When l bought my first classic car, I had planned to do a nut and bolt rebuild, I'm glad I didn't. She managed to have a lived in look without being tatty, a rebuild just wasn't needed.\n\n\n\nSo how to preserve a classic car? Carry out a full inspection. Repair major faults like mechanical, corrosion or water leaks before under-coating and waxing the chassis. Classic car preservation, includes:\n\n\n\nInspectionPrioritized Major IssuesUnder-sealed ChassisBuffed Paintwork and WaxedTeflon Coated InteriorTune-upUse Smart ChargerUse Gas Stabilizer\n\n\n\nPreserving your classic is about finding the problems when they're small, fixing them and staying on top of the maintenance.\n\n\n\nThere's actually a lot to preserving your classic car, it's easy to get lost in the detail, so I find it helpful to follow a road-map.\n\n\n\nI have included a checklist of things you'll definitely need to do to help preserve your classic. In addition I've listed the most common classic car problems that you're likely to meet.\n\n\n\nPreserve A Classic Car\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe preservation process begins with a full detailed inspection. It's important to apprise your vehicle fully, there's not much point touching up the paintwork if there's a rusted out panel lurking beneath.\n\n\n\nThe inspection stage can't be rushed and you'll need a sharp eye. I approach it in a systematic way because there's a lot to cover and it's easy to miss something important.\n\n\n\nDon't be surprised if you don't get this finished on the same day you start. You'll find areas that'll require further investigation and sometimes that means removing components.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nLike my old VW, it had a damp carpet which I traced back to a leaking heater matrix. I had to strip out seats, carpets and half the dash just to confirm my suspicion.\n\n\n\nUsually I start with the most likely areas to have hidden problems, bodywork and chassis. I'm looking for major signs of metal corrosion.\n\n\n\nNext I'll move on to the mechanicals - engine, transmission, steering, suspension and brakes. Not forgetting the electrics, these type problems aren't always as obvious as a rusty panel.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAfter the inspection comes the prioritising and planning of the preservation work. This is where you'll need to evaluate the problems and direct your resources.\n\n\n\nIssues like body corrosion always take priority, because as long as rust is alive, it's eating away your investment.\n\n\n\nTools You'll Need For Inspection\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nYou'll be poking around some dirty and hard to get places, so you'll need a good inspection light, gloves, safety glasses and a mechanics creeper would make things real comfy.\n\n\n\nAn inspection light is the most important tool, the LED type are best. I use two, I have a head mounted light, like a minors helmet and a hand held that has a magnetic base.\n\n\n\nThe mechanics creeper can make the process less of a chore, if your comfortable you'll do a better job.\n\n\n\nA selection of scrapers, long screwdrivers, wire brush and basic tools such as garage jack and stands, will be needed. You may need a pry-bar if your going to check components like steering and suspension ball-joints. All these tools can be found here in the Recommended gear section.\n\n\n\nFix Major Faults First\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nNow armed with your checklist, you now know what your dealing with. This list allows you budget, plan and source spare parts ahead of time.\n\n\n\nIt makes good sense to fix the major problems first, since they'll cost the most money, time and will likely dictate when other work can get done.\n\n\n\nThe types of work that I consider priority is anything like body corrosion, water leaks, rodent damage or known mechanical faults. These types of problems, if not repaired usually cause further expense and bigger problems down the road.\n\n\n\nPreserving Your Bodywork\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nPreserving your paintwork is important, paints first function is to protect the metal, so if the paint is cracked or chipped, the metal is corroding. A simple fix is to buy a stone chip repair kit, they're easy to use and very effective. Check out the tools and products I use here on the Car cleaning tools page.\n\n\n\nDull paint is the easiest repair, and frankly I'm jealous. Sun damaged dull paint requires a compound buffing, this is a job you can easily take care of yourself. It's a process where you remove the top layer of dead paint, and using compounds and polish you bring it back to life. I've covered it here in this post - Restore faded red paint.