After the eternally long cold winter that Canada has experienced, classic car owners are itching for spring and eager to get their hobby cars out of storage and back on the road.
As the snow gradually melts and milder temperatures filter in, the overwhelming urge to ride again builds as the driving season draws near.
For cars that have been stored for an extended period, certain precautions need to be taken before they are fired up for the first time after a long winter hibernation.
I own a 1995 Nissan 300ZX which I have stored in my garage for many winters. The following is my checklist for preparing to bring my "Fairlady" out of storage and ready for the driving season. These tips apply to all stored vehicles.
Top 5 checklist for bringing your car out of winter storage
1. Inspect Battery
The most important item to check is the condition of the car's battery. I hope that you had the battery on a maintainer/tender during the storage period? Look at your maintainer to see that the battery is fully charged. If not, put it on a charger, although the integrity and life of the battery will likely be compromised if the charge has completely depleted. Bottom line, do not attempt to start a stored vehicle with a half drained battery. And don't boost it. There's nothing worse that trying to crank a cold engine for the first time in months with a weak battery.
When connecting the battery, check the cables and terminals for corrosion/oxidization and clean if necessary. Some modern cars require the battery to remain connected at all times to maintain the on-board computer memory. In this case, a battery maintainer still needs to be used during storage.
2. Test Engine oil
Pull the dipstick to see if there is adequate oil in the engine and add if needed. This oil is now old and should be changed at your earliest opportunity, even if you changed it just before storage. Don't skip this step. Fresh oil is cheap insurance for the health of your engine.
3. Examine Other fluids
Check the fluid levels for coolant, power steering, brakes and fuel. Did you put fuel stabilizer in the tank before storage? If not, add octane booster and get high-octane gas in the tank. Old gas will make the engine run rough so adding fuel stabilizer is an important precaution prior to storage.
4. Perform a Visual check
Look in the engine bay and under the car for signs of fluid leaks. Observe the electrical wires and hoses, looking for cracks and deterioration. Take a screw driver/wrench to the various clamps that make up the fuel system to ensure that they are tight. Look for signs of unwanted visitors like mice who are notorious for chewing electrical wires. Basically, you want to do a thorough visual check on the key mechanical components before you start the car for the first time and embark on that initial drive of the season.
5. Check Tires
Check tire pressure and correct as necessary to bring to the suggested PSI rating indicated on the sidewall. Look for cracks and bulges in the rubber.
Look at the brakes to ensure there is adequate pad and rotor material. Look at the suspension components and pull on the control arms and tie-rods to check for excessive play. Check the exhaust and remember to take the steel wool out of the tail pipe or whatever you use to prevent rodents from entering.
Now that you've done your due-diligence to ensure that your stored vehicle is good to go, put the key in the ignition and fire it up. Expect the engine to run rough at first as it will take several minutes for the fuel to fully circulate to enable a smooth idle. Let the engine idle up to operating temperature before you hit the road. Take it easy in the beginning. Remember, this car hasn't been driven for months so don't push it hard on the first run.
The above check list may seem excessive but it is important to ensure that your hobby car is ready for the season ahead. You don't want to be disappointed with mechanical problems resulting from overlooking an important detail in preparing to bring a vehicle out of prolonged storage. Spring is just a few weeks away and with lots of heavy rain to wash the salt and crud off the roads, classic cars will be back on the scene. Just watch out for all the potholes - you're hobby car will be less forgiving than the daily driver.