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Spring is in the Air! Time to Get Your Classic Out of Winter Hibernation

It has certainly been a wild winter!  There has been record breaking snowfalls around the country and freezing cold weather to go with it.  Even down in southern Texas we saw lots of snow and weather cold enough to shut down schools and businesses and even burst pipes in homes.

It seems though that the worst of the weather is behind us and the temperatures are rising from coast to coast.  Once April is here and we get through those April showers, most every state will be revving up for summer weather!

That means our classic cars and trucks will be ready to be taken out of their winter hibernation. So, before you back your prized possession out of the garage, we have some pointers on waking up your vehicle after being in hibernation.

Check for leaks – The first place I would look is beneath the car. Hopefully at most, all you find is a few drips of oil from the front timing cover.  This is a quite common place for oil to leak from and is relatively an easy fix.  The cooling system, power steering, transmission, rear axle, or brake lines might show evident signs of a leak as well. Now is the best time to address the issue and give it your full attention. This is also a good time to check radiator hoses for cracks or any sign of rot. Be sure to check around the clamps as this is usually the first place they start to deteriorate.

Replace old fluids – Replacing the oil and oil filter are a given, but if your car has been sitting a year or more you may consider replacing all fluids.  Flush the radiator and use a new coolant of 30% – 50% max antifreeze.  Drain the brake lines, flush and refill the brake system.  You may want to consider draining the gas tank and fuel system as well.

Charge the battery – If you read our article in November of 2020, Your Guide to Storing Your Classic Car for the Winter, then you disconnected your battery for storage. If you left it on a trickle charger it should be good to go this spring. Worst case scenario is that it needs a little charge. You should also check to ensure the battery posts are free of any corrosion build up.

Check the exhaust – You may have plugged up the tail pipes to help keep critters out of your exhaust system.  Be sure to remove them to avoid an embarrassing stall out.  Air coming in is as important as exhaust going out so be sure to clean and inspect the engine’s air filter as well.

Inspect belts & suspension – Inspect your belts, suspension joints, pivot points and bushings very closely. Note any parts that have cracks or other signs of wear and replace them immediately. Any rubber boots or seals should be soft and able to flex. If they are not, then cracks are inevitable.

Kick the tires – Correct tire pressure is important for safety, gas mileage and vehicle performance. Make sure you check the tire pressure and inflate them to their proper level. This is also a good time to check the tightness of your lug nuts as well.

Lubricate the engine – Before starting the engine you should remove the spark plugs and add a little oil to each cylinder.  Prior to removing the spark plugs we suggest marking the plug wires for future reference when they go back in.  After adding oil to the cylinder, crank the engine over by hand to help thoroughly lubricate all moving parts.  Some choose to use the ignition key to turn over the engine a few times, but we suggest doing this step by hand.  It may be a challenge to turn it over at first, but the piston rings should free up after that allowing the engine to turn.

Fire up your engine – Once you have everything inspected and tuned up and ready to go it is time to crank over the engine and let it warm up.  Do not rev your engine yet, just let it warm up.  If you flushed the fuel system you may need to spray some starter fluid into the carburetor and then replace the air filter.  Before you back your ride out of the driveway give it one more once over to see if you can spot any leaks or other signs of trouble.  Pump the brakes to see that the pressure is correct.  Turn the wheel to check your power steering is working (if you have it) and shift through the gears to make sure the clutch and transmission feel like they are working smooth.

Go for a drive – Stay near your neighborhood for the first few trips out. Particularly the first trip out. This first run is an excellent chance to discover any issues your classic car or truck may have acquired during storage. Pay close attention to the performance and any suspicious sounds. After you return from your first trip out you can then try to fine tune your vehicle for the summer season. Then, you should be good to go for a longer cruise and feel good that you have done the necessary steps to bring your classic car or truck out of storage.

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