|Running Your Classic|
For the proud new owner of the classic car, the fun is just beginning! Once you have chosen your model, researched prices and problems, and found the perfect example, you will get it home to your garage and begin your life with it. What you need to know is even though you may have bought an on the road car rather than a restoration project, old cars do need regular and consistent maintenance to keep them reliable and ready for the road. Whether or not you buy your car with an MOT, do be aware that it will still need a thorough check. The MOT has a variety of checks which are all in place to keep the car running safely and within government guidelines, but this doesn’t mean the car has had a thorough work up. All the obvious things will of course need to be fine to pass; from lights to mirrors, emissions, brakes and safety components. The problem is that the car could be suffering from a variety of issues which will affect performance and cause long term damage, and these will not necessarily be picked up simply during an MOT test. If the car has had one careful owner for its whole lifetime, the chances are it may be quite low mileage, and while this is a good thing in modern motors, don’t forget that a car which has been left standing for periods of time will probably need extra help to make sure it stays reliable.
What you need to do first is identify and repair any obvious health issues the car may have. Check all the cars systems and replace any faulty parts, or take it to a good restoration and repair garage and ask them for a quote. If you know about classic restoration or any car maintenance, you will know what to look for, but if not, a good manufacturers or Haynes Manual is an essential purchase and will give you plenty of instruction on how to do many of the necessary jobs. Most old car manuals will show you that regular maintenance is almost a design feature, and will give you a step by step guide to routine checks and what to do. Most people remember well enough spending many a Sunday watching their irate fathers take care of their cars before they became classics; well now you will need to spend at least some time doing the same. Things like hydraulic brake and clutch systems have replaceable seals which cost virtually nothing to replace, so things like this are simple to carry out at home. Keep a good eye on the tyres, and check for overall condition as well as remaining tread, as the quality of the tyres can deteriorate as much from simple aging of the rubber as wear and tear. You can also replace any dodgy looking electrical bits that you think may need attention – bulbs, lenses and obvious connections are easy to check. As with any car, don’t forget the obvious, check and if necessary replace spark plugs, air filter, plug leads and distributor cap. Make sure there is plenty of water in the radiator, and a good tip is to make sure there is plenty of antifreeze for your washers, as older cars can be notorious for their poor heating systems and take a long time defrost and winter mornings. Change the oil and then check the oil level regularly and make sure it’s topped up, and keep your eyes open for the layer of white grunge on the dipstick – a sure sign of trouble as there is probably water in the oil. The engine itself will need thorough examination, and lubricate anything that looks like it may need it. Rusty bodywork is the obvious failing of the classic, and although not always crucial to the running of the car, it is wise to brush up any spots which will spread and eat away at the body. If you have joined an owners’ club, their website and other resources will give you an insight into any idiosyncrasies your specific might have. Remember that they will also point you to a good source of replacement parts.
No matter what you do, you won’t stop things from going wrong on a classic car due to sheer age, wear and tear, but this simple maintenance will help. Start a record of the work you do, so you can keep track of what has been done, and also to identify and root issues that may be shown up by other more routine issues. Once you have addressed every obvious problem, stick to these routine checks on a regular basis as well as your MOT, and keep your records up to date to do the best you can to avoid any long term problems.
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