What can we say about Maintenance in a single blog post which is relevant to most people's cars, bearing in mind the variety in age and types of all classic cars out there.
Well, to start with, we're not going to delve into the technical depths of Automotive Engineering. This blog is going to look at the top tips for maintenance of your classic over the winter period - whether it's on the road or stored away.
Wear and Tear. It might sound like the excuse that the sales person uses to get out of a warranty claim - "that's just fair wear and tear mate" - however there is no denying the slow, unnoticeable creep of the decay of the more perishable parts of your car.
Obvious culprits are moving parts, such as almost anything to do with drivetrain and wheels. Tyres are the
first thing that comes to mind, but of course you keep an eye on these all year round. Winter is the perfect time to check tread depth. Also, there are some great tyres specifically for classic cars out there now; sizes which don't exist in the modern world. The author has used Vintage Tyres in Beaulieu, and found them very knowledgable and helpful. The tyres look the part, and don't compromise too much of the modern day comfort and performance that we've become used to.
Staying in the area of suspension, bushes can over time become perished. These small bits of rubber reduce the amount of vibration and noise transmitted from the working areas of the car, such as the engine, gearbox and suspension, to the cabin. Over time, and with extremes in temperatures, these rubber bushes perish.
For the able DIYer, worn bushes are a cheap win and worthwhile job doing. Whilst generally not expensive parts themselves, it is quite often the labour cost which can soon add up; you are trying to disassemble a part of the car which may not have seen a spanner in decades - years of mud, grime and rust can make the suspension particularly difficult to work on.
Once removed, you then have the option of replacing the bushes like-for-like with rubber, or "upgrading" to often stiffer and more durable polyurethane items, such as those offered by Powerflex. It is worth noting though that stiffer isn't always better. Stop sniggering. As could be expected, stiffer bushes can reduce the dampening effect of traditional rubber ones. Further, stiffer bushes on suspension items, such as Wishbones, anti-roll bars and the like, have an effect on the car's handling. Depending on your car - Front Wheel Drive, Rear Wheel Drive, Rear engined, etc - you will want to do some research into what end of your car you should or should not stiffen up. But that's a whole other blog post...
Bodywork wise, if you're using your classic over the winter, and exposed bodywork or rust is going to be a target for salt on the roads. I love getting out and about during the winter, and hate letting the threat of salt stop me.
Therefore, if you don't have the time or resource to get any rust remedied perfectly or professionally, it's surprisingly easy (and therapeutic) to do yourself. It can be a daunting task, but really all you need is: sandpaper (various grades), metal filler if necessary, primer, aerosol paint match to your colour, a clean and dry space, and some time, confidence and patience.
Here is a step-by-step that I' did on my own car a few years ago. The work I did is still holding up now, and this is my daily driver, parked outside on the road in London.
1) Rub the affected area and surrounding area down, removing any rust with sandpaper, a file, wire brush or a grinder.
2) Fill any holes or pitting where rust was, and allow to dry. Then rub it down to the original contour, using finer sandpaper and wet and dry paper as you go. If needed, repeat filling and rubbing down process until perfect. Big holes you won't be able ti fill in one go.
3) Spray area evenly with metal primer, and allow to dry.
4) Spray area evenly with the colour matched paint, allow to dry, and repeat, until blended in with rest of paintwork.
It's not a perfect job, but it keeps the demons at bay, and means that you can get out there any enjoy your car without signing up to a 4-figure paint job.
Aside from that, Winter is a good opportunity to give your car the general TLC that it deserves - oil change, spark plugs, filters - all things which don't cost the world, and can be done by any semi-competent DIYer. Very often I find that it is when you carry out these small service items that you notice other bits which need attention - an oil leak here, or some corrosion there. Which makes doing these routine service jobs doubly worthwhile.
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