The climate in the UK can be problematic for older cars. This means that shutting your classic car away in the garage for the winter could lead to expensive damage. To avoid any nasty bills when spring comes round, you’ll need to make sure you pay your classic car due care and attention over the winter months.
We want to make sure that you and your car are ready for when winter hits this year, so here are our top tips for caring for everything underneath the bonnet of your classic car.
Classic Car Batteries
If you’re planning on storing your classic car over the winter then its battery could really suffer. As with any car, any long period of inactivity can lead to the battery going flat or being damaged. We would recommend using your car a few times over the winter. However, there are a few things you can do to keep your battery in tip top shape.
Two Schools of Thought
The first is that you should disconnect the battery from the car completely which prevents it from draining as quickly as when it is left connected. However, the down side of doing this is that the alarm on your vehicle will stop working which could potentially invalidate your insurance.
The second idea; and the one that we would recommend, is to invest in a good quality battery maintenance system. Using one of these means that your car will be charged and ready to use over the winter.
All About the Engine
Change Your Oil and Oil Filter
Before you store your beloved classic car for winter, it’s wise to change the oil and oil filter. Prior to starting this essential maintenance, double check you have the correct oil type and viscosity for your vehicle and choose a new premium oil filter rather than a budget version. It’s also best to change the oil when it is warm.
- Placing a drain pan below the engine, unscrew the drain plug and pull it out away from the stream of oil.
- Remove the oil filter using the correct oil filter wrench for your vehicle making sure that the seal/gasket comes out with it. Be careful of any oil which may spill from this area and from the filter.
- Install your new oil filter with a new seal/gasket.
- Clean the drain plug and fit (or use a new drain plug) with a new washer and torque to the correct spec for your vehicle.
- Refill the engine with oil using a funnel, ensuring you put in the right amount or less and be careful not to overfill! You may need to check the dipstick a few times as you get close to the recommended quantity.
- Run the engine until the dashboard oil light goes out. Allow the oil to drain back into the sump, Check the dipstick and add more oil if it is needed.
Test Your Engine’s Anti-Freeze and Coolant
This is also the perfect time for you to test your engine’s anti-freeze mixture and level ready for the winter. If it is not right, the coolant will freeze and you could crack the engine block or split some hoses. Double check that you have the correct antifreeze for your vehicle before you start. If your car is one of the older vehicles with no coolant reservoir, you’ll need to open the cap on the radiator to check and add coolant. Remember you should never add coolant to a warm engine. If it needs to be topped up, you must wait until the engine has cooled down again to avoid burning/scalding yourself.
To ease strain on the alternator and other pulleys while your car is in storage, we would recommend that you slacken all the drive belts aside from the cam belt (of course). If your classic car’s alternator actually functions as the belt tensioner, you can usually adjust the tension by loosening one bolt which holds the alternator on an arc-shaped track and a second bolt which the alternator will pivot on. You then need to rotate the alternator about the second pivot bolt and loosen it as required.
Protecting from Fuel Damage
In order to protect your fuel system from corrosion it’s important to protect from ethanol damage. As with most things, prevention in the first instance is preferred to seeking a cure. Modern day fuel contains higher levels of ethanol. Modern engines will run on higher blends perfectly fine, however older carburetor engines will find no sanctity with the modern fuel standard.
Use of an effective fuel additive will protect your fuel system and valves from damage caused by ethanol rich fuel. Ethanol by nature absorbs water, and this core characteristic is something many motorists will know is not a great mix with combustion engines! Without a suitable additive, many classic cars may suffer from blockages and faults caused by corroding hoses and rusting components due to the presence of water in the fuel system.
Too Little Petrol in Your Tank
Did you know that storing your car with very little fuel can actually lead to it rusting? This is because an emptier tank can develop condensation very easily, especially in cold weather. However, there is also the problem of petrol potentially going off and this can clog up your fuel lines and carburettors.
There are a few ideas as to what you should do to avoid this, including storing the car with as much fuel as possible, but we would recommend using a fuel preserver to stop the fuel from going off and to keep rust at bay.
Top-Up Your Tyres
Tyres are another part of the car that will need your attention as you run the risk of developing flat spots. You can always pump your tyres up to the recommended psi and monitor the levels, but we would suggest leaving it on an axle to make sure that it is safely supported and the vehicles weight is removed from them.
When you’re ready to drive your car again, make sure you double check that the tyres are road legal with correct amount of tread and depth, and look out for any cracks and bulges.
Use Your Car
Ever heard the phrase – use it or you’ll lose it? Well the same definitely applies to your classic car. It may seem like a daunting suggestion to actually use your classic car in the winter, however you still need to start and run your car regularly to make sure that its components are exercised. Fail to do this and its engine parts could seize up, its tyres may go flat and its seals could dry out too.
But what about the bad weather?
Surely mud, salt, water and even the dreaded snow could damage your car even more than a long winter with no activity? We recommend taking your car for a run on a day that is dry when the roads have not been covered in salt for 15-20 minutes every two weeks. The risk of damaging your car’s bodywork is much smaller than the risk you run of your classic car becoming unreliable after a winter of storage when spring comes round again.
If You’re Storing Your Car Over Winter
If you cannot take your car out and you have no option but to put your car in storage you’ll need to take the following steps to make sure that everything in the engine is moving and not seized up.
- Remove the spark plugs.
- Put a tablespoon of engine oil or similar into each cylinder.
- Turn the engine over by hand a number of times to ensure that all of the cylinder bore is coated with lubricant.
- Refit the spark plugs.
You should still start the engine regularly to prevent the any permanent shortening in the compressed valve springs and to make sure that oil moves around the gearbox and the engine. And finally, to stop the friction plate from sticking the flywheel, depress the clutch pedal whenever you can.