The winter weather is receding for most of the country, which means the fun-to-drive cars are starting to wake from their winter hibernation and return to the road. Follow these tips to make sure your first drive is an enjoyable cruise that doesn’t end prematurely with a call for roadside assistance.
Check your tire pressure
Temperature swings during winter storage, plus tires that have been stationary for extended period of time, can result in lost pressure. A quality tire pressure gauge will ensure proper pressures are maintained. When checking tire pressure, take a moment to visually inspect the tires for general condition, which should show no cracking or separation of the tread or sidewall.
Confirm oil level
Many classic car have small leaks in the engine compartment, and it is worth taking a moment to check the oil level and be sure that a significant amount hasn’t leaked into that drip pan you put beneath the car. Also visually inspect the oil for containments.
Pump your brakes
Brake-system seals and gaskets can dry up from non-use. The hard-harder test is a good, quick check to be sure that your brakes will not lose pressure during that first drive. With the car turned off and parked, press on the brake pedal as if you were coming to a gentle stop, hold the pedal, then press harder on the pedal as if you were performing a panic stop. The pedal should remain firm and not slowly continue moving towards the floor.
If the pedal continues to move, or there is evidence of brake fluid anywhere under the car, it is time to make some repairs before attempting to drive.
Inspect fuel condition
Modern gas blends can sour in just a few weeks due to the ethanol content. A quick sniff of the open gas cap can tell you a lot about the condition of what’s in the tank. If it smells at all like paint thinner or varnish, that’s good indication that the fuel has separated or degraded significantly. The car might still run, but degraded fuel can cause expensive damage to your fuel system and engine. When in doubt, drain and replace.
After you’ve completed these checks and made any necessary adjustments, it’s time to go for a cruise. Enjoy the ride!