With spring well underway, owners of collectible automobiles living in cold, snow-prone regions can now prepare their prized vehicles for a return to road worthiness and the summer’s car shows.
During the long winter months, collector vehicles are often put up on blocks in a climate-controlled storage unit or home garage. The winter checklist includes unhooking the battery, adding an ethanol-free fuel stabilizer to the gas tank to keep the fuel from going bad, and placing animal repellants throughout the vehicle compartment, engine and exhaust system to ward off critters.
Owners also know to look for leaking fluids that can damage the engine and other automotive parts while in storage and periodically start up the vehicle to maintain engine lubrication. If the car has a small battery, a UL- or- ULC-tested and certified trickle charger often is used to ensure the battery power doesn’t deplete over the duration of non-use.
Taking the car out of its winter slumber also requires scratching off items on a summer checklist. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before hitting the road:
- Check the battery terminals to see if there's any corrosion, cracks or other signs of wear on the cables, posts and clamps. If the corrosion is minor, gently clean off the residue and ensure the connections are snug. If your examination reveals cracks or significant wear, photograph the situation and email or text it to your service technician for advice.
- Look under the car for evidence of fluid leaks. If the floor is dry, that’s a good sign. Check the clarity of fluids lubricating the transmission, power steering and brakes to ensure fresh quality. Also verify that the air filters are in a clean condition.
- Every inch of the vehicle must be inspected for evidence of vermin, such as nests or chewed hoses, belts and cables. Inspect the tires for tread wear, cracks and bulges, examining both exterior and interior sidewalls. And make sure the tailpipe is free of debris.
- If you neglected to add a fuel stabilizer to your gas tank before storing the vehicle, fill the tank with high-octane gas and add an octane booster.
- If it looks like the vehicle needs to be serviced, check the oil dipstick to ensure there’s enough fluid to drive the car to your mechanic. Then, have the technician inspect the spark plugs, cylinders, PCV and fuel filters.
If you’ve checked off these items and all’s well, start up the vehicle and let it warm up for a while until you hear the motor idling smoothly. Tap the brake pedal to determine if it feels right. Go for a short drive and listen for unusual noises. The brakes may sound odd, possibly due to rust accumulating on the surface of the brake rotor or drum. The shock absorbers also may squeak from moisture collection. If the sounds continue or recur, have the brakes, pads and shocks inspected immediately.
One last checklist item is automobile insurance. Some owners of collectible vehicles adjust the coverage during winter months to reflect non-use. Before taking the road, make sure coverages are appropriate and up-to-date for full protection, put away the checklist until next year, and enjoy a season of summer driving and car shows!
Jerry Scaini is a Senior Risk Consultant with Chubb Personal Risk Services in Canada.