- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

After analyzing clients' claims on collector cars, the folks at Hagerty Classic Insurance confronted a chronic source of problems: the garage.
"Your garage can be your car's best friend or its worst enemy," said McKeel Hagerty, president of the Traverse City, Mich., company. "Many of the nightmares collectors encounter can be traced directly to where and how they store their vehicles."
Since falling garden tools, careless bike storage and toppling shelved cans can be as damaging to a new or slightly used car as they can to a vintage prima donna, I pass on some suggestions from the Hagerty people to reduce the terrors of the garage.
1. Control the space immediately around the car. Pad columns or walls next to the car. In tight spaces, hang padding between cars to lessen the risks of dings caused by opening car doors. For prolonged storage, use a fitted car cover to keep abrasive dust from the surface. Close all the vehicle's windows to keep animals, domesticated and wild, from the interior. (I know someone whose Ferrari was actually totaled by a raccoon.) Divert foot traffic away from the vehicle. Store tools, bikes and lawn furniture away from the car. Place these things in bins and/or secure with bungee cords. Avoid having open shelves anywhere near the car: affix lockable doors or use strong webbing. (Especially important in earthquake country.)
Be aware that swinging doors on floor-level cabinets can also cause dings. Sliding doors are less revealing, but less damage-prone. Avoid suspending anything over the car. Murphy's law is real. Refrain from storing flammables in the garage or else make sure containers are properly sealed. Enforce a strict no-smoking policy.
2. Rodent-proof both car and garage. Store pet food elsewhere and remove all other nesting and food possibilities, such as magazines and newspapers, paper towels, string, shop rags and outdoor furniture pads. Or keep them in tightly closed plastic containers. If overhead garage doors do not close tightly, add sealing material. Caulk small holes. Stuff others with steel wool or copper-mesh pot cleaners. Set traps and use D-Con rodent poison to thwart intruders. Spread mothballs at garage entrance doors. Also, put mothballs under the hood of the car on or near the wiring harnesses. Put fabric softener sheets made for clothes dryers inside the trunk and on the floor and seats of stored cars. If neighbors are not too close, keep a radio playing a 24-hour station. (Apparently if the beat is hot enough, mice would rather get down than chew on wiring.)
3. Make rules for the youngsters. No playing in or around the car. No friends allowed in the garage. No leaving bikes, scooters, etc., near the car. Explain to them that even "didn't-mean-to" damage to a collectible can dramatically alter its value.
4. Thwart the thieving. Set the car alarm (if there is one), even inside the garage. For long-term storage, immobilize the vehicle so that it will not run by putting it on blocks and removing the wheels. Keep the garage doors closed and locked to avoid giving the world a look at and access to your treasure. Cover all windows with blinds or permanent translucent film. Don't forget any skylights. Do not leave the keys in the car (even "hidden") and store them in a less-than-obvious place. When on vacation, take all car keys and remote garage door openers with you. Consider disabling the garage door opener.
The Hagerty team also recommends that if you're looking for a new house or remodeling, consider your collectible car. For example, you need a strong roof (to resist snow loads in the ice belt) and certainly one that is fire-retardant. They also suggest you check your insurance to be sure what is covered and what is not. (Homeowner's policies will not cover fire damage or theft of your collector car.)
Of course, monetary damage isn't the worst part of losing a valued collector car. That's why Hagerty suggests collectors, whether they store one or 50 prize automobiles, take stock of possible risks in their garages and deal with them before anything goes wrong.
Learn more about care of and insurance for your collectible at www.hagerty.com.
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