Bringing a Classic Car Out of Storage

Published April 30, 2015 by Dave Link

If you own a high performance vehicle or classic car, you know the importance of properly winterizing that vehicle for cold season storage. While most owners will take extra care when tucking their four-wheeled beauty in for the winter, there are equally important steps that should be taken when putting that same beauty back on the road. Each car or motorcycle is bit different – especially if it’s custom – but the systems and checks below should be reviewed before putting any vehicle back on the road after its long winter’s nap.

Read the Floor
Before popping the hood, or putting the key in the ignition, take a look under your car or truck. Fluids will naturally settle to the lowest point during times of inactivity – especially if you haven’t had the chance to stop by and run your vehicle a little during the off season. Check for signs of fluid leakage or puddles, and inspect any visible fluid lines for cracks and breakage.

Signs of Snacking
While you’re looking around under the vehicle, take a look at any visible wiring. Critters like mice will work their way indoors during cold weather, and those same critters love to nibble on wire insulation. If the underside of the vehicle looks clean, do a surface inspection of any wiring in the cabin as well. If you find signs of chewed wiring, be cautious when attempting to start up your ride.

Pump the Brakes
If your vehicle has been sitting in storage for more than 12 months, you’d better check the brakes. Make sure the fluid reservoir is at the appropriate level, and do your best to test the brakes on each wheel independently. You likely have friends who love cruising in a classic car, so recruit them to help you prep it for the road. While the car is securely on a lift, one of you should pump the brake while the other spins each wheel. If things appear sluggish, or are unresponsive, bring in a pro to review your braking system from stem to stern.

Oil & Lube
Check the oil level. If you car or truck has been in storage for less than two years you should be good to start the engine and run it long enough to stretch things out, but plan on changing the oil and filter after the first 30-60 minutes of continuous operation. If it’s been longer than two years, change the oil and filter before you even try to turn over the engine.

Look and Listen
If your inspection goes smoothly, start things up and let it idle for a few minutes without revving or gunning. Take that time to walk around the car while it’s running and make another inspection. Pop the hood and examine things. Look under the vehicle one last time. Sometime problems won’t become evident until the entire system is up and going.

If this is the first time you’ve stored a vehicle for a prolonged period of time you should definitely bring along a pro. This is doubly true if you’ve come into possession of the vehicle through inheritance, or some other non-traditional way, and don’t have any real idea as to what it should look like in top running condition. For more tips on keeping your classic or custom vehicle in top running condition, see our posts about knowing your car’s conditionsix things to consider when buying a classic from a dealership, and how classic car insurance works.