Piston Slap: Outdoor Convertible Storage?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap outdoor convertible storage

Or not… (photo courtesy: http://www.rigsofrods.com/)

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: foxresto.com)

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 sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.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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3 of 13 comments
  • Olddavid Olddavid on Mar 09, 2015

    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.

    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Mar 09, 2015

      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.

  • Lurker_n Lurker_n on Mar 09, 2015

    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.)

  • Azfelix From certain angles the bonnet appears oversized with respect to the rest of the car - like a skinny teenager wearing a bulky sweater nicked from her older sister's wardrobe.
  • Tassos This is way too god damned OLD, 21 years old to have all the necessary options you need TODAY. You need a 10 year old or less car. AND if you give us THIS POS, a 21 year old model, that is not even a LUXURY car, whoever pays $10k for a Golf, And I Do NOT care what anniversary it is (they are all UTTERLY INSIGNIFICANT) deserves to get this MOST UNRELIABLE AND COSTLY TO REPAIR OF ALL LOUSY ECONOBOXES< EVEN THE DOMESTICS AND THE KOREANS.
  • Tassos As you say, Toyota confirmed this on TUESDAY. Today is WEDNESDAY. Why is everything on TTAC held back one or more days before you tell us the NEWS when it is NO MORE THE NEWS?
  • MRF 95 T-Bird You can find a decent and far more stylish Audi TT or an S4 of a similar vintage for under $10k.
  • RHD "In all situations, the grip of the tires (225/40R18 front, 225/35R18 rear) brings with it road noise."Are the rear tires actually smaller than the fronts??!! Adding just a bit of sidewall would take care of the bumps and rough ride. I'm not a fan of BMWs, personally, but this is a very enjoyable car. There are times when driving a convertible is pure bliss, and with a bit of power it's fun as well. (And certainly a better drive than a gussied-up, overpriced German taxicab!)