How to Enjoy the Classic Car Season

Spring has arrived and it’s time to bring out the dream cars.

For many classic car enthusiasts, the first drive of Spring has lead to costly repair bills across the UK. It’s essential you understand a few basic steps if you’ve left your vehicle sat in the garage for several months without maintaining it. If your classic car is stored in less than ideal conditions it may have deteriorated somewhat over time and become a hazard to drive.

In this article we expect that you will have carried out the basic service without the need for additional advice. This means you will by now or will be, changing the engine and potentially transmission oil, cleaning the plugs, cleaning the distributor and adjusting points, checking the ignition timing and applying some grease to areas that require lubricating.

Step by step preparation to get your classic car ready for Spring.

1. Do not start your car engine

If you do so and the engine isn’t healthy, you could damage the pistons and the cylinder bores as the oil could have drained from them.

2. Make a visual inspection

It’s essential to take a look at your classic car to see if there have been any visual changes during the winter period. Take a look at the tyres for considerable deflation, the engine compartment for any seepages and leaks, the gearbox, brake lines, cylinders, wheel bearings. Check the interior and undersides also. If you spot perished rubber seals and hoses you will need to replace these. If there is excessive rust anywhere you need to be very cautious and see the amount of damage this has caused.

3. Charge the battery

It’s highly likely that your battery will need charging so it’s a task you can take on whilst you’re attending other areas. Jump starting a discharged battery from another vehicles isn’t ideal however. It can shorten the battery life and can be dangerous. It’s much better to first top up the cells with the correct battery fluid. Don’t use water. Clean the battery posts with fine sandpaper or a wire pad, then trickle charge your battery with the right equipment. We recommend you speak to one of our partners, Powerlite about their battery products. Don’t install your battery however. We’ve a few more steps to take to before it’s time to install the battery again.

4. Replace the spark plugs

The oil in the engine will have drained from the cylinder bore down to the bottom of the sump. If you don’t follow this step your engine could burn up and as a result you’ll have to replace the engine.

Remove the spark plugs and give them a clean. Whilst the spark plugs are out it is good practise to check the engine for freedom of rotations by turning the crankshaft over slowly by hand. Be sure it rotates freely and that the drive pinion is free from debris. Dependent on the age of your vehicle you may have a Bendix drive. These were developed in the 1930s before the overrunning-clutch pinion arrangement was phased into use by the 1960s. It might be worth a bit of exploration of the differences if your vehicle is between these dates. Squirt a small amount of upper cylinder lubricant such as Redex into each cylinder bore. Now spin the engine over on the starter for 10 to 15 seconds, then replace the plugs which can be purchased from our partner Retro Classic Car Parts, who offer Heritage customers 10% off their orders.

5. Replace the anti-freeze in your cooling system

Drain the anti-freeze in the cooling system and then flush the system using a standard hose. Once you’ve done this your can refill with some good quality anti-freeze which ideally should contain a corrosion inhibitor. We recommend you use Bluecol Antifreeze by our partner Frost Auto Restoration as a Heritage Classic Car Insurance customer you’ll also get free delivery.

Check the system for any leaks. You might spot them in the radiator core, header tank or at the hose fittings. Most importantly check the engine core plugs. If you spot a leak now it could save your engine from overheating.

6. Check your oil levels

Do check the levels of your oil. If this is low, the gearbox could have to endure metal-to-metal contact, between teeth on gears for instance. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your oil it might be time to make the change. You are always best following the manufacturer’s original specifications as some of the newer oils on the market contain pressure additives that aren’t suitable. We recommend using Penrite Oil which you can purchase from our partner Retro Classic Car Parts, and don’t forget to claim you 10% discount as a Heritage Insurance customer.

7. Top up your petrol

Did you know that petrol has a sweet smell if it’s been unused for over a year? If you know that smell it’s time to drain the petrol. Make sure you dispose of this correctly though. Click here to find your local hazardous waste disposal service. If your petrol just needs a top up, add some fresh petrol.

