To keep a classic car looking great and to hold its market value true enthusiast owners really have to take excellent care of it. Not only is it important to maintain the body work, take care of the exterior and interior but you also need to keep an eye on the engine. If you settle into a routine and regularly polish the paintwork and interior trim, add to that regular engine checks and make small adjustments to tyre pressure, oil pressure and the timing as required, you can not only keep your classic car in top driving condition but also looking like new and slowing the effects of car depreciation down, perhaps even adding value to your motor over time
Owners with classic cars in daily use would need to take additional care to protect their vehicles from the elements as they may even be left in an open bay at work or on the drive at home. The summer sun’s ultra-violet light attacks paint work; in winter the additional road salt, spray from gritting trucks and regular rain storms rot and corrode the metal work.
We all know firsthand that the cost of motoring can be expensive; however, with a bit of preventive maintenance you can keep your classic car in mint condition. There are a variety of things you should do before you store your car for any amount of time. Classic cars that sit inactive can start to deteriorate if not properly prepared before being put into storage.
Whether you own a classic car, classic pickup van or even a used minibus from decades gone by, you should always give the vehicle a good detailing before it goes in storage. The car must be squeaky clean from bumper to bumper. Wash off all of the road grime and salt from the undercarriage as well as all the exposed body parts.
One important thing to do is to make sure every inch of the car is completely dry before wrapping the covers around it and putting the vehicle into winter storage. If you are going to use a cover make sure it is a high quality blanket made from soft fibers. You need to store your classic car out of direct sunlight and in a dust free area if possible
If you plan on storing your classic car for a short time only, drain the entire cooling system and then refill it with pure antifreeze. When planning to store your car for an extended length of time drain the entire system and leave the cap off of the radiator so that the air can circulate around the cooling system. Also change the brake fluid, oil and the oil filter before the vehicle goes into storage
During the washing process make sure you look for any scratches or chips in the paint finish. It pays to touch up any spots, chips or scratches with a paint pen or have a specialist do the work for you before you put your classic car in storage as this will help you stop metal corrosion. Remember to use primer first, as primer helps the new paint to stick and can be used to build up the base so that your paint is level. You will have to order the paint from the manufacturers to match your vehicles paint colour. If you are looking for a more professional touch, have a look at purchasing SMART for your car, it is a form of additional car insurance which is an absolute must for long term car owners. SMART stands for Small Accident Repair Technology
You will also want to do something with the tyres because the rubber will actually perish if they are left inflated with the vehicles full weight on them. You can either remove the wheels completely or put the car on axel stands and let the air out of the tyres at the same time. This will put less strain on the suspension system and also deter theft at the same time.
Never put a car into storage with the battery connected. Always remove the battery, clean off the battery terminals and think about how you will maintain your battery while the car is not in use. If your battery has had a leak – and many older unsealed batteries had this problem – a great way to clean the battery terminals would be by using a bicarbonate of soda and water solution. For a short term storage option, often the case in harsh weather climates, placing your car’s battery on trickle charge is a great idea. For car owners who either drive very infrequently or have classic cars that can stand unused for many months at a time, flat batteries are a thing these owners know only too well. There is nothing more frustrating than a dead battery and on top of that is the high cost of replacement car batteries too.
Keeping the Battery Charged Up
The short term solution is to keep the battery topped up with a trickle charger. A trickle charger charges a car battery at approximately the same rate as it is discharging, so if the car you’re storing is used once a month for example this is a great option. The downfall of a trickle charger is that it continues to charge a battery no matter whether the battery is fully charged or not, so it needs to be connected and disconnected periodically or it will eventually boil your battery and permanently damage it. For a long term solution, think about using a float charger. A float charger can be left connected indefinitely without potential harm to the battery. With modern classics a float charger will help the owner ensure that immobilisers or car alarm systems won’t run it down while the car sits under covers for months at a time. There is a huge choice of car chargers on the market in both the UK and America so buying the right one won’t be difficult. Always place the charging battery in an open space where air is free to circulate. Constricting the airflow around a car battery is dangerous and could cause a fire!
