How to Make Sure Your Classic Car Stays in Pristine Condition
The nights are getting longer, the days are getting colder and a chill is in the air, which all suggests one thing; winter is well on its way. This means that it’s time to prepare your vintage motor for the inevitable ice, drizzle and misery of an English winter. Here’s a handy plan to get you started.
Storing Your Car
Whether you’re planning to drive your classic throughout the worst of the winter weather or give it a seasonal break, you’re going to need somewhere to park your motor when it’s not being used, and that place needs to meet some very specific requirements.
The ideal storage solution would be a de-humidified fully weatherproof garage. This is because damp exacerbates rust - the plague of almost every classic in existence - so wet patches and humidity should be avoided at all costs.
If you absolutely must store your car outside because no other option is available to you, avoid proximity to plants and weeds as fervently as you would if they carried the plague.
Dealing with a Wet Car
If you plan on storing your car in a garage, then don’t seal it off from the elements entirely; some ventilation is actually a good thing, as air current helps to dry vehicles that have been rained upon and reduces condensation.
If you know that your garage doesn’t have any then, as dramatic as it sounds, you might find that you’re better off letting your car dry outside, where there is a breeze to aid the drying of nooks and crannies.
It’s very important to the maintenance of a classic to ensure that all of its seals are working properly. The best place to start is the windows, as leaking seals can be lethal and often lead to fungal growths on carpets and interiors. In winter, the opportunities to clean and dry them are reduced, which makes them very hard to get rid of.
Once you’ve taken care of the windows, move onto the doors and any other areas where there are gaps in the bodywork, such as the wiper spindles. Take the time to completely pull off the door trims and check that the plastic liners that attach to them are in good working order.
The perfect recipe for corrosion is 1 part moisture, 1 part dirt and 1 part cool air – aka an English winter. This means that you have to work hard and expend some elbow grease if you want to keep your classic in top condition.
To start, wash your car thoroughly before applying good quality polish. Be aware that most modern paste types don’t work and will simply wash away the next time you give your classic a clean, so traditional bees wax is your best bet.
If you have chrome, make sure you give that a good polish too, leaving it looking slightly hazy for added protection against the elements.
For further help, read our guide to classic car bodywork maintenance
Preparing Your Car for a Winter Out of Work
If you think that your classic would be safest tucked away for the winter, then there’s still a lot of effort involved in keeping it in top condition. Start by pumping your tyres to 50psi to prevent baldness developing.
Once your tyres have been inflated, raise your car onto four heavy-duty jack stands, as this will help to relive spring tension and reduce flat spotting. Remember to place padding between the stands and the frame of your vehicle.
If you’re planning to retire your car for less than 4 months, you’ll need to charge your battery. Coat the terminals with petroleum jelly and leave them wired up to the trickle charger. If you’re planning to leave your car for a longer period, remove the battery altogether (but remember to keep your radio security code safe).
As a last measure before turning off your garage lights, take the time to perform oil, filter and coolant changes. Your coolant should be tested with a hydrometer. We advise using a Trigard pre-mix as this is a really effective way of keeping your waterways free of rust.
Once you’re ready to pack your motor away, wrap it in a breathable car cover. Don’t be tempted to use a tarp as the material traps moist air and this can lead to corrosion. One innovative way to avoid damp is to use an inflatable plastic tent. You can place fans inside this to keep the air inside moving around. The cover should be removed monthly to give you the chance to check for rust spots and your motor a chance to air.
Finally, to keep your car in working order, don’t forget to start it at least once a month, ideally taking it out for a quick spin. This will allow the engine to reach its maximum operating temperature.
If you have suspended or altered your insurance to reflect your car’s change in usage, meaning that taking it out isn’t an option, then remove your spark plugs, pour a tablespoon of Redex into each cylinder, turn over the engine to make sure that everything is coated and then replace the plugs.
Come spring, your vintage should be ready to hit the roads again.
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