Maintaining a Classic Car Collection: 7 Must-Have Skills
Your classic car collection isn’t going to protect itself. You can’t just put the vehicles in a garage or storage area and hope they stay in good condition. Maintaining something so valuable is a constant responsibility that requires strict attention to detail and at least a basic understanding of automotive mechanics.
If you’re struggling to keep up, developing these seven must-have skills will help you preserve your classic car collection with much greater success.
1. Detail Each Car Regularly
The most important task in maintaining your car collection is regular detailing. You don’t want to keep your cars in storage and let them collect dust. You must wash them once every few months to preserve their color and shine. Here are some other tasks you should include in your detailing routine:
- Add a protective wax finish
- Polish the wheels
- Lubricate the door hinges
- Vacuum the interior
- Clean the windows from the inside
- Check the tire pressure and inflate them if necessary
Ensure you use the right cleaning materials when detailing. Microfiber towels and multisurface cleaning products are essential. Check the bottle to make sure the contents are safe before using them. You can’t be too careful with precious classic cars.
2. Know How to Change All Fluids
Fluid changes can be tricky with older models, which means they’re more expensive if you take the car to a mechanic. You’ll save money and become a more skilled technician by learning how to change the fluids yourself. Start by covering these essentials:
- Oil and oil filter: Oil changes are straightforward, but some classic cars might require special grades. Check the user’s manual to ensure you’re using the right kind and don’t damage the engine.
- Transmission fluid: You don’t have to replace the transmission fluid often if your classic cars are in storage for most of the year, but you should still inspect it. Manual transmissions wear out faster than automatics.
- Engine coolant: Engine coolants only need to be changed after roughly 30,000 miles, but in the meantime, you should still ensure the fluids have consistent freezing and boiling points.
- Power steering fluid: Steering wheels on old classic cars are notoriously fragile, so you need to replace the power steering fluid every few years.
- Brake fluid: Older vehicles don’t have strong brakes compared to today’s models. You must keep them lubricated so your classic cars are safe to drive.
You might not have to change or refill these fluids often, but you should still know the proper procedures. Staying on top of these small tasks will keep your collection in solid driving condition year-round.
3. Become a Tire Maintenance Expert
If there’s one part of the vehicle you need to become an expert with, it’s the tires. Flat tires are among the most common car troubles and are the most likely to happen while driving. Classic cars’ tires will also lose air while in storage, so you need to know how to inflate or replace them.
A big part of tire maintenance is recognizing the warning signs before a flat occurs. Keep a close eye out for these issues:
- Uneven tread wear
- Bulges, cracks and misalignments
- Small punctures from nails, glass and other road debris
Damaged tires hurt the car’s gas mileage and can lead to more serious mechanical issues, so you need to nip this problem in the bud before that happens. Keep your tires inflated to their required PSIs and store a tire-changing kit in the trunk when driving.
4. Fight Against Rust
Rust will become a greater threat to your car collection as the years go on. Washing and detailing will help prevent it, but it can still develop in hard-to-reach places like the undercarriage. Older vehicles are also more susceptible to rust than new models because the protective chemicals in the paint fade over time.
You can fight against rust by removing it with durable wire brushes or grinders. These tools will remove the spots but don’t offer a permanent solution. You need a rust converter to get rid of it for good. This cleaning product turns rust into a black layer that you can paint over to make the car look good as new.
Cars also become more vulnerable to rust in harsh weather conditions, so you should avoid driving in the rain if possible. Don’t take any chances.
5. Find a Safe Storage Location
You must look for safe locations when putting your classic cars away for long-term storage. Ideally, they should all be in the same place. Search your area for indoor vehicle storage facilities with these qualities:
- Paved, clean floors
- Dark, dry, room-temperature environment
- Solitary storage units or parking spaces
- Cameras, motion detectors and other security devices
Paved surfaces are easier on tires than grass or gravel. Storing the vehicles indoors keeps them out of the elements and avoids weather-related damage during the winter. Plus, your classic cars will get some much-needed privacy. No one but you and the facility owner will know the location of your collection.
6. Take Extra Security Measures
Finding the right storage space is only the first half of the battle. Ensure your collection’s long-term safety by taking extra security measures:
- Close the air vents to prevent mold
- Block off the exhaust pipe with foil or steel wool to keep out rodents
- Put a box of baking soda inside to absorb bad smells
- Elevate the cars on jack stands to lighten the load on the tires and suspension
- Hide the cars with cloth coverings — not plastic, which traps condensation and can lead to rust
- Add steering wheel locks, tire clamps and any other security devices that you feel are necessary
You can easily identify an experienced and responsible car owner if they prioritize vehicle security. Car thefts have increased in recent years and classic models are attractive targets. Go the extra mile to keep your collection safe.
7. Learn to Talk Like a Technician
You can’t maintain your classic car collection by yourself. You should keep at least one experienced technician in the loop. Make your relationship more productive by learning to speak their language. Discuss preventive maintenance strategies and absorb as much knowledge as you can.
You should also take the time to review inspection forms and clarify every detail. Thorough and constant communication is essential when keeping track of multiple vehicles.
Develop Your Maintenance Skills
Car maintenance involves a lot more than simple mechanical repairs. It also includes proper vehicle storage, security and communication with trusted professionals. Your classic car collection is your most prized possession, so you must take every opportunity to develop your maintenance skills and become a better owner.