Caring for Your Classic Car: Unique Vehicle, Unique Maintenance

The Mechanic Doctor – Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

There are no special rules for your classic car. It doesn’t have magic powers. It won’t stay in the same pristine condition forever, no matter when it rolled off the production line. Your classic car, like a standard car, needs regular maintenance. So clean it, service it, and look after it. Otherwise, it will lose value and become an expensive liability. Here’s how to care for your unique vehicle.

#1. Keep It Clean

This tip is, perhaps, the most critical piece of classic car maintenance advice ever. Even if your vehicle is off the road and kept in a garage or fancy storage facility, it can still get dirty. Dust, dirt, grime, you name it — all of this nasty stuff can, over time, damage internal and external components and reduce the performance and aesthetic of the car.

Remember, classic vehicles are delicate, made up of parts from 40, 50, or 60 years ago. So even the smallest speckle of dust can degrade these vehicles. That’s why it’s critical to clean your car regularly — and use the correct products when doing it. Avoid products with harsh chemicals that might strip the car’s paintwork or cause irreversible damage. Sometimes a clean sponge and a bucket of lukewarm water are all you need. Pay particular attention to interior upholstery, such as leather, which can easily tear if you’re not gentle.

Sure, cleaning your car isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it could keep your vehicle from malfunctioning.

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#2. Check the Oil and Battery

You’ll need to top up the oil in your classic car regularly and change the filter once a year at the minimum. This task is trickier than it sounds, so always follow a repair tutorial. Check for leaks too. Leakage causes damage to the engine, and it’ll cost you thousands of dollars to replace (or rebuild) it.

Batteries on older cars also require maintenance. Check water and acid levels for corrosion at the terminals, and do this every few months. Storing your vintage vehicle in an enclosed space, especially during the winter months, should prevent batteries from deteriorating, but this isn’t a given. (More on this later.)

#3. Insure Your Classic Car

OK, so you spent thousands of dollars on that Porsche or Jaguar E-Type, so insurance sounds like an unnecessary expense. Why pay monthly premiums when you (probably) won’t be driving the car much, if at all? Classic car insurance is a must-have because it provides a financial safeguard in an on-road or off-road emergency or if you need to make expensive repairs to the vehicle.

This type of insurance works like regular auto insurance. You get liability for collisions, liability, and medical payments. However, classic car policies are often cheaper than standard ones, and taking out insurance for your vehicle isn’t as expensive as you think. It only provides a return on your investment.

Look for an insurance provider that:

  • Has sizeable discounts for collector club members.
  • Has discounts for high-value classic cars and collections.
  • Tailors coverage based on your lifestyle.
  • Provides flexible mileage if you want to use your classic car on the road.
  • Has experience with classic car makes and models.
  • Gives you excellent customer service, various payment options, and makes it easy to apply for insurance.

#4. Store Your Car in the Right Place

The majority of classic car problems stem from drivers not storing them properly. Vintage vehicles, especially ones from the early 20th century, are particularly delicate and prone to damage from the elements. Here are a few tips for classic car storage:

  • Classic cars don’t like the winter, and most problems occur during this time of the year. Condensation is often the culprit, so fill up your vehicle’s tank with fresh gas during the winter months to prevent damage to the fuel system.
  • Purchase a good dehumidifier, even if you’re storing your car in the garage. These devices remove some of the moisture in the air that causes mold and rust.
  • Climate-controlled storage gives you extra peace of mind, but it will set you back at least $50 a month, or maybe more for larger vehicles like Cadillacs.
  • Consider building a brick garage for extra protection against condensation. Bricks maintain a stable temperature, and like humidifiers, reduce moisture from the air.

Before You Go

Classic car maintenance isn’t rocket science. Regular cleaning, checking the oil and battery, taking out insurance, and proper storage will keep your vehicle looking (and performing) its best for many decades to come. None of these tips will break the bank, and you can keep your vehicle from losing value.

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