\n\n\n\nIf your classic has rust but the metal itself is sound, then you can simply clean the surface rust using a wire brush or power tool and coat it with a rust converter. This stuff really works, I've been using it for years.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe rust converter stops the corrosion spreading and seals the metal, it can be primed and painted as normal. You'll find links to the products I use here on the Rust repair page.\n\n\n\nIf you've got a Fred Flintstones type deal going on then you'll need a bit more than a rust converter. You'll need to cut out any rotten metal, just covering it with Bondo won't work.\n\n\n\nRotten metal will spread to good metal if left untreated. I got into the habit of rust treating any holes I find as soon as I find them, this pumps the brakes on the infection. When I get around to it, I zip out the rot and stitch in fresh metal.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nTypical Bodywork Problems\n\n\n\nDull PaintworkStone ChippedDents and ScratchesRusty PatchesRust HolesMismatched ColorPanel MisalignmentSagging Doors\n\n\n\nPreserving Your Mechanicals\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nOil and coolant are the two fluids you engine relies on, if they fail, your engine will too, and don't forget to check your transmission fluid. Before every trip, I check these three levels, I always keep a top-up in the trunk.\n\n\n\nThe engine needs to be hot and running in "P" in order to check the correct transmission fluid level.\n\n\n\nAll motor oils are not the same, and using the wrong type can damage your engine. The engine has a oil pump and it's job is to get oil to all the moving mechanical parts, if your oils too thick it can be hard to move.\n\n\n\nI don't do a lot of mileage in my old Merc, but I change the oil & filter twice a year, I change it mid summer and again just before winterizing. Your local parts store will know the correct oil type, just ask.\n\n\n\nI change the plugs and gas & air filter before summer driving and check my belts. You can check out the workshop tools I use here on the Mechanics tools page.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nCoolant\/Antifreeze needs special attention too, old coolant won't have the ability to keep your classic engine cool when it's under stress in traffic on a hot summers day and also lacks the strength in antifreeze for winter protection.\n\n\n\nFresh coolant will protect you car up-to 225\u00b0F and freezing protection to about -35\u00b0F.\n\n\n\nThe other problem with old coolant, it gets acidic, and actually starts to eat metal, plastic and rubber components. The coolant can be tested for strength and acidity or you can just change for fresh every 3 years. Check out the tools I use here on the Coolant system tools page.\n\n\n\nTypical Mechanical Problems\n\n\n\nEngine\/Tranny Oil LeaksAcidic CoolantLazy ThermostatRad Leaks\/Cap LeaksRotten Coolant HosepipesNoisy Timing ChainsNoisy TappetsMisfiring CylindersHead Gasket FailureSmoky EngineOil Stem Valve Seals WornHesitant TrannyBroken Suspension SpringsWheel MisalignmentNoisy DifferentialsWorn Steering Components\n\n\n\nPreserving Your Braking System\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nBrakes deserve special attention they are the one area you need to get right. Classic car brakes are known for giving lots of problems and that's because classic cars spend most of their time sitting around.\n\n\n\nBrake Rotors and drums get rusty when sitting idle and this causes brakes to stick, often they'll need to be dismantled in order to release them.\n\n\n\nWhen parking your classic, try and do so when it's dry, obviously the rain causes more corrosion to form. Never park her up with the park brake on, this will often stick on, which is a real pain in ass.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nBrake lines and hoses will need your full attention, they need to be examined very carefully. Rot will start usually at body clips or at a bend in the brake line. Use a brake line inspection tool to test them, if they look rusty, just change them out. Same for the flexi brake hoses.\n\n\n\nYour brake fluid will need to be changed every four years. Brake fluid attracts moisture and that can cause corrosion inside the brake system.\n\n\n\nOld brake fluid can be cause of a spongy brake pedal. If your fluid is low it could be a leak or your pads may be worn down. Your fluid type will be marked on the cap of your brake reservoir and fluid types shouldn't be mixed but if you're really stuck, it's Okay. Check out the brake tools I use here on the Brake repair tools page.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nYou can mix DOT 3, DOT 4 and DOT 5.1. BUT DO NOT MIX DOT 5 WITH ANY OF THEM.