In the first installment of our "Winter is Coming" Blog Series, we will look at a checklist of things to do and to consider in order to make sure that you, and your classic car, are ready for the joys (and perils!) of winter motoring.
Contrary to the typical image of classic motoring (imagine blue summer skies, fields of gold, coast roads and sunsets, all with the top down and a picnic basket strapped to the boot) Winter can provide some of the best classic car motoring. You can get great empty roads, beautiful scenary with long shadows and changing colours, and the promise of a warm fire in a distant country pub makes the adventure all the better. However, it requires more planning, more work, and a dash of spontaneity. Plus a reliable weather forecast...
We can't help with the last bit, but let's have a look at the things that you can do in order to make sure you get to that country pub, rather than stranded on an obscure unmarked lane, with no mobile phone signal in the middle of nowhere...
1) Check your Fluids
This should be a matter of course throughout the year for any discerning classic car-ist. Even the most "hands-off" owner can (and should!) check the basic fluid levels of a car - Oil and Coolant - on a regular basis. However going into winter is all the more important.
Oil. Depending on your car, and on the oil you use for the rest of the year, you might want to change to a "winter oil" - a thinner grade of oil which copes better with cooler conditions. Nowadays, many modern oils offer a 'best of both worlds' situation, where they can cope with both summer and winter conditions. However it is worth checking which oil your car is currently on, and changing it accordingly. Trade Classics has a great guide and tells you all you need to know here:
Coolant. Going into winter, it is essential to ensure that your coolant (a mixture of water and antifreeze) actually does contain some antifreeze. It is easy during the spring and summer months to top up your coolant - having had the car in bits over the previous winter- and only add water in your rush to get the car on the road, and to say that you'll worry about the anti-freeze closer to winter. Or to have had an overheating episode in the hot summer months where the water boiled over, or your radiator blew a pipe and spewed the coolant over the road. You top it up from the nearest possible watersource and, happy to just make it home, forget about it. The fact that many classics sit in an unheated barn or garage, without use for weeks at a time, make it all the more important to make sure you've got antifreeze in the mix.
50/50 ratio of Anti Freeze to Water. It's that easy.
2) Visual Inspection
What are we looking for here? Well for starters, tyres would be good. It goes without saying that having plenty of tread is more important in the winter months.
Speaking of rubber, which tends to perish and crack with cold weather as well as with age, check under the bonnet for any signs of perishing on rubber pipes. These will not only include fuel and water hoses, but may also include vacuum hoses, which on older cars can operate anything from brake servos to wiper motors. A leaking hose can cause performance issues and reliability issues. Perished hoses can generally be easily fixed with replacement silicon hose or the genuine replacement rubber hose for that original finish.
Wiper blades will perish too with time, and are likely to be used more in the winter, so now is a good time to check and replace any worn blades.
Unlike modern cars which tend to tell you as soon as the slightest thing goes wrong, many classics leave it to the driver to diagnose or detect any faults. One of the most common faults (based on own eye witness experience) is blown light bulbs. Lights on classic cars aren't known for their ability to rival the Blackpool illuminations (overseas readers please Google this), but they should at least provide other motorists with the chance to see you, and to know whether you are braking, turning, etc. It's quick and easy to go around the car checking your lights. Get a helper to press the brake pedal to check the brake lights. Replacement bulbs are readily available at most auto factors, or specialist.
3) Trickle Charge
You've checked the weather, you've booked a table at the country pub, you've got your driving gloves on and... you get the sorry sound of an engine cranking slower than a teenager rolling over to get out of bed...
Batteries don't like cold weather. That, coupled with the fact that cold weather makes oil thicker and the engine more difficult to crank over means that you need plenty of battery juice to get going in the winter. A trickle charger can keep your battery in tip top condition. It will not only help keep you car on the button, but could also prolong the battery life.
On the continent, it's mandatory to carry certain items in your car at all times - such as a High Visibility jacket.
It is good practice to carry certain items all year round - a jack and a wheel brace, for example. However, the prudent winter motorist might like to pack a few more "Winter Essentials". Such items include a torch, a blanket (it might seem nice and warm in your car when the heater is running, but that can change oh so quickly!), a collapsable spade if there are potentially snowy conditions, a tow rope, and some jump leads. This might sound like an equipment list for a polar expedition, but the AA do a handy kit, all in a convenient carry bag, for £35 RRP.
5) Breakdown Coverage
It's high up on the list of things you should have, but hope to never use. Don't look at it as "yet another cost of classic car motoring". Instead, look at it this way: If you buy breakdown cover, and your car goes a year without breaking down, that's a win - your trusty classic has done you proud, and all of your love and care throughout the year has paid off. If however your classic car does break down you're covered. It's - at worst - a no lose situation. And that is the half-glass-full guide to buying classic car breakdown cover.
We could have covered so much more in this installment, which we will look to write about another time. We hope you have found it useful and informative, or at the very least mildly interesting.
If you have any questions about anything mentioned (or not mentioned) above, please do not hesititate to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org