26th February 2024

Top tips for maintaining your classic vehicle

Classic vehicles are prized possessions for those that own them, often cherished rather than taken for granted, as is so often the case with a daily runabout. As such, keeping them in pristine condition is both important, and often a labour of love. 

Unlike more modern models, classics usually need more care and attention, which means that it can take time and perseverance to keep them in good condition. Whether you’re looking at resell value or just want to make sure your classic will last as long as possible, here are five top tops for maintaining your vehicle. 

Regular servicing

One of the big benefits of classic vehicles is the simplicity of them compared to modern machines. This means that much of the maintenance can be carried out by someone with a little mechanical nous – just recognise your limitations and be prepared to hand over those tasks beyond your expertise to a specialist. 

Keeping on top of the usual suspects is an essential part of classic vehicle ownership – effectively carrying out a minor service every few months. Often, nothing will need changing, but things could need tweaking or oiling to ensure everything is running smoothly. 

Regular maintenance through the year is the only way to minimise something going wrong on your prize and joy, with every 3,000 miles a good limit before you have a look through a checklist. 

If storing your classic over winter, a ‘major’ service is the best bet when bringing it out of storage. Checking the hoses, fluids, brakes, spark plugs… particular attention should be paid to a classic when it hasn’t been driven for a while. They simply can’t take the neglect that modern vehicles can. 

Tyre checks

Tyres are an essential part of maintenance for any vehicle, but especially so for classics. Making sure that tyre pressure and tread depth are up to scratch should be a regular check for driver, though in the case of classic vehicles, there are a more potential pitfalls. 

A classic is more likely to be parked and left standing for longer, giving greater chance for a drop in pressure, flat spots, and perishing in the rubber to become a problem. On top of that, tyres tend to be slimmer, meaning the contact patch with the road is smaller than more modern vehicles, placing a greater emphasis on having correctly aligned and inflated tyres, with good tread levels remaining, for added safety. 

Store it safely

Yes, make sure the location is secure, but this also means putting the vehicle correctly in storage, to make sure it’s low-cost and safe to get back on the road. 

Keep it out of the elements, and a cover isn’t going to cut it if kept outside for a long period of time. Ideally, you would need a garage, and one that is well ventilated to minimise the chance for corrosion. A dehumidifier or air-tent could help too, but these can be costly to buy and run. 

If your classic has a soft-top, make sure you store it with the roof up to reduce the chance of damp being caught in creases and causing mildew. Try and park the vehicle relatively level, and leave the handbrake off if leaving it for more than a week or so without being driven. Instead, use chocks to prevent the car from moving, saving the handbrake from getting stuck on. 

Pull the windscreen wipers away from the glass, so the rubber doesn’t stick to the screen, and disconnect the battery, hooking it up to a trickle charger to keep it in good condition for when you bring the vehicle out of storage. 

Cleanliness is key

One of the best ways to prevent corrosion, ensure materials are in good condition, and keep a track on problem areas, is to keep the vehicle clean. Especially as many older vehicles are more susceptible to dirt, salt, and grime than modern models. 

Wash by hand regularly – at least once a month when driven regularly – and never use automatic car washes as these are too rough for older paint and bodywork to deal with. 

Make sure you use high quality products inside and out, with a full wash and wax the best way to keep the bodywork and chassis free from corrosion and protect it from the elements. 

Inside, by maintaining materials such as leather, woodwork, and chrome, the car will not only look great, but those parts are likely to last longer too. Leather in particular needs care to stay supple, and resist the wear and tear that regular use can place upon it. 

Drive it

The best way to keep your classic in good condition is to use it. By starting and running the engine, driving off and using all the components – such as brakes, transmission, steering, suspension… the list goes on – everything is kept in good working order. 

Unless properly stored, it’s recommended that you not just start, but drive your classic at least once a month, and ideally twice or more. This keeps oil running around systems, rubber from perishing, and seals tight, minimising leaks.  

Let things get warm before setting off, and spend at least half an hour on the drive to ensure the benefits are maximised. 

But most importantly, you’ll have fun. 

Do you have any tips to add? Let us know in the comments below.

If only I had read this sensible advice 25 years ago, my MG zb Magnette would have been a whole lot easier to get back on the road. Despite everything, it has been tremendous fun, even thrilling, to hear the engine every time it roars into life.

apalonka, 02/03/2024