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nTypical Brake Problems\n\n\n\nWorn Rotors\/DrumsWorn Pads\/ShoesNoisy BrakesSticking BrakesSpongy Brake PedalHard Brake PedalRotten Brake LinesOld Brake FluidFaulty Park BrakeDragging BrakeLeaking Brake CylindersFrozen Brake Bleed Nipple\n\n\n\nPreserving Your Chassis\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWith all the bodywork and known mechanicals out of the way, now it's time to under-seal the chassis and underpinnings. The prep work is dirty and labour intensive, but the results are worth it.\n\n\n\nTo begin you'll need to get the under side power-washed, you can tackle this yourself if you can safely get the car off the ground enough to manoeuvre the wash lance.\n\n\n\nAllow it to dry fully, this is important, otherwise, your locking in dampness. Now you get busy with a power tool and wire brush head, this bit can take days. I like to clean and treat any surface rust with the rust converter.\n\n\n\nThe under-body coating is specially formulated to flex with the car which prevents cracking. It's a thick textured one coat that's easy to apply. I use an air operated Schultz gun and tubing to get right into the chassis rails, I hit the underpinnings too with a nice fresh black coat.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAll cars will have chassis drain holes, use them to direct your hose in and around the rail, go ahead if you need to drill a hole in the chassis, remembering to treat it of course.\n\n\n\nAfter a few days drying, I come at it again with waxyol, this is an oil based metal preservative that runs into all the places the Schultz didn't. This stuff is sticky and stays sticky and that's why I only use it when I'm done with my major mechanicals.\n\n\n\nStuff You'll Need\n\n\n\nJackAxle Stands 4Power WasherDust MaskSafety GlassesPower ToolWire Brush HeadsSandpaperRust ConverterCompressed AirSchultz GunUnder-body SealerWaxyol\n\n\n\nPreservation Checklist\n\n\n\nIt's a long checklist, but not everything on it will apply to your classic. You can check out the Recommended gear pages for the tools and products I use to help restore, repair and maintain my classic cars.\n\n\n\nBody Exterior\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nRust - Treat any corrosion with rust converterChassis - Under-body seal & waxPaintwork - Remove bugs, tree sap and bird droppings immediatelyPaintwork - Wash, Chamois dry & waxChrome - Use Chrome polish & check for pittingPaintwork - Touch-up Stone chipsWheels - Clean brake dust and re-coat clear coatDoors - Treat door hinges with white Lithium greaseWindow\/Door Seals - Treat with Silicone spray lubeDrains - Clear Windscreen\/sunroof\/a\/c drain channels\n\n\n\nInterior\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nSeats - Dry cleanCarpets - Check for dampnessCarpets - Dry cleanSeats & Carpets - Spray Teflon coatingHeadlining - Dry cleanAir Vents - Clean & deodorizeSeat Belts - Clean & dryWindow Rails - Treat with Silicone spray lube\n\n\n\nEngine\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nEngine oil - Change oil & filterCoolant - Change coolant and thermostatFilters - Replace air & fuelPlugs - Gap\/ReplacePlug Wires & Distributor - Spray Wd40Transmission\/Drive-lineOil - Change oil & filterLeaks - Check regularlyU-Joint - GreaseDiff - Change oilTransfer Case - Change oilWheel Hubs - Paint Copper grease\n\n\n\nSteering & Suspension\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nPower Steering - Check fluid levelNoises - Listen for knocks, squeaks rattles and humsShocks - Check for leaksAlignment - Check camber, caster and toe\n\n\n\nBrakes\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nBrake Lines - Check for corrosionBrake Fluid - Check level & change every 4 yearsBrake Pads, Rotors & Shoes - Check\/ReplaceEmergency Brake - Adjust\n\n\n\nElectrics\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nBattery - Use a Smart battery chargerBattery Terminals - Clean and use dielectric greaseBattery - Check electrolyte levelFuses - Spray with contact cleanerBulbs - Replace with new\n\n\n\nRelated Questions\n\n\n\nHow often should you start a classic car? A classic car should be driven once a week, take it for a 30 minute drive. Just starting a classic car is OK for charging the battery but has a negative effect on the oil and exhaust system, short trips cause condensation which is the enemy.\n\n\n\nHow do you store a classic car? A classic car should be stored in a garage, preferable heated. If you don't have a garage, then a breathable car cover is the next best thing, avoid plastic as it traps condensation. Keep your gas tank full and use a gas stabilizer and battery maintainer.