By on March 9, 2015



Or not… (photo courtesy:

Ken writes:

Sajeev –
I thoroughly enjoy your column – keep up the good work! You’ve also answered several questions I’ve sent over the years, so thanks for that.

Your latest article on rear quarter panel rust on Hondas got me thinking. I have an attached 2 car garage and 3 cars. You can see the dilemma. Two cars are DDs and one is a recently purchased pleasure vehicle/ toy – in a used 2007 Saab 9-3.

Since I’m married, my wife’s MKZ (the same one you provided mod advice on) owns one of the spaces – leaving me one for an SUV (2010 Xterra) and said convertible.

I live in New England and the convertible will not see usage from November through till April. This is my first winter with the two car dilemma. At first my decision was made for me. The Saab 9-3 would sit outside. We have a newborn and I didn’t want to trudge the little guy into the cold when we have an attached garage. And since a pop up carport went over with the Wife like a fart in church – I bought a high end car cover for the Saab.

Fast forward, things have changed and we no longer utilize daycare for the little guy. The Saab is now sitting in the garage. WITH a car cover on it. (Cause why not? Already have it.) I figured I could wrench on it occasionally during the winter. But if I’m honest, even though the garage is attached, its just too friggin cold. So it could sit outside.

Both vehicles I’d like to keep for a long time. But my Xterra is of more use to the family and should get the better treatment of the two. The Saab shouldn’t rust much as it will never see salt, but the Nissan is my winter driver.

My question is – which should be outside and which inside? With the latest snow storms I am a bit annoyed clearing snow off my car when I don’t have to – but its just me and I’ve done it for years so its not really a big deal. I’ve also heard that its better to keep a vehicle in the cold rather than cycles of warm and cold as the attached frozen salt will melt and corrode more. Is there any truth to that?

What are your thoughts? Car cover the Saab outside or leave it in the garage?

Sajeev answers:

A total no-brainer: leave the Saab in the garage.

Never leave a winter beater in the garage when you have a topless summer toy! Okay, so says the single guy who lives in Houston.

But still, the effects of snow on a droptop are dangerous, especially when it’s a vehicle lacking the ridiculously strong aftermarket support of something Mustang convertible-like.


You want it, they got it .(photo courtesy:


Like the above set up, most of which I’ve replaced (some personally) on the Mehta’s own Mo-Stang, a 1987 Mustang GT droptop.  It’s pretty easy and super cheap, and the re-popped parts are often OEM-quality: making the Mo-Stang a pure joy to own and restore like most Fox Bodies.  But that’s really not the point.

The point?  What works for me is not so cheap and easy for you. So forget outdoor convertible storage, it ain’t worth the risk of wear and tear. Put the Saab in the garage and leave the rusty winter beater out in the winter.


Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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13 Comments on “Piston Slap: Outdoor Convertible Storage?...”

  • avatar

    Fellow New Englander here.

    My suggestion…They’ll both last longer if you put the Saab inside for the winter and the Xterra outside.

    My reasoning…The Saab won’t get wind beaten and be exposed to the temperature extremes quite as much. You’re slightly less likely to have a critter take residence in the engine compartment. It won’t get sun baked or have moisture trapped under a cover for semi-long periods of time through the constant freeze thaw cycles…

    The Xterra shouldn’t rust as quickly if you keep it outside because it will be less likely to go through the freeze thaw cycle that helps salt do its job on steel. It has been my personal experience that a car will likely develop rust more slowly if it isn’t parked in a garage to thaw out every night after battling the snow/ice/salt of New England. YMMV.

  • avatar

    I live in Southern Ontario, this how I handle it. I have a two car garage. The Mustang convertible has a permanent home on side one. If I know I’m not going to drive it for an extended period, I put a cotton custom made dust cover over it. Even in the summer, the Mustang always gets returned to its home.

    The Impala gets a liberal application of rust inhibitor each fall. Once a week I feed $5.00 into the wand wash, and spray as much salt, ice, and dirt, off as I can. My wife is very sensitive to the cold. So by the time I brush all the ice and snow off, the heater is blasting. No heated seats, so I keep a car blanket, on the passenger side.

    In my experience, snow and convertibles, are not a good mix.

  • avatar

    Have you considered adding a real carport instead of a “pop up”? They are very affordable and provide many of the benefits of an enclosed garage. I’d still keep the Xterra outside, but at least it wouldn’t be covered in snow (in winter) or rain/dew and dirt in the summer.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Keep the summer car inside. The freeze/thaw/rain/snow/salt spray cycle will do a number on your brakes, and you will end-up with an imprint of your pads on your discs. It can easily get bad enough to cost you an extra brake job.
    Daily drivers clean their discs during normal braking.

  • avatar

    x2 Sajeev. If you’re cold, they’re cold. Bring the Saab inside.

  • avatar

    Depending on finances, consider a third option: rent a storage space for the Saab. You only need the off-site storage for 4-5 months, which you should be able to obtain at a reasonable rate.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what I do, but for a slightly different reason. I have a 2-car garage but I have two summer cars. In the winter, I pay for indoor storage for one elsewhere so I can use the other bay in my garage as workshop space to do restoration/upgrades on the car that stays home.

    • 0 avatar

      The smartest option. You can find people who will store your car for the whole winter, usually for a pretty affordable sum.

  • avatar

    This is part of the reason I went with the “retiree-spec PRHT” (as Jack put it) when I bought my Miata.

  • avatar

    I am starting to get worried. I recently added a 1988 Fox body ragtop to my Mark for a summer time blaster. I promise I am not remotely tempted by a Sierra of any type. A Town Car, however, is another story. I guess maybe I am doomed. By the way, good advice. A softtop always belongs under cover when cold. The OP will thank you on his first summer cruise. The visceral feel of driving top down is like being reminded of the first time.

    • 0 avatar

      Droptop 5.0 Foxes are addictive. Unlike the Mark, you can fix everything for cheap, and the parts are available EVERYWHERE.

      BTW, put a 1993 style top on yours, it has a headliner with thick padding. It is so much better.

  • avatar

    Don’t leave an unused car outside: animals

    My buddy found a family of squirrels in his Mustang’s engine bay one spring.

    Once I found a dead baby chipmunk when I replace my cabin air filter. (A/C started to smell bad and I went with the cheapest route of replacing the filter, the nesting and the bugger fell when I pulled out the filter. 4 hrs and 1 McGavered custom vacuum nozzle later, I got a surprise in my clear dust bin.)

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