6 Easy and Low-cost Maintenance Tricks to Keep Your Classic Car in Top Shape

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  • One of the best things for your classic car is regular driving
  • Routine maintenance on your classic car is essential
  • This maintenance can be done by the owner, is inexpensive (and even fun)

Just yesterday, a good friend of mine came across a 1942 Chevrolet owner’s manual. Being a classic car nut, I have to admit to reading all 59 pages in about a half hour. The simplicity of this period in time, especially at a mechanical level, is what makes these cars so fun and honestly, novel, in today’s high-tech world. This led me to thinking about servicing these old treasures and I wanted to share some simple things I do regularly to help maintain my classic car collection.

My latest book Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars explains in detail how one of the worst things you can do as a “care provider” of your classic car is to let them sit. Aside from taking your cars out for a regular spin (probably not too hard to convince you to do!), here are a few more tips which will help reduce your ownership costs.

  • Move the car: let’s start with the simple – but maybe not obvious to the new collector – things like not allowing your car to sit stationary in one spot over two weeks. The unsprung weight of your car is literally resting on a small portion of your tires (called the contact patch). Over time if the car is not moved, you will feel the “soft” spots, especially at higher speeds which can be irritating as well as noisy.
  • Idle weekly: the next thing to do is start your car and let it run for 15 minutes at least once a week, especially if you’re not able to drive it for a length of time. This does two things. First it allows the alternator or generator to charge the battery and keep it from losing its cold cranking abilities, particularly important in colder climates. Second, it also allows the thermostat to open and the car to reach its normal operating temperature. This keeps the coolant from stagnating and helps dissipate all the water vapor in the exhaust system so water won’t collect in the pipes or muffler, leading to premature rusting.
  • Shifting: next on the regular to-do list is shifting your car into all gears if it has an automatic transmission. This allows the transmission fluid to heat up and flow, which is important because the fluid can lose its viscous, anti-wear agent properties over time.
  • Use the power gadgets: if your car is equipped with power locks, windows and perhaps a sunroof, it’s good to exercise their actuators or motors. The guides have a lubricating property which, when not used, over time can lead to failure.
  • Check the emergency brake and latches: It’s also a good idea to pull the emergency brake up to make sure the cables are tight. Release the hood latch to make sure it isn’t caught on the stryker as sometimes will happen. Same with the trunk release.
  • Start the A/C: turning your A/C on, even in colder weather, helps keep your compressor well lubricated. Adjusting the temperature controls in your car will also exercise your blend door which can stick in one place over time when not used.

Simply put, anything on your car that can be open or closed, turned on or off, moved up or down (like your power seat) should absolutely be put to use to keep things in good operating condition.

And yes, I just gave you an excuse to grab a cold beverage and go out and play with your car collection for an hour or two every week. You’re welcome!

Finally, a tidbit for my trivia buffs; in the 1942 owners manual, Chevrolet didn’t call cigarette ashtrays, ashtrays. The term used is “Ash Receivers” – quite possibly only in the Special DeLuxe Town Sedan. Happy motoring!

My new book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, is available at Amazon! 10% of the net sales go to Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies, a wonderful organization we are thrilled to support. If you’ve read and loved the book, please consider leaving an honest review. Reviews are the #1 way other enthusiasts find the book.

Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) almost all of driving age.

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