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10 Tips for Taking a Car Out of Storage

Well the first nice day of the season arrived this past weekend. A balmy 53 degrees here in New England, sunshine and clear blue skies. There was no wind, but I swear I could hear my Morgan calling me from the storage lock-up some ten miles away!

Yes, brethren, Spring is here! It's that time when a young mans heart turns to thoughts of 'Tinkering' and 'Fettling' and DRIVING CLASSIC CARS!  But before you pull your car from winter storage, don your 'Biggles' helmet and strap on your lap-belt, take care of these ten things, to ensure miles of happy motoring!

    1. Drain and properly dispose of any gas in the tank, in the carburetor float bowls and also flush the fuel lines. I know this may seem like a terrible waste, but bad gas gives you nothing but trouble! (just as your mother!). If for some reason the car doesn't start, the more potential causes you have eliminated ahead of time, the faster you'll be able to find the problem and get on the road!

    2. Drain, flush and replace the coolant. I know you only put it in three months ago, but many of the newer 'coolants' have corrosion inhibitors to help protect your cooling system. These corrosion inhibitors have been eating away at the rust inside your cooling system for the past 90 days, so flushing things through could prevent a blockage and subsequent overheating the next time the mercury soars. Replace with fresh coolant. A 50/50 anti-freeze/water mix is fine.

    3. Change the engine oil. Oil that has been sitting in an engine for three months is likely to be contaminated with water and possibly acids that can cause premature bearing failure and rust inside the engine. While you are at it, now is a good time to change the oil filter too.

    4. Charge the battery, and keep it warm until you are ready to use it.

    5. If the car has been left for a very long period of time unattended (more than 90 days), remove the sparkplugs and squirt some form of 'upper-cylinder lubricant' into the cylinders. This will help free any piston rings that may have become stuck.

    6. Bleed the brakes and check the operation at the wheel cylinders. Make sure the Brake and Clutch master cylinders are full of brake fluid. Brake fluid can absorb water very quickly so make absolutely sure your brakes are working before tearing off down the street! If the car has sat a long time, it is recommended that you purge the system of old and possibly contaminated brake fluid. Don't forget to check the operation of the 'hand' or 'emergency' brake too!

    7. Install the warmed and fully charged battery in the car. With the spark plugs removed, turn the engine over with the key several times. The aim here is to let that oil you put into the cylinders lubricate the cylinder walls, so you don't scratch things up, and also to 'prime' the oil and fuel pumps ready for ignition. You want to continue cranking the engine until the oil pressure gauge needle moves up, or your oil pressure 'idiot' light goes out.

    8. Replace the spark plugs, ensuring to reattach the leads correctly. Now remove the air filter cover and liberally spray some 'engine starter fluid' like "Ez-Start" or similar, into the mouth of the carburetors.This will greatly increase the likely hood that your car will start first time and you want your engine to have the best possible chance for 'first time' ignition as you can give it. Leave the air filter cover off for now.

    9. Get behind the wheel, make sure the gears are not engaged, depress the clutch, give it a little bit of gas or choke and turn the ignition key! (Hopefully you are cheering at this point to the sound of a running car!)

    10. Don't rev the engine, rather let it 'idle' until it reaches operating temperature. Replace the air filter cover. Check there are no fluids leaking beneath the car, check the brakes work, then staying close to home, take the car on a short 30 minute run. This will loosen everything up evaporate all the moisture in the exhaust and in the engine. Once back home, check again that there are no fluids leaking beneath the car. Wash the entire car and apply a good wax. Don't forget to clean the inside. Do this early in the day to give it plenty of time to thoroughly dry before your run. You are ready for a season of Classic Driving!
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