After the long and drawn out winter, where your classic car has been safely tucked away in the garage, you will be wanting to drag it out as soon as the clocks change and the first glimmer of sunshine appears on the forecast. Before you rush out and start up the engine though, there are few things to consider when putting a car back on the road that has been in storage for a number of months.
- Charge the battery
Make sure the battery is charged. If it hasn’t been touched since the car was parked, give it 12 to 24 hours, until the cells are all gassing enthusiastically.
- Top up the coolant and check the concentration
Check the coolant level in the radiator: it may have dropped over the winter, or you might have drained it and subsequently forgotten. Top up with a one third mix of antifreeze and water.
- Check your points and set the gap
Fit the battery, turn the engine so that the points are closed and switch on the ignition (not the starter). Flick the points with a finger or screwdriver until a small spark is seen at the contacts with each flick. Then, turn everything off and set the gap correctly with a feeler gauge.
- Renew Spark plugs
Spark plugs these days last a lot longer than they once did, but it’s still a good idea as part of a post-winter service to pop a new set in and ensure they are gapped correctly with that trusty feeler gauge.
Firstly, check the pressures to ensure they match the owner’s manual recommendations. Then, remove each wheel in turn.You should also inspect the brakes at this point (see Tip 6 below). Look at the tyre for cracking in sidewalls on the inside and outside edge; look carefully at the tread or the area where the tread joins the sidewall. Next, after a visual check to ensure there are no sharp foreign objects embedded in the tyre, feel around and across the tread for bumps and bulges. You may find a flat spot where the car was parked but this should disappear after the car’s first run, but inspect it after a few miles and if it hasn’t evened out, then replace the tyres. Don’t bother to balance wheels until that flat spot has disappeared!
With the car safely lifted on axle stands, examine braking systems for leakage taking time to look under dust boots as well. Examine flexible hoses for cracks, twists or kinks; look at metal pipes for rusting, also ferrules and joints on flexible pipes.
For a more in depth inspection, push brake pistons back and then pump them forwards again with the pedal but do this gently if you’ve removed front pads or rear drums. If they have become seized during the winter layup then repair or replace before driving the car.
Change any brake pads, which appear to be worn or disintegrating, or shoes / friction material that might be contaminated from leaks or detaching from metal backing.
Go through the entire system and check the master cylinder for leakage and ensure the fluid is clean and not blackened or dirty in any way.
- Check the underbody
Give the underbody of your classic car a really good look over. Existing rust festers over the winter, because there is no airflow to dry moisture out of structural crevices, so look for the signs of any issues developing and have a good poke around with an MOT tester’s hammer or blunt screwdriver.
After the winter hibernation, some of the electrical systems can be slow to start up. Check all earth connections, clean where required and repeatedly operate switches to clear any light oxidation that has set in. Clean the fuses and fusebox if necessary.
- Protect the engine – change the oil!
Over the winter period, condensation may have formed in the oil and if it has not been changed since last year, then it almost certainly has harmful acids and other nasties that are bi-products of the combustion process swilling around in it. Now is the ideal time to give you engine an oil change and fill up with some clean, fresh, green Duckhams Q for the season ahead. Don’t forget to change the filter as well. You can buy online and have it delivered to your door here: https://www.duckhams.com/range/
- How to perform the first engine start
The following start up procedure will ensure the minimal amount of damage when starting an engine for the first time after winter. Some mighty say that it is necessary to remove the spark plugs and fill each bore with a tablespoon or so of oil to prevent piston rings sticking but after a single winter in a fairly well weather proofed garage, this shouldn’t be necessary, but consider it for very long lay ups.
Select neutral on the gearbox. Don’t depress the clutch – or operate the choke or throttle.
Turn the starter for 10 – 15 seconds. Wait 30 seconds and then repeat. This should prime the petrol and oil pumps and get the Duckhams Q moving around the system and ready to lubricate those all important internal components. Next, let it crank until the oil pressure lamp goes out, then pull the choke and let the engine fire up.
Duckhams Q contains optimised levels of ZDDP, which will instantly coat the engine’s delicate metal surfaces with this crucial anti-wear agent.
Push the choke in as soon as the engine will hold a steady idle. Do not rev the engine while it’s cold.