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Steffen from www.analogueautomotive.co.uk gives us a run down on how to prepare your Lotus for the colder months over winter.

Looking out this morning it was clear that winter is truly upon us all. No more long evenings and warm roof off runs for a while, well not without a bobble hat anyway.  It’s not all doom and gloom though, winter has its own charm, but it does offer different challenges when it comes to maintaining your pride and joy. Whether it’s a newer or classic Lotus, being run all year round or SORN’ed and stored up, here are a few key tips to make sure it survives the colder, wetter months.

Keep it going:

It’ll come as no surprise to you that as soon as winter arrives, batteries start to die. The cold & wet, slightly less use and higher electrical drain can zap your battery if it’s not in good condition.  Here are a few tips for keeping yours in top condition and making sure you don’t get that dreaded flickering and slowly dying red light.

  • Conditioner, Conditioner, Conditioner…no, that’s not a hair tip, but for your battery.   A small investment in one of these can keep your battery in perfect running order. They are simple to fit and in the long run will save you pounds on new batteries and the potential wasted time of breakdowns.  At Analogue Automotive we regularly use an AccuMate battery conditioner, you can find these for around £40
  • For those not in a position to have access to a garage or charging points, there are still some simple options.  A solar trickle charger will just about keep the battery in good health, and they don’t need as much bright sun light as many think. Simply remembering to plug one in if the cars not used for a few days may well make all the difference. A decent one will set you back £20-30
  • Another idea for those that perhaps cover the car and leave it outside would be a battery terminal isolator. These are great as they completely disconnect the battery. The only down side is they disable any alarm systems so bear that in mind when deciding which option works for you. You can purchase these from most auto factors for as little as £10 and installing is straightforward.

Cleaner is better:

It’s sad to see our lovely plastic cars paint work bubble up & crack over winter, and worse still having a nasty surprise when we get them back out next spring.  Although there are some things we can’t fight against, there are many ways you can make sure your car comes out the other side in the same condition, if not better.  The key, particularly if you are storing your car outside and under a cover over winter, is to get it clean, and keep it clean.  Dirt particles when added to moisture from damp conditions can corrode metal and aluminium parts, damage interior surfaces and make a mess of your upholstery.  If you have a Lotus with an aluminium chassis, removing or lifting up the floor mats can help with floor corrosion issues. A good full valet inside and out before you tuck it up in a garage or under a cover will make a massive difference.  Clean, polished bodywork will mean that any covers slip on and off easily and no grit or grim will scratch up against the paint.

This sort of cleaning would also stretch to those harder to reach areas. Take time to detail and fully clean the wheels, get up under the wheel arches, under trays and boot/bonnet shuts.  If you have access to a power wash, don’t be afraid to get up in there, it may take a bit of time to do and clean up after, but it will pay off in the long run. But don’t forget, once you’ve done your big clean – make sure everything is dried out properly! Don’t be tempted to just throw a cover over once your done, you will trap moisture under even the most breathable covers and end up doing more damage than good, not to mention a set of rusty/locked on brakes to contend with when you try and use it again!

Dry as much as possible by hand and if your able (and it’s not going to get covered in dirt again) take it out for a little spin to clean off the brakes. At the very least move it forwards and backwards while applying the brakes to prevent them sticking to the discs. And of course remember to leave to handbrake off and in gear if you storing longer term.

Also, why not have a de-clutter while your having your big cleaning session. There is no need to leave those damp rags/cloths, papers, magazines and sweet wrappers in the boot or cabin, they will just attract mold. You want to avoid any moisture staying in the car to ensure the interior says looking (and smelling) fresh. Simple things like finding those lost coins can prevent corrosion to exposed aluminium floors on the more modern Lotus’s. Removing damp carpets from the boot can help prevent the paint bubbling in these areas, air or dry these out, or even remove them all together especially if your boot is prone to leaks.

Fluids in:

This applies to both the winter driver and those who prefer to put the car into storage. Good fluid levels in the car will prevent all sorts of trouble.  Ideally a good service schedule will mean your car is always in good health in this regard, but there are things you can do to make doubly sure outside of a good service & oil change.

  • Fuel. If your storing make sure there is plenty of fuel in the tank, this will decrease the amount of condensation that can form in the tank and in general limits the amount it degrades.
  • Coolant. Make sure to check your service schedule and keep up to date with coolant changes.  Coolant degrades and weakens over time so it’s a good idea to keep on top of this, if you’re not sure get it done anyway. A coolant change is simple and relatively cheap to have carried out.
  • Washer fluid. Again if you’re storing, particularly outside, make sure the screen wash bottle is full of a good strong fluid to prevent any freezing issues.
  • Brake fluid.  Spongy brakes or clutch can be a simple case of moisture in the fluid, make sure your level is topped up and ideally have a fluid change annually.

Fluids out:

A lot of Lotus models are known for not being the most watertight. It might be time to take a closer look at that window alignment, check rubber window seals, make sure the drain holes are clear and any drain pipes connected.  If necessary invest in a partial roof or full car cover. Maybe take a look at the condition of your soft top, there are many good DIY water-proofing kits that can bring your roof back to its former water tight glory.  We’ve used Renovo products with good results.

The engine bay can be another area to give some thought to. If your car is outside in the rain for long periods without being started up, damp can get into all sorts of places, causing corrosion or just wet/damp electrics that prevent start up.  Think about your parking spot, sometimes simply parking the other way round will stop driving rain getting into the engine bay.  If that’s not an option, covering the engine with plastic or a waterproof sheet can help, just remember to remove before starting up!

What’s under that cover? :

If you are storing or just not using your Lotus as much over winter, don’t just forget it.  A simple schedule of removing the cover and starting it up will help long-term and perhaps highlight any issues before it’s too late.  You don’t necessarily need to take it out, but if there is a relatively nice dry day, why not take off the cover, start it up and let it run for a while. Ideally you’d want to run until fully up to temperature, let the radiator fans kick in and out, maybe move forward and backwards a few times just to make sure those brake don’t stick on. Check the tyres are inflated correctly, maybe even add a little pressure if its going to be standing for a while.  Check that the interior isn’t damp or water has leaked in. Start up the heater to ensure that the blower fan hasn’t seized up and help circulate the heating system. You may find another clean is in order. I know that may just be my OCD kicking in, but again the key is to keep on top of any issues – putting a cover over it and leaving for three months will lead to issues, even if you’ve taken the care to do all the above.  A check and run up needn’t take longer than half an hour.

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In conclusion there are no real magic tricks to storing or running your car over winter, but hopefully this article will help you maintain your Lotus in its current condition and be ready for full time use again without any nasty surprises come spring.

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