Your Ultimate Guide to Classic Car Upkeep by Season

If you’re planning on keeping your classic car on the road year round, you’re going to need to know how to keep it in tip-top shape no matter what month is on the calendar. And of course, every season brings different weather no matter where you live (even if it’s just “very hot” to “even hotter”) so different times of year mean different kinds of upkeep.

We’ve assembled a few classic car maintenance tips for all four seasons of the year, from how to prepare your car for summer heat to the basics on getting ready for winter storage and everything in between. We’ll assume you’re getting your favorite ride ready starting in springtime, proceeding through summer and fall, then finally closing up shop for the winter.

Spring Classic Car Maintenance Tips:

When that first sunny, warm springtime day finally arrives, we all want to jump behind the wheel, fire up the engine and hit the road ASAP. Slow your roll, there, boss - now is the best time to start your year right with a bumper-to-bumper check-in with your car’s system. Springtime and the onset of winter are the two key times to check in on your car, so even though it’s tempting to rush it, resist the urge.

If you kept up on some basic maintenance over the winter, nothing here should be a surprise, but sometimes seeing things in the light of day has a way of revealing things you might have missed in the past. Check your tires, hoses, belts and other rubber parts that might have developed some dryness or cracks and make sure your tire pressure is where it should be.

Check all your fluids, and keep an eye out for any puddles beneath the car. An oil change isn’t a bad idea either if the car has been sitting for a few months or if you neglected to change it last winter. Don’t leave the driveway until you’ve let your car run for a good ten minutes or so, letting it warm up and clear out any dampness from under the hood.

And finally, if it’s your first drive of the year, now is a great time to start out right with a full detail: give it a wash, wax, and deep clean the interior to make sure that the winter dust is cleared out and you’re ready to hit the road in peak condition.

Collectible Car Summertime Upkeep:

A summer road trip is a great way to enjoy not just the destination but the journey in your classic or collectible vehicle. If you’re willing to put the miles on your ride, we’re behind you - cars are made to be enjoyed. Summer is a also good time to make sure your car is ready for the long haul. The to-do list is shorter than in the transitional months, but touches some bigger systems.

Since summer offers better weather and longer days, it’s a great time to do some deeper checks on your drivetrain. Get your car on a lift or some jackstands and check the brakes for wear, and the undercarriage for signs of rust or damage. If you haven’t flushed your coolant in a couple years (longer for extended life coolant, naturally), your car’s sweltering summer system will thank you for doing it now.

Extreme cold is tough on your battery, but extreme heat isn’t your friend either, so if you need a new battery installed or swapped out, now is a better time than when it’s below freezing. If you’re lucky enough to have a car with A/C included, summer may be a busy time at the mechanic when it comes to a recharge or a check, but it’ll be worth it on the next searing hot day.

And if you’re doing a lot of driving beneath the blazing sun, another coat of wax wouldn’t hurt.

red vintage beetle driving through falling leaves in fall
Classic Car Maintenance & Upkeep by Season
Autumn Advisories for your Vintage Ride:
Since spring and summer saw plenty of work (and probably more than a few car washes), autumn is a good time to do a little bit of winter prep but don’t go overboard - not everything about car ownership should be a chore. Check your defroster and your heater before cool turns into cold, and check your windshield wipers now to see if they need swapping before the first sleety drive back to the garage. If you’ve put some miles behind you in the last few months, check your air filters and replace if needed. And as the days get shorter, take a walk around your car at dusk to check all the lights, from the headlamps to the brake and reverse lights to the turn indicators.

Some Quick Tips on Winterizing your Classic Car

At the end of a driving season, the process of winterizing and storing a classic car can be an extensive one - it’s actually so extensive we’ve given each step its own separate page. Depending on your car’s age and the amount of time it’s spent on the road this year, your level of winter prep will vary, but here’s the broad strokes every car owner should consider when putting their ride away for the season.

If you haven’t changed the oil since spring (or at all this year) doing so before storage is a good time, so it doesn’t sit with a crankcase full of contaminants over the cooler months. Check all your fluids, especially the antifreeze. Fill your tires to the correct tire pressure; some people even recommend going a bit over the usual tire pressure to account for the normal decline in air pressure as the temperatures drop.

Unhook the battery (or attach a battery tender, aka a trickle charger) and place a couple baking soda boxes in the car’s trunk and the interior to keep dampness a bit more under control, and to stave off any musty smells later on. Fill up your fuel tank and add some stabilizer so the gas is ready to go at the first turn of the key in spring, and give it one more wash before throwing a car cover on it and calling it a good year.

And if you’re not putting your car away for winter … do all of the above anyway. It’s just a good habit to be in. See you next spring!

One thing you’ll need in any season, even in winter, is the right kind of auto insurance. Hagerty can craft the right kind of coverage for your special car, including required coverage for offsite storage or for vehicles that only see a few miles per year on the road.

If you want to get behind the wheel of a classic car without all this upkeep, consider becoming a Driveshare driver - you can rent your dream cars by the day, cruise for miles, and return it at the end of the day knowing that another dream ride is right around the corner.