How to Bring Your Classic Car Out of Storage

Four Methods:Doing a Walkaround and CleaningRefreshing The Battery and FluidsStarting Your CarTroubleshooting a Non-Starter

Is that an old Dart under that sheet in the barn? A Camaro with a tarp on it? Perhaps a Hudson Hornet hiding in that rented storage bin, waiting for you to come give it another day in the sun, a trip to a car show, or perhaps just a pleasure drive. Don't hold back, all it takes is a little time and pampering to feel what it was like to have some real power, class, and style at your command.

Method 1
Doing a Walkaround and Cleaning

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    Open all the different closures of your car to begin cleaning. Make sure to gain access to every enclosed area of your car, as this is where dirt and dust are likely to have accumulated.
    • Pop the hood.
    • Pop the glove box.
    • Get the trunk open.
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    Make some noise to scare away any nesting animals. Creating noise will scare away most animals that have taken residence in your car while it was in storage.
    • Give them a few minutes to move out on their own.
    • Noise might not scare them off, at least not on the first try.
    • Sometimes mice, snakes, squirrels, birds, bats, hornets, and wasps will double down or hide.
    • Use your own judgment regarding how much risk you are willing to sustain, but keep in mind that biting animals can get into even the most secure storage facilities.
    • Try not to surprise any animals, because that can cause them to lash out and bite you.
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    Perform a walk around to gauge the outside condition of your car. Take a walk around your car, and get a sense for its condition.
    • If you have stored your car outside, look for weeds or other plants that may have grown onto the car.
    • Clear away any plant matter with a weed-whacker and shears.
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    Check and prep your tires. If your car has been sitting on its tires while in storage, check your tires for signs of wear such as bulging, sagging, or deflation.
    • If your machine has been up on blocks or jackstands, use your pressure gauge to determine the pressure.
    • If your tires have lost air, use your compressor to top off any low tires, while the car is still supported on blocks.
    • Remember to check the tires again later, before you start rolling.
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    Look for spills and puddles under the car to find leaks. While you are under the car checking or adding air to your tires, look for spills, puddles, wet spots, or just blotches of darkness that might indicate a leak.
    • If you find something, crawl under and see if you can determine what is leaking and from where.
    • The only things you'll really have to worry about at this stage are brake fluid and coolant.
    • A coolant leak can kill your car's engine, and a brake fluid leak can kill the driver.
    • If you find either of those two things leaking, or evidence that they have leaked, you should get them repaired before you even start your car.
    • Everything else can safely wait until you are out of storage and can make a trip to your garage, the local auto parts place, or your mechanic.
    • If your classic is a little low on oil or transmission fluid, you can top it off until the source of the leak is found and repairs are made.
    • A gas tank leak might not leave a puddle, but could at least leave you a stain to show that it was there.
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    Look around under the hood for any debris. Before you put your hands or face near the engine area, just take a look around from a distance.
    • If there are animals nesting in the engine area, they might leave pieces of eaten filter, nutshells, and other debris scattered around.
    • Look for cobwebs and scat, and listen for the buzzing of bumblebees.
    • Give the engine a smell, and see if you smell the turpentine odor of bad gas.
    • Use a broom or shop vac to clear out any leavings and debris.
    • Avoid breathing in any rotting material or animal scat, as these materials can contain harmful molds and diseases.
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    Check out the various replaceable engine components to determine their condition. Now is a good time to see if any replaceable parts have worn or are decaying.
    • Expose the air filter to check its condition, clean it out, and replace it if necessary.
    • Reach into the engine bay and test the hoses and belts by tugging them.
    • Touch the wires to see if they disintegrate at your touch.
    • Look out for cracked, worn, aged, or dry rubber.
    • If anything does fall apart, make note of it so you can visit the parts store for a replacement.
    • If you have exposed the carburetor, leave it exposed for now.
    • If your filter is housed in an intake box, seal it back up once you know there is a new filter in place or that the old one is in acceptable condition.

