Regular preventative maintenance can greatly extend the life of your pride and joy when it is in use. However, there are also some useful guidelines that should be followed when you decide to store it away for extended periods.
Many specialists will gladly store a car almost indefinitely in purpose-built warehouses, which is ideal for those classic enthusiasts who have the wherewithal to do so. For the rest of us, the prospect of a (relatively) empty garage is as good as it gets. Following some simple procedures, though, will give your classic car a similar level of protection – and all for a fraction of the cost.
Ways to store a classic car
A dry and damp-free garage is perhaps rather obviously the ideal spot for extended vehicle storage, although if space is at a premium there are a number of great inflatable car covers that can be used outdoors, too. Some even have controllers for temperature (under 70ºF is ideal) and humidity (aim for 40-50%), which can keep the plastic and rubber trim from perishing.
High-quality car covers can also help protect the paintwork, but if you are parking outside the undercarriage may still be susceptible to rodents and other pests crawling into the engine bay and interior. Placing mothballs around the engine bay and in various cavities helps keep most bugs and curious animals at bay. You can either purchase these online or, if you are the DIY type and hate the smell of naphthalene, you can make a herbal equivalent by packing cloves and dried rosemary and ginseng into a small muslin bag.
Regular fluid changes are considered good practice when running a classic, and they should also be refreshed periodically or drained entirely depending on the length of time the car will be stored for.
Differential oils and power-steering fluid can last for up to two years without ill effect, although brake fluid will absorb moisture over time. If the car will be left standing for a long period (two years or more), it is best to drain the brake system completely by using a bleeding kit. This puts the reservoir under pressure so you can empty the fluid via the bleed nipples.
Oil starts to degrade the moment it’s exposed to air, and it should generally be drained, too. Correctly mixed coolant will last for years, but minor leaks can corrode the engine block so it may be best to drain it if you won’t be driving the car for a while. A note taped to the steering wheel is advisable to remind you of which fluids require replacing.
The fuel tank should be left full, as most older cars will have a build-up of dirt and residue that can get disturbed and clog up the filter and fuel lines if you leave the tank totally empty. The addition of a fuel stabilizer is not universally recommended, and it seems to be more useful in preventing the corroding effects of high-ethanol unleaded fuels.
There is no exact sell-by date for fuel, but the consensus is that it will start to lose its octane rating after only a few months and its deterioration is accelerated if the fuel tank is not airtight. That said, some classic car owners have found that their classics drove just fine with petrol that had sat in the tanks for two years or more.
Rubber water hoses and drive belts can perish over time, and are especially susceptible to extreme temperatures. However, they should not require removal if they are in good condition.
Start off with a comprehensive wash and polish of the exterior, and pay particular attention to bubbling paintwork and evidence of developing rust. Touching up stone chips and removing all dirt and grime for the body cavities is a good way to prevent any corrosion from taking hold while your car is out of action. Drainage holes, footwells and the areas surrounding the window frames require particular attention.
Placing a sheet of paper between the windscreen wipers and the window glass can reduce the likelihood of the rubber tearing. If you have recently resprayed your car, then be aware that some coarser car covers can cause damage, as the finish may not have completely hardened yet.
Originally posted by John Tallodi
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