreeze if full, fresh and of proper protection level.

Do a fresh oil change. If real long (months) inject some oil into the spark plug holes and reinstall the plugs.

Use a good commercial fuel stabilizer like Penray 1000 or Stabil and fill the tank. This will keep fuel fresh for several months and reduce tank condensation.

Obviously, fresh wash & wax, treatment of rubber, touching up any rust, chips, etc. is desireable.

Capt. Mike

There are a number of new products for fighting moisture, mildew and odor in closed storage.

The sporting industry uses an electric product called the "Golden Rod" which is basically a small electric warmer that looks like a tube to prevent moisture condensation. They are safe for long-term storage as in the large gun safes. The larger or a couple should keep a Westy 'dehumidified'. They require 110v AC, but in a shore-power equipped Westy, that simple.

Silica cartridges, containers filled with a hygroscopic material that attracts moisture from the air, are available from many sources. They are reuseable by heating in the kitchen oven to drive out the absorbed moisture. Some of the larger containers can dehumidify a small room so are more than adequate for a stored Westy. They do require frequent monitoring and 'recharging' in the oven. Most have a color-coded indicator to indicate when recharging is due.

There are now -- in RV and household catalogs -- chemical devises to attract and trap moisture. One absorbs moisture much like silica but requires replacement of a disposable media. Another attracts the moisture and then drains it to a container. That seems self-defeating as it leave the source of moisture in the vehicle.

There are now a number of odor eliminators. Some are bags of media that absorb odors. Some use charcoal media. Some are just simply odor refreshers like the air fresheners or bags of aromatic cedar shavings. There are now electric air-fresheners that plug into 110v AC and most Westies have an outlet right there!

Keeping cabinets open, carpet rolled up and proper cleaning BEFORE you store are often the keys. Pay especial attention to the area in and around the water tank & sink cabinet -- this is the area where the plywood underflooring can be come soaked. Ventilation now & then don't hurt. Most shop vacs offer a 'blow' mode to pump slightly warmed air into the vehicle. Along with cracking the skylight, that will cycle air and give you the opportunity to insert the filtered new air in a couple of places, i.e back hatch, center, & front for periods so you get could change-over.

A regular, good ol' spraying of the interior with Lysol works wonders.
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Capt. Mike

Storing -- long term -- your Westy may bring into consideration using DoT 5 brake fluid -- see the BRAKES & WHEEL forum, "Changing fluid . . . topic.

Also, some items stored in the Westy might need additional protection. Your 1st Aid Kit, flares and some of the many other 'supplies', parts or tools we carry are routinely left in the stored vehicle. See the TIPS forum for "Vacuum sealing . . ." of some of these parts that would be superior to the dehumidifying post above and also be great protection the rest of the time.

Capt. Mike

;) There are some earlier posts about temporary storage protection structures like the "garage tents". Today, there are a number of inexpensive 'pole barns', a metal carport of sorts that sits on ground rails instead of a permanent foundation. I see a double for $599 all the time and $499 on sale.

My antique car club has a Model T it uses in exhibits. We also needed additional storage for the club shelter and other equipment. We decided to go the used shipping container route. Available in 20' & 40' sizes (and actually some others), they are strong, weathertight, secure steel (some aluminum) boxes. Typically they are 8' wide and 8' tall with a clear door height of 7'6". Usually strong wood floors.

Our club added additional ventilation and put it on corner footers. We made ramps to get over the door sill. We installed shelving and storage racks in the extra space.

These containers are salvaged out from the shipping & leasing companies in large lots. If you look around the back of many of the Sam's, Home Depots, and construction sites, you'll find them, usually leased from companies that also sell. Price fluctuates wildly based on condition, lease market and quantity on hand -- they are often auction from the shipping companies in bulk lots of over 100 mixed.

40's are more plentiful and priced close to a 20'. They are delivered on roll backs or slide-off trailers. Our's was delivered on a roll-back that was so good, he landed the container only an inch or two off dead-center on our previously poured footers.

Disadvantage: heavy (20' weighs over 4,500#), requires level site -- or at least level corner footings, and all will be battle-scarred to a certain degree. They will have been exposed to much salt air and seawater, thus the wood floor should not be used for direct contact by metal objects and the voids in framing my be heavily corroded inside like rocker panel rust. Amount of refurb and repaint required or done, of course reflected in price. Check for zoning & covenant restrictions.

Advantage: Technically portable so may not require building permits. Exceptionally strong -- far stronger than carports and most steel buildings. Super secure -- they are all Customs seal approved. Weather and rat-proof.
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Capt. Mike

:p I had an uncle who saved everything. And I mean everything. During a recent visit, the kids -- my cousins -- where unearthing the massive piles and they included 3-400 Life magazine, mostly from '36-'42. The war year ones where especially interesting. Cars and much driving disappeared as hardships and scarcity compounded. One such hardship was the rationing of tires, spares and gas. As a result, many -- including hundreds of thousands whose 'driver' was off to the war front -- cars were stored. The article said there were 2 million such familes with 'non-essential', tire-less or insufficient gas ration cars existed. The October 26, 1942 issue covered this in "How to Store a Car -- a pictorial essay.

