SSnow, SSleet, and your SS
Hello, as you know the good folks at GM designed the SS with many purposes in mind, but driving through snow was not one of them. In many parts of the country (maybe yours, ?), we are thus forced or encouraged to store our trucks for the winter, to avoid a costly accident and general wear-and-tear which will increase as the weather gets nasty and road crews lay down salt and sand at some ridiculous rate, say, a ton per block. But, if you store your truck without performing some winterization maintenance, you might be doing harm as well (although not as much harm as all that voracious road salt does). Following is a checklist on what you must do to your truck to properly store it, and keep it looking and functioning as good when you pull it out of storage as when you were getting it ready for storage.
Before the first wave of that metal-devouring salt is laid down, you need to perform some engine maintenance on your truck so as to keep it in top running condition. First you should do some routine maintenance checks, like checking the spark plugs and wires, filters, PCV valve, and the like inspected for damage and wear, and changed out if necessary. If there is an engine problem, like a bad sensor, it is a good idea to address the problem now, while the weather is still comfortable. Top off your coolant system and washer fluid reservoirs and check to make sure that your coolant will offer protection past the lowest temperature that your area will experience, to avoid a cracked block, head, radiator or other part(s). Otherwise, this just saves you time in the spring when you take the truck out of storage, and would rather just get it on the road and drive rather than work on it. While you have the spark plugs out squirt a little fresh oil into each plug hole, on the valves and on the cylinder walls. Do this for each cylinder and spin the engine by hand once or twice, then re-install the spark plugs with a little anti-seize on the threads. This is an old motorcycle trick but works for any engine.
Next, you need to change the engine oil. I don't care if I only put 40 miles on the last pan-full, I will change the oil when it comes time to winterize. Here is why, put simply: during the combustion process, a small amount of oil breaks down to form acids and sludge. This acid and sludge attack internal engine parts. Left for months at a time, this can corrode and pit bearings, cylinder walls, and the like. Petroleum oil and its additives also break down over time alone, resulting in less protection. Synthetic oil does not break down as rapidly but it does still break down, which is why you should change synthetic oil before storage too. Also, the longer the oil is used and remains in circulation, the more it breaks down, and thus the more important it is to change well-used oil before storage. If the filter has very few miles on it since the last oil filter change, you may continue to use it until the 2500-3000 mile mark. However to get most of the old oil out, I would remove and drain it, then refill with fresh oil (just to prevent an unlubed start). If your tranny has seen heavy use this year or you have 2-year-old or older fluid in it, then change it with the engine oil. This is easy, especially with a drain plug in the pan. If you don't have the plug, prepare to get a little messy, which, I am sure, will encourage you to install a drain plug as soon as possible.
Next, fill the gas tank to its maximum capacity, and add an appropriate amount of Sta-Bil or other quality brand of fuel stabilizer. The amount will be reflected on the container. Your truck will need about 14 ounces of Sta-Bil. The best idea is to go to the local gas station, pour in the pre-metered additive, and then fuel up, so the fuel washes the additive residue in the filler neck into the tank and helps mix the solution, like making chocolate milk. As you drive home the treated fuel will circulate through the fuel system to keep tiny fuel passages in the TBI clear of gum and varnish. If you changed the oil beforehand, fresh oil has now circulated through the engine and tranny too.
Now its time to clean the rest off the truck, to strip off nasty pollutants and other gunk before putting it away. If you have nothing to do for a few days , follow the practices in Jim Lund's Detailing article. If not, then you need only give it a complete and thorough wash, making sure to reach all the areas that are traditionally overlooked, such as inside the wheel wells, the inner fender lips, inside the bumper, and so on. The reason why , is you want to get sand, gravel and other road grime out of there, as road grime left to sit in cracks and crevices can trap moisture, and thus promote rust. Give it a real good coat of wax, especially if you plan on storing your truck with a car cover on it. Flannel lined, cotton, or any other material cover will eventually leave rub marks, so it is best to have the cover rub off the wax instead of the clearcoat. Do remove all extra wax, however. Dried/cured wax is a pain to remove. A soft toothbrush works well for removing wax from door handle edges, in the grille, around the light units, and other tight areas. Vacuum the interior and wash out the carpet as best as you can, and try to remove any stains from the seats and carpet (serious SS owners like you don't actually allow any materials in the truck that have a possibility of staining the interior though, right?). Follow up with a good soaking of Scotch Guard to further protect the carpet, and wipe down all of the plastic and vinyl pieces with a leather/vinyl/plastic protectant to keep them crack-free and radiant. Armor-All is not optimal but just about any other protectant that is sold by a major vendor is. Again, refer to Jim Lund's Detailing article for more information. Follow under the hood, and detail everything. Remember that coated-on grime can trap moisture and ruin your chrome, steel and especially aluminum fast. Polish all of your aluminum parts and for even better protection, coat the aluminum with a good clear outdoor lacquer, or if you have time to spare, send the parts out for clear powdercoating. This will eliminate the need to ever polish the aluminum again, and make it as easy to care for as chrome.