8. Check your interior trim

For those of who you have leather seat and upholstery it can be worthwhile caring for this before the summer weather dries it out. Our partner the Leather Repair Company, offers repairing kits, maintaining and caring kits to help restore, clean and protect your upholstery. If you’re a Heritage Classic Car Insurance customer you get a 15% discount on every purchase with them too.

9. Check the electrics

Before reinstalling the battery it’s useful to check all the main electrical connections to see if there is any wear or looseness. Check the wires you can see as best you can to ensure that the wires are tight and clean. If you have an electrical fuel pump remove the cover and clean the electrical contact points with fine sandpaper.

10. Reinstall the battery

Time to reinstall the battery. Make sure that the terminals are securely tightened and smeared with a petroleum- based grease such as Vaseline.

11. Test the brakes

For the best storage method you should not use your handbrake. You ought to leave the vehicle in gear. The best way to test the brakes is to roll the classic car out of the storage unit/garage. Do not try to drive the car out as the brakes may have seized.

If the brakes have seized you need to put the car in gear, and raise the vehicle so that you can turn the wheel freely. Try rotating the wheel forward to see if this frees the brakes. If not, you’ll need to take the wheel off and tend to the drum or disc. Clean off the rust but ensure you wear a mask as it is hazardous to breathe this in. Use sandpaper or an emery cloth to clean the brakes and then fit them back onto the vehicle. Do this step for all wheels.

12. Prime the carburettor / mechanical pump

Priming the carburettor / mechanical pump can prevent excessive cranking on an engine without oil pressure at the start up. It’s important to note that you don’t need to manually prime a mechanical fuel pump the way you do a carburettor.

Priming the carburettor. Remove the air filter top to expose the carburettor. Now identify the float bowl vents (hollow, vertical tubes coming out from the top centre of the carburettor on either side of the air inlets). Use a can of starter fluid which you can purchase from our partner Frost Auto Restoration and spray into the carburettor. Spray about 4 shots of starter fluid into the vents and turn over. If the car doesn’t start in the first few attempts, spray another 2 shots and try again.

You also need to drain and refill the petrol in the float bowl depending on the condition of it. If the oil looks a bit sludgy replace this too.

If the engine is running then you’re now ready to start using your car with the standard cold starting procedure. Well done.

13. Check the engine whilst it’s warming up

It’s essential to check your engine whilst it’s warming up. There could be rust holes that have developed, a light could have gone, the horn may  not work, so now is a good time to look for any leaks from the engine bay, and listen out for unusual sounds. Check your brake lights, any electrical equipments, and check your tyre walls for any sign of cracking and excessive wear.

14. Check your clutch

One other start-up problem common amongst classic car owners is a seized clutch. If you’re unlucky and encountered this then you’ll need to try these two options before it means removing the engine or gearbox and cleaning the flywheel.

Firstly you can lift both the driven wheels off the ground. Make sure this is done securely. Block the other wheels and then start the engine with a gear engaged. Snatch the brakes on and off with the clutch depressed several times to see if this frees the clutch.

Secondly you can roll start your car in second gear and then apply the brake and the clutch together once you’re at about 10mph. Do be careful here though as it can sometimes damage the transmission.

15. Trial run

Take your classic car out on the road for a short gentle drive and whilst doing this listen out for any unusual sounds and feels from the car. Make sure the steering feels rights and the brakes are doing their job without any signs of pulling to either side. It is worthwhile taking your mobile phone with you just in case you breakdown and need roadside recovery. With Heritage Classic Car Insurance we offer a full roadside rescue and recovery service perfect for your classic car.

Go back home or to your starting point and let the car cool down. Check again for any leaks and make sure the fluid levels are still okay. Any large drop in fluid levels will highlight a leak somewhere.

Want to take this information away with you?

Download our step-by-step guide. Click here.

Did your classic car do well?

If everything went well you’re good to take advantage of the summer. Enjoy the lovely British weather and the upcoming shows this year. We hope to see you at a classic car event.