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

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You grumbled when Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, even though you realize a startled groundhog really can’t predict an extended winter. You waited up all night on Feb. 28, just to see if March would come in like a lion or a lamb. For classic car owners in northern climes, the long wait for spring can be excruciating. The good news is, it’s almost here. Take advantage of the time you have left by prepping your car before its first drive. You’ll both be better for it.

Start with your battery. If it’s been on a trickle charger all winter, disconnect it from the charger and reconnect the battery. If you simply removed the battery and stored it in a warmer spot for the winter, time to charge it up.

Check your fluids. Start with a walk-around and examine the floor beneath the car. Drips are common and expected; puddles are not. A fresh oil change is recommended since water or other fluids may have found their way in your crankcase. While you’re at it, replace the oil filter. Also check your other fluids — brakes, coolant, transmission, windshield washer. Do they look dirty? Are they at the recommended level? Smell your transmission fluid. If it smells burnt, change it. Generally speaking, if you can’t remember the last time you drained and flushed any particular fluid, it’s probably time to do it again. As for gasoline, you should be good to go if you put Stabil in the tank before storing your car. If not, you might consider adding a water-absorbing product or — if you’re really worried about it — just drain the tank.

Check your belts and hoses for cracks and decay. Since rubber breaks down over time, examine the condition of your tires, too. Make sure they’re inflated to the correct air pressure. And don’t forget the spare.

Water can not only damage your engine, but it can cause brake problems, as well. If your car has been sitting for a while, consider bleeding your brakes. They should feel firm when you push the pedal.

By this point, you should already know if any mice spent a comfortable winter in or around your engine. Also check inside the passenger compartment, especially under the seats and in the glove box. And one last thing — check the headlights, turn signals and brake lights, which may require the help of a friend.

It’s finally time to start your car. If you’re just testing the engine, make sure an exit door is open enough to allow exhaust to escape. If the weather allows for a drive, make that first one fairly short — after a warm-up, a half hour or so should put the car through its proper paces. And before you take drive No. 2, do the ol’ walk-around again. No major leaks? Tires look good? Let ’er rip, and enjoy a safe driving season.

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

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Photo by

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.

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