Collecting classic cars offers plenty to enjoy, but collecting alone just doesn’t cut it for some people. If you fall into this category, keeping your Oldsmobile 442 comfortably locked away in your garage to look at when you need to grab your toolbox isn’t enough — you have to stretch its legs once in a while.
You can’t exactly get stock parts for a 40+-year-old car at any garage, though, which often makes keeping your favorite toy in working condition more of a scavenger hunt than a hobby. Couple that with the fact that old cars are often finicky, and you’ll need more than a regular oil change and tune-up to have it ready for Memorial Day weekend.
Luckily, we have a few tips to make the process easier for you.
It might sound counterintuitive, but if you want to keep your classic car in driving condition, you need to keep driving it! Letting your car sit for long periods of time allows it to rust and corrode. Keep running your car, and your car will keep running well.
Unless you built up your own repair shop by hand, you would do well to have your vehicle checked out by an experienced mechanic regularly. A little DIY know-how can go a long way, but it doesn’t beat a trained expert eye that can spot the small details.
Seal Off Your Vehicle
Life happens, and sometimes you just don’t have time to be on the road regularly. For extended downtime, seal off your tailpipes. Rodents love cozying up inside your vehicle’s heating system, filter box, and exhaust system. To seal off the heater, close your fresh air inlet by starting the engine and switching your heat to “recycle.” Next, with the engine shut off, use steel wool to stuff the air filter box intake duct — just make sure to slide a bright reminder flag inside, too. Do the same thing to the exhaust system, and your vehicle will be pest-free.
The Tedious Details
Clean every little nook and cranny to make your classic car sparkle both inside and out. This isn’t about having it ready for your favorite car show, but keeping it well maintained — looking sharp is just a bonus. Keeping every component dirt-free prevents chipped paint and rust. So wipe down every speck, rinse and dry thoroughly, and remember to add a wax coating to stave off the elements.
If you have to leave your car outdoors, put a tarp over it. Dirt and gravel roads still allow moisture up into the car from underneath, though, so getting your car inside is ideal. A few things to keep in mind when you do store it include:
- Change all of your vehicle’s fluids.
- Clean your car before you store it.
- Prop your car up on jack stands to protect against flat spots.
- If using jack stands, keep the parking breaks off to prevent fused and seized brake components.
- Remove the battery and store it separately.
- Do not start your car unless you are ready to drive it — idling causes more harm than good.
Keep it Driving as Good as it Looks
A fife-sized model car isn’t much to be impressed by, so keep it running, and keep it running well. The better you maintain your classic car, the less often you’ll need to hunt down those rare, hard-to-find parts that haven’t been produced in 20+ years. 3D printing is helping ease the burden of finding old parts, but it hasn’t eliminated it altogether. In the meantime, take care of your toys.