There comes a time in every classic car’s life when it’s time to wheel itself off for a well-earned break. Classic cars need to be looked after. During the winter months, when the elements can be particularly unkind on those of a certain age, it makes sense to store the car so it’s road-ready next spring.
The trouble is that inactivity is the arch-nemesis of the classic car. A great number of ills can befall your beloved while she’s supposed to be enjoying a well earned rest. The truth of the matter is that a car lying dormant can lead to countless – and priceless – damages. Engine parts can seize, rubber can rot, wiring can short circuit, the chassis can rust, paint can blister, brakes can lock and batteries can die – and all that when she’s supposed to be parked up!
The moral of this story is that taking the right steps now could prevent all sorts of misery when it’s time to get behind the wheel. With that said, here are our 5 top tips for storing your classic car.
1) Drain the fuel tank and cooling system
If you plan on storing your classic car for more than six months, you should thoroughly drain the fuel tank first. Old petrol can clog carburetors and cause valves to give up, so start the engine and run all of the fuel out of the lines before you kiss your car goodbye. If you’re going to be storing the car for a couple of months, add a fuel stabiliser to prevent deterioration.
You should also drain the cooling system and leave the radiator cap off and petcock open to allow air to circulate. It’s also well worth disconnecting the heater hoses and draining the heater.
2) Charge or disconnect the battery
If you’re going to store the car for more than four months, the safest option is to remove the battery entirely (make sure you know the radio security code!). Then, wash the battery down and store it in a dry place.
Leaving the car for a couple of months? In that case the battery can stay where it is, but charge it, coat the terminals with petroleum jelly and leave it attached to a trickle charger.
3) Change or drain the fluids
Oil, filter and coolant changes are essential before a prolonged spell of inactivity. Ideally, if you’re going to drain the fluids, try to do so while the car is still warm (of course, wear gloves and be extremely wary of hot oil). Otherwise, change the oil and oil filter and run the engine for a couple of minutes to allow the new fluids to circulate. You should test the coolant with a hydrometer. The corrosion inhibitors in the coolant tend to wear off before the rest of the coolant. There are plenty of solutions on the market that can prevent the build up of sludge or rust in the waterways.
4) Give it a darn good clean
Spray clean the underside of the car and chassis and make sure you dry the car thoroughly before it’s stored. Taking it for one last spin is the most effective method of drying the car properly, while giving you the chance for a few emotional goodbyes. Then, wax and polish the paintwork and leave the wax on the car to prevent deterioration. Finally, inject fresh grease into all grease fittings, spray the doors and bonnet hinges with white lithium, and use dry Teflon lube or silicone spray on the weather stripping on doors, windows and the boot.
5) Don’t be a stranger
If you still have access to the car, take it for a short drive at least once a month to allow the engine to heat up to full operating temperature. If you’re out of the country, then remove the spark plugs and pour some Redex treatment into each cylinder. Turn the engine over and put the plugs back in.
And there you have it, one spring-ready classic car, primed and raring to go!