The differences (and similarities) to today are eye-opening. The car is one of those big old slope-backs, I'd guess a late 30's - early 40's. Here's a few of Life's tips:

1. Remove generator belt -- I guess to remove the strain off bearings/seals and a part that could deteriorate anyway.

2. Drain, refill radiator with 'plenty of antifreeze.'

3. Remove spark plugs, pour in rust-preventing oil.

4. Talcum on rubber weatherstrips prevents sticking.

5. Regular oil, plus anti-rust goes into the engine. [Is this the creation of Marvel's Mystery Oil?]

6. Moth flakes are spread over rugs & upholstery. [These were wool back then so that's valid; but it must have made for some interesting aromas after the war.]

7. Depress clutch and hold down with stick. To prevent clutch plates from sticking during storage. [This would have been compouned by the fact most clutches had riveted linings back then which would add to rust.]

8. Wax chrome & body.

9. Cover with newspaper. [Guess California Car Cover wasn't in business then.] Close windows tightly. Oil locks, hinges & detach wiper blades.

The lead picture is just as interseting. The garage can't be more than 10' wide. The owner is dressed in a smock, jacking up the car with a mechanical bottle jack under the bumper. Try that on your new plastic-mobile! The jack is worked with a speed wrench -- don't see them much anymore. He's getting ready to put it on 'blocks' -- homemade jackstands with 2x4's as a base & a vertical 2x6 stand. Must be before the days of Northern Tool! Of course that was also during the war's steel recycle program. He already has the battery out.

So . . . the more things change, the more they stay the same. Storing a Westy is still a task. We have many more chemicals and equpment to help -- but they still call for the same attention to detail.
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Ludwig van

New member
It's almost time to put our '79 into storage for the winter. I'll do an oil change, but use a lighter weight of than I'd use for summer driving, probably 10W30. It's not likely the van will be going any distance, but if I have to move it into or out of the garage, the lighter oil could make it much more likely that it would start in January in Winnipeg. Also, I don't imagine 20W50 oil gets into circulation any too quickly at -30!

What about the filter? I'd hate to put a new $10 Mann filter in just to throw it out in spring, so what's better - leave the old filter when I change to winter oil, or change both for winter, but keep the winter filter and change only the oil in the spring? Any ideas or advice?

By the way, I was told that a good reason to leave fresh oil in when storing the van is that there are acids in the used oil - not the best stuff to bathe the bearings in for several months. This sounds reasonable - anyone know if it's true?

Capt. Mike

Acid and moisture are the two contaminates that are the major emphasis in the additive packages of oil. Thus fresh oil before storage is a good idea. However, the filter, which has collected the contaminates, will put them right back in the first time you fire up for those 'mid-winter' moves and recontaminate your new oil. $10 seems a little high for a filter -- have you looked at buying by the case for a price break? If you must skip one filter change, do it at the start-up next season.


New member
Hi There,

Are there any problems with moisture or whatever for storing a westy in one of those big vinyl shelters? The shelter itself is very big, with lots of space between all sides of the westy and the shelter walls.


p.s. sorry if this is the wrong thread to post in

Capt. Mike

Yes! Vinyl cannot breath. Regardless of size, if there is no circulation, condensation and moisture will accumulate. Set up ventilation -- especially larger exhaust at the top and smaller intake near the bottom. Suggest a dehumidifer or dessicant system for long-term storage. And still open it up now & then for a major change of air because pockets will develop that don't 'exhaust'.

Capt. Mike

Looking over the recommendations of starting occassionally or oil weight considerations, reminds that block heaters are available for gasoline engines. VW makes one for Vanagons that just bolts to the bottom of the crankcase. I've also seen magnetic ones and dipstick models. Others are 'freeze-plug' inserts. Once installed, most are (except dipstick models) permanent and one just plugs the pigtail into house current.

Although running one all winter is not a good idea for long-term storage, it would be an advantage at pre-warming the oil for those starts. I'd avoid the dipstick models as VW's often have a rubber seal in the dipstick tube that could melt and leak. I like and use regularly the VW factory one on my Vanagon. However, I'd guess it would be very easy to fabricate a sheet metal mount plate for the magnetic model (VW case is aluminum).


New member
Winter Storage

When storing in an unheated barn(no hay) is it recommended to pop the top up for the winter. In NS our temp ranges 20-50F. Snow one week - rain the next and then sunny

Capt. Mike

Storing -- canvas

This presents a quandry; if open, it'll be stretched taut and an open invitation for critters to gnaw their way in. Closed you theoretically could get mold or mildew if wet. I don't believe it necessary; I'd just open it up for a day airing every couple months. If your barn isn't leaking, that shouldn't be a problem. This presumes you have throughly washed & dried the canvas before storing. Good time to retreat.

Gilwell II

New member
Storage odours

A small bucket [or even an ice cream tub] of fresh charcoal briquettes will absorb odours while your Westy is in storage. They also work well at home while you are away. Just be sure to get the plain briquettes. No quick-start or 'ready to light' types that are impregnated with chemicals.