You will want to replace all filters with new ones and remove the sparkplugs. By removing the spark plugs you help prevent moisture being trapped in the cylinder head potentially causing corrosion. Petrol has high water content and this causes the corrosion. You will want to grease over all areas, including points, door locks, door boot hinges and the like. At least once a month you should turn the engine over using a spanner. This can be done from the flywheel bolt. This keeps the pistons, valves and tappets moving freely preventing them from seizing in the engine when left standing for long periods of time
When you have your classic car which you use regularly, you need to be diligent about your vehicle’s maintenance. Keep the interior and exterior trim polished which not only keeps it clean but also prevents the polished areas from cracking. The harsh rays of the sun will fade and crack the trim if it is not kept clean and polished and the metals in the exterior trim fade and crack in UV light too
When cleaning your classic car you should use a microfiber or cotton cloth that is designed for use on classic cars or expensive paintwork of other luxury cars. Cotton cloth, because it’s made from real cotton, is softer than cheap cloth (normally made from nylon and polyester) which can leave scratches. Microfiber cloth is manufactured with fibres between 100 and 1000 times finer than traditionally made cloths. Microfiber cloth works so well because unlike when using cheaper traditional cloths, with a microfiber cloth you really don’t need to use abrasive detergents. The fibres are so closely woven that they are able to pick up far more dust particles than traditional cloth would be able to, reducing the need for the chemicals needed to loosen and remove the same amount of dust as a traditional cleaning cloth would.
Microfiber cloth should be used on surfaces with very little water, use just enough to loosen the most stubborn dirt particles. A quick gentle wash with cotton cloth using a quality car wash detergent first, followed by a fine mist of water and a microfiber wipe should leave you with a great result. You want to use the correct car wash and not an abrasive detergent like dish washing liquid. Strange as it sounds, many car owners do just that and the result is not much better than washing your vehicle with petrol. The paint will fade straight away and continue to fade, loosing that shine forever. It is advisable to have any small dents, cracks or chips repaired as soon as you notice them. This will help prevent rust and metal corrosion. If possible avoid the cheaper car shampoos and go for high polymer premier products that are freely available on the market. You almost always get what you pay for in the automotive industry.
Polish your vehicle in the shade rather than direct sunlight. Sunlight bakes the wax onto your paintwork rather than helping you clean it. Polishing in direct sunlight leaves you with a streaky unprofessional finish. Use a high quality polish to wax your car. If the paint is oxidized you will want to remove it first with a high quality polish or rubbing compound designed for this purpose. Rubbing compounds have tiny particles in the polish which gently scrubs off the oxidized layers of paint, leaving behind a fresh, bright layer, ready for polish. Ask an expert about rubbing compounds before you buy. This information will make your job easier as using the wrong compound will damage your paint work.
You should pull a dust cover over your vehicle at night. Make sure the dust cover is made from soft material to prevent scratching the paint surface. The reason for the paint scratching is actually tiny dust particles being rubbed against your car’s paintwork, so the softer it’s material the better. If you go out for a drive, take a few minutes to remove any bird, bat or seagull droppings immediately. You will also want to remove tar, dead bugs, leaves, sap and any other debris on your return. Tree sap can leave terrible marks on a car’s paint work, so parking under a roof is preferable where possible. You can use a quality remover product for this purpose that does not have a high acidic content.
After every journey you should wash and dry the car properly; any water will encourage rust. Remove mud, dust, and petrol spills as soon as possible. Driving in Europe especially causes cars to rust underneath when the roads are treated with salt which prevents ice from forming. Make sure to wash the underside of your car if you have driven in these conditions. If you get in your car with wet shoes dry the carpets when you get home, that moisture can cause metal and carpet rot. If your car smells damp take immediate action. Don’t forget to check the boot, sills, in corners, under the bonnet and around rubber seals after every wash that all is dry.
Owning a classic car can be a rewarding experience. You have to baby your classic car to keep it in mint condition. This is your pride and joy and the extra time spent caring for it is well worth it.
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