2 April 2014

Spring Start-up: Tips for getting your classic back on the road

One of the best things about spring is that it’s time to put that Mustang, MG or Marmon back on the road. All it really takes is a little common sense and a little bit of time.

For starters, if the car has been on a trickle charger all winter, disconnect the charger and reconnect the battery. Otherwise, it’s a good idea just to charge the battery for a few days.

Next, check the coolant, oil, transmission fluid or oil and brake fluids to make sure the levels are right where they should be. While you’re under the hood, it’s a perfect time to check the condition of belts and hoses. You may also want to make sure that you don’t have any unwanted residents, like mice.

This is also an excellent time to pull out the tire gauge and make sure that all five tires have correct air pressure readings, which you’ll find in your owner’s manual.

If you can roll the car outside before starting it, that’s always a good idea. If the car has an electric fuel pump, turn the key one notch and let it click away. Not only does that get fuel up to the carburetors, it gives you a chance to look for fuel leaks.

Now it’s time to start the car. As soon as it’s running, take a good look to make sure there are no fuel or coolant leaks. You may also want to have someone depress the brake pedal while you look inside the wheels and at the brake hoses and to make sure that the pedal feels nice and firm. Taking your car out for the first time and discovering you have no brakes is a good way to ruin any day.

14 Reader Comments

  • 1
    gary cox susanville ca April 2, 2014 at 18:41
    i like to squirt some oil down the cylinders after a real cold winter
  • 2
    Jim Larson Waterford Mi April 2, 2014 at 19:08
    Also, when restarting my 1963 Pontiac GP [w/points ignition] I dis-connect and ground the coil wire. Crank engine over several times,this will help build fuel/oil pressure with out starting. When the oil pressure is up, re-connect the coil wire. Starting is then a lot easier.
  • 3
    Rudy de la Cuesta Cumming (Atlanta) GA April 2, 2014 at 20:16
    Finally nice weather, checked out my 1967 Mustang and all is fine. Cruised down to the pizza shop and then ice cream store. Enjoyed the crowds that gathered around the car. Always check your classic after hibernating for winter, take good care of that classic and it will take good care of you.
  • 4
    Jay Reno April 2, 2014 at 23:26
    Jonathon, I have old British cars and am somewhat confused by your statement, "Now it's time to start the car. As soon as it's running,....." Are you implying that the car should actually start when it is time to actually start? Jay, MGs, Lotus, Austin Healey and Triumph
  • 5
    Fred Emig Virginia April 2, 2014 at 23:43
    Great insight Jonathan. Learned a few things. I would also suggest that before you start it up after the car hasn't run for a while you disconnect the coil wire and turn the engine over for a little while to permit the oil pump to pump oil to all those nooks and crannies that need lubricant.
  • 6
    Steve Merrill Hiram, Ohio April 3, 2014 at 14:34
    I have been using the Stabil Marine Fuel Stabilizer (the Marine formula has an ethanol treatment included) in my last gas for the last two years and the car has started right up both times. In the past, even with regular Stabil, it has been a problem. I put in the Marine Formula as I am doing my last fill-up before winter and run the tank to as close to dry as I dare. My first trip in the spring is to fill with fresh gas. I know this is only two years experience, but it is a significant improvement on previous years where the first start of the year would sometimes take quite a bit of work.
  • 7
    Butch Simms Spruce, Mi., 48762 April 3, 2014 at 15:03
    I have heard from various mechanics that U should change the engine oil before starting after a long storage. They say the gas and contaminates may be in your oil. True or False. I usually change my oil in the spring and fall with Mobil I 10w30 with Lucas oil stabilizer.
  • 8
    Bob Walton Chelmsford,MA April 3, 2014 at 20:49
    If you find mice in the spring-its too late.Prevention when your car is parked for the winter is the key. Traps of all kinds and preventive measures have to be used to have a happy start in the spring. Fresh oil and filter starts the season off.
  • 9
    Chuck Hammond Santa Rosa, Ca. April 4, 2014 at 14:30
    I am about to put my Dad's 1960 Desoto Adventurer, 4 door hard top back on the road! He purchased it new in 1960, it was 1 of only about 6,000 produced!
  • 10
    ron bolt Rochester, NT April 4, 2014 at 07:29
    I will take my Vette out of storage this month and wonder if it is necessary to change the oil. Mobil One is not cheap but I don't want to compromise the engine for the sake of an oil change. Usually I change it each year. Now I wonder if it is necessary with less than a 1000 miles.
  • 11
    James T Dearborn Hts.,MI April 4, 2014 at 11:48
    Let me Know if you do change it ,I'll put it in my car.
  • 12
    bob wilson Suttons Bay, Mi April 5, 2014 at 11:21
    Information: I store my 65 Mustang every winter with a full tank of gas and regular Stabil stabilizer in the tank. I also change the oil and filter prior to storing. I use Valvoline VR-1 10w30 weight. I have always based my oil changes on a max. of doing it every 6 months-not miles. Been doing this for 14 years with no problems. Start up after storage has not been a problem. A little gas poured into the carburetor prior to start up greatly helps. Do this when the car has been pushed outside or you smoke up your garage from the storage oil in the engine.
  • 13
    Jim Dawson Edmonds, Wa April 7, 2014 at 13:07
    Chuckling over Reno Jay's comments - must refer to Lucas electrics, such as those on my minis. We have problems with rodents in cars parked outside. I use tie straps to attach dryer sheets (those smelly sheets my wife puts in the clothes dryer) onto a variety of places in the engine compartment. Looks ugly but the rodents don't seem to like them.
  • 14
    Jim Craver Alsip, IL March 6, 2015 at 11:12
    Jim Larson, great idea - my machine shop recommended removing the plugs also, the engine will spin faster (creating quicker oil pressure), and put less stress on the connecting rods. A little more work/time, but you'll be amazed how much quicker you get pressure!

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