What is the best way to take care of your classic car?
Let’s start from the ground and work our way up to answer this question. Get good tires. The average classic car weighs somewhere near 3,400 pounds. When you drive that car 60 MPH it creates a huge force that will do a lot of damage to itself and whatever it runs into if we do not control it.
How do you control that power? You step on the break pedal. That tells the break pads to grip the wheels. The wheels slow their rotation, but the car does not actually slow down until the tires resist the surface of the road. If you do not have good tires they can not grip the road very well and your lovely classic car smashes into the concrete wall. When you consider that a good set of tires does not cost all that much more than an average set of tires it becomes a no-brainer. Get good tires.
Take it a step further then. Once you have good tires they will do their job until they wear out. There are two very important things you can do to keep the tires in top condition for a long, long time:
First, you need to rotate them on a regular basis so they all wear out the same. Just one tire has to fail before we hit that concrete wall. We definitely do not want one tire wearing out more quickly than its mates. Rotating the tires on a regular basis is the best way to assure equal wear over the life of the tires.
Secondly, maintain proper tire pressure. There is newer technology that will alert the driver when a tire is under-inflated. Of course that tech only works if it is installed on the car, and we are driving classic cars that were mostly built long before that technology was invented. Get a good tire gauge. Keep it in your glove box. Every time you put gas in the car check the pressure on all four tires. Once in a while it is also a good idea to check the pressure on the spare.
Another thing you should do to best care for your classic car has to do with engine oil. There are simply not enough words available to explain how important it is to have clean, good quality oil in your crankcase. You have heard it from the very first day of your driver’s education class, and every auto mechanic in the country will preach it any time you let him.
It is not enough to simply change the oil. You must change it on time, every time. If the original specs on your classic tell you to change the oil every 3,000 miles, then change it when you get to 3,000. It is not O.K. to wait until it gets to get to 3,400 just this one time! Also make absolutely sure you are using an oil that the manufacturer suggested.
Keep in mind your location. If you live in an area with a big difference between summer and winter then you are going to need something a lot less viscus during the winter months but something with more protection when it is hot out. On the other hand if your climate is mild then one grade of oil should be good year round.
The important thing about oil is: Change it often, use the right oil when you change it, and change the oil filter every time you change your oil.
So while we are talking about oil changes lets bring up the next important thing you can do to care for your classic car. Get a really good mechanic. If you do it yourself, that is fine and more power to you, just try to keep current on technology. Most of us can do a few easy tasks under the hood but we rely on a professional mechanic to do the big jobs. Quite often these big jobs can make a real difference on how long a car will last.
A good mechanic who has been well trained and is well practiced is quite likely to get it right on the first try. Unfortunately it takes time to build a good relationship with a good mechanic. One has to get started, and then builds trust as time passes and experience with the mechanic happens. Once you find the good mechanic you will see what a relief it is to know that your classic is in good hands and will be treated right. A good mechanic will get to know your car over time and will have an appreciation of the good care you have taken of it.
A car, even a classic car, is nothing but a sum of its parts, and no matter how careful we or our good mechanic is, eventually, one of those parts is going to wear out. Don’t panic. It will be all right. All we have to do is replace the worn out part.
Of course, that means we have to identify the worn out part and that takes some skill and sometimes experience, but once the part has been identified we can move onto the next step. The next step is finding a replacement part. This can go really easy, or it can be really difficult.
It is possible that the worn out part is still manufactured and can be purchased for just a few dollars at most auto parts stores. Or, which is often the case with classic cars, the part is no longer manufactured so one will have to be procured in another manner. Perhaps one will have to search the internet, perhaps one will have to haunt the rusting automobile grave yards. Just keep in mind that it is very important to replace the part with exactly the right part. Using a part that is quite similar and supposed to do the same thing is not a good idea when caring for a classic. We want the exactly correct part even if that means we have to search a bit longer or pay a few dollars more.
So you eventually find the correct replacement part and install it yourself or have your trusted mechanic do the job for you and your classic is as good as new. But that is what you do when the part wears out and is no longer usable. We would also recommend that you replace those worn out parts when they first start wearing out rather than when they completely fail leaving you stranded on a highway miles from home.
To do that, of course, you will have to inspect your classic often, and know what you are looking for. Any time a part starts wearing out it will perform less that the original spec, and that could cause expensive collateral damage. It is well worth the time, effort, and cost to stay ahead of the game on replacing those worn or wearing parts.
So finally, here is something you could and should do every single time you fire your classic up, and it is absolutely free. It really is one of the best things you can do for your classic car. Every time you start the car let the engine warm up before you stress it. Like any mechanical engine, the one in your classic car will run better once it is warmed up. During the warm-up period, the engine should become fully lubricated which allows it to protect itself. Also during the warm-up period the internal engine will reach temperatures that will permit it to burn the fuel more efficiently causing it to do less damage to the car itself and cost the driver less in fuel costs.
But what is the proper way to warm up a car?
Once the engine starts it is really tempting to simply rev the engine until the temperature gauge starts moving but this is perhaps the worst thing you could possibly do to your classic. The engine is not fully lubricated until the engine is warmed up so revving it will only cause the moving metal parts to grind each other down.
Another leading strategy has been to simply let it idle for a while. This is still not right for the car. For economy purposes your idle should be set going slowly enough to barely keep the engine running. It is permissible to do this but when the engine is running this slow it is not able to blow all of the burned carbons out the exhaust. Fortunately the engine should never be in idle long enough for that carbon to build up. Being in idle for a few seconds won’t hurt the engine at all, but leaving it in idle for several minutes while it is warming up, and doing so every time you start the car, can really add up over time.
The proper way to warm up any car engine is to start the engine and then drive it SLOWLY for the first several blocks. I know, it is a bit boring, but it is the right way to warm up the engine and that makes it the best way to care for your classic car.