Now that you have the interior done, grab some Vaseline or silicone-based sealer and lube the weatherstripping around the door panels, your hard tonneau cover, and under the hood. It is best to do this while the weather is still in the 50's at least, and while the sun is out, so the Vaseline becomes slightly "melted" with the warmer surface temp of the weatherstripping and soaks in. This is a trick used by F-body dudes with T-tops to keep the weatherstripping from leaking. Let me tell you a short story. A friend of mine had a Camaro for many years. He used a little Vaseline on the weatherstripping after every use of the T-tops. After 140,000 miles, that weatherstripping was in better shape than any other part of the car; it was as waterproof as a clam's butt in a hurricane. Then again, another buddy of mine has a Firebird with 60,000 miles on it, and has never used the Vaseline trick. The seats and carpet got dampened a few times this summer in evening downpours and he had no idea how they magically got wet overnight until I let him in on the Vaseline trick. Its your call to use it or not.
Park the truck where it will remain for the winter. Plug in that trick little computer memory saver gadget into the cigarette lighter with a 9-volt battery, so the ECM retains its parameter settings over the winter. I have no source for this unit, but if you pick up a sport truck magazine and peruses the ads, you might find it. Then, pull the battery and trickle charge it to full charge. Batteries left at a certain charge level or at no charge will tend to want to revert to that charge level over the period of storage. Best to keep the battery in top shape and charge it fully before storing it. Store it someplace above freezing, to keep the battery cells and acid in top shape. If you need to put it on a cement surface, insulate it from the cement with a 2x6 piece of wood or some material that is just as thick. For some reason, storing a battery on cement or concrete alone will drain the juice. I have no explanation for this but I am sure some member of the club will.
If you can, jack up the truck and support it with jackstands from the frame to unload the suspension. No sense keeping the suspension loaded if there is no need for it to be. Keeping the weight off of the suspension means that your high-dollar BellTech lowering springs, shocks, and so forth will retain their stiffness and bounce for a longer time. Some people do not see the reasoning for this, but I believe that the less load there is on the suspension, the longer it will retain its spring without sagging. It would take many, many years for the suspension to sag and lose performance from sitting, especially on a truck that is never used for typical "truck" duty. But then again, the fewer worn parts you have to replace, means the more money in your pocket for performance parts. Then take a wad of steel wool and stuff it into each exhaust pipe tip, to keep rodents out. Rodents can chew through tape and other material, but not steel wool. If you live in a typical rodent-infested area, place some mothballs around the inside of the cab, bed and under the hood so as to keep them out. If you will be storing your SS inside a garage, open the side windows an inch or so at the top, to allow breathing. Finally, remove the serpentine belt so as to keep pressure off of the pulleys and their respective controls, to keep the belt from sitting in one position too long and thus possibly warping something.
If you are one of the lucky folk who have a garage to store your truck in, then you are finished with winterizing. But, if you will need to store your truck outside or in a Cover-It® style garage, more preventive measures are needed. With those custom aluminum wheels, you must either pull them off of your SS and put them inside in a safe, moisture-controlled place inside your house, or cover the wheels with a large, thick 44 gallon garbage bag that has been cut down one side, halfway down the length of it, to make a virtual raincoat for the tire/wheel. This is a good cover to use year-round too, to keep water spots off of your custom wheels and keep damaging UV light off of your pricey tires. And it sure beats tire covers in price, with a garbage bag costing about $0.25 and a tire cover, $25.00 or more.
Next, cover your truck with a good indoor/outdoor cover made of a very soft material. Cotton/Flannel lined is a good choice. For those of you that are concerned with dents or rubs on edge areas, fold a towel a few times and place overtop of each edge, like the bed sides, mirrors, hood lip, roof, and so on. Then cover the entire ensemble with a large, waterproof tarp or 2. A 4/6-lowered SS will need a 20x40-foot tarp, while a stock SS will need a 30 x 40-footer. Get four 2x4, or better, 2x8 boards, two at 15 feet and two at 6 feet. Throw the tarp(s) over the truck, center it/them, and place the 15 footers on each side. Roll the boards in the tarp until they are positioned flat on the ground, as close to the truck as possible, and staple the tarp(s) down. Place a cinderblock or heavy flat rock on the middle of the board. Now do the same with the 6 footers on the front and rear, but instead of placing a heavy rock on the board in the middle, place a heavy rock or block on each end of the board, trying to locate it on the corner of both the side boards and front/rear boards. Your truck is now water- and snow-proof, and will take only a few short sweeps of a soft broom to whisk off the snow. Unless, you live up where Barb and Duane do. That scenario dictates a strong abdomen and a large shovel so as to dig a tunnel to the SS when you want to clean it off. A few shop monkeys, err, children, come in handy as well. Now you are complete in the winterization process.
The final step is to retreat back inside and pop a few shots of your favorite blood-anti-freeze, as beer is far too cold to drink when the weather is cold and nasty, and decide on what mods to blow your next paycheck on, since you won't be paying out $200 a week in fuel for the beast. Isn't wintertime wonderful?