Method 2
Refreshing The Battery and Fluids

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    Check your battery's condition to see if you have a charge. If you brought your battery home and kept it on a trickle charger, all you have to do is put it back in and reconnect the terminals.
    • If not, depending on how long it's been, your battery might be very dead, or even unusable.
    • If the battery was left connected to the car, look for signs of corrosion.
    • Clean up any corrosion as needed, paying attention to the terminals and cables as well.
    • Pull the battery all the way out and make sure it did not leak acid and disintegrate the metal underneath it.
    • Once your battery and battery housing have been revitalized or replaced, go ahead and connect your battery charger.
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    Check your car's oil level to determine if it needs more. While you are still under the hood, check the oil, keeping in mind that a cold read (before the car's engine has heated the oil) will show the oil level as being a little low.
    • For now, just make sure there is some oil left in the engine.
    • Unless you found a large puddle of oil underneath, there should be some left.
    • Also check for any milky residue on the dipstick, which can indicate the presence of water in the engine.
    • If you find this type of residue, clean the dipstick and check again.
    • Pull the oil fill cap and check for this milky film.
      • If your oil is caramel or black you are probably fine, even if a little contamination shows up at first.
      • If the oil itself is milky, pasty, frothy, or full of bubbles, you should consider an oil change as soon as possible, and probably even a full oil flush at the first possible opportunity.
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    Repeat the above process with your transmission fluid. Go through the same fluid checking process with your automatic transmission fluid, if your car has an automatic transmission.
    • Transmission fluid is sometimes called 'cherry juice', and that's what it should look like.
    • If you see any foaming, milkiness, or dark or blackish color, get a transmission flush at your earliest opportunity.
    • Other than looking for water contamination, just check to make sure there is some fluid present before starting your car.
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    Make sure you have the proper level of coolant. When checking for coolant, you want to see a full level, but most importantly you want to see a clean green (or orange, or red, depending on the car and which kind of antifreeze it takes).
    • Your coolant liquid should have no sign of any oil slick, brown, white, or black residue floating in it, or flakes and motes, which could be rust or indicative of some sort of stop-leak additive.
    • If the coolant level is low, top it off with distilled water.
    • Avoid using tap or hose water, and remember to add antifreeze in a similar proportion at some point.
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    Check your brake fluid reservoir and power steering reservoir. Check your break fluid and power steering reservoir levels, and make sure they are full.
    • These should show full levels, and if they do, you can cap them.
    • If not, you must replenish them before starting your car.
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    Glance around the engine area for any signs of leaks. Lastly, peek around for places where oil may have leaked, dripped, or seeped.
    • Sitting in storage, oil gaskets can dry out, and cause leaks.
    • You might not see them immediately, but take a look just to be sure there isn't a glaring problem that you have to deal with immediately.

Method 3
Starting Your Car

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    Lower your car from the jacks or blocks. If your car is suspended on blocks or jack stands, use a hydraulic jack to remove them.
    • First, raise the front of the car, and pull those front blocks or stands.
    • Then, repeat that process in the rear.
    • Once your car is standing on its tires, go around and check the tire pressure and fill them as needed.
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    Drain your fuel tank to get rid of bad gas. If there gas was left in your fuel tank for a long period of time, it may have gone a little flat and won't run properly.
    • You can generally tell if fuel has gone flat by a turpentine smell.
    • Although your car may start up on bad gas, running it through the engine can cause problems.
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    Add ethanol to your fuel if you can't drain it. To offset the problems caused by bad gas, take your small container of, empty it into the tank.
    • The ethanol will allow any moisture in the tank to mix with the gas, so that the moisture clears out as the fuel is burned, rather than sitting in the bottom of the tank causing problems.
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    Fuel up with new gas to ensure that your engine runs properly. Although it is up to you whether or not you want to add your new, fresh gas right away, you should try to get rid of the old gas as soon as possible.
    • Add the canister of gas that you brought if there is no gas currently in the tank.
    • Otherwise, wait until the old gas is burned and then add your new canister.
    • Let your ethanol or new fuel mix stand for a few minutes to get a thorough mix.
    • There is no way to hasten this process, except to get the car started and moving, and on the way to the gas station.
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    Start up your car. See if the car starts up on the first try.
    • If it does, don't over-rev, or put the car in gear just yet.
    • Let the car idle and warm up, to move oil around the engine.
    • If the engine doesn't start up, move on to the next step.

Method 4
Troubleshooting a Non-Starter

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    Double check that everything is in order. Make sure that your battery is indeed strong and charged, that everything on the motor (particularly the starter) is working, and that your fuel is at least marginally sound.
    • If these baseline requirements have not been met, make sure to address them, because your car will not start without them.
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    Prime the fuel lines to get gas in the carburetor. If your car has been sitting for a while, all the fuel in the carb (if there is one) has probably evaporated, and what was in the fuel lines either has evaporated as well or drained back into the tank.
    • To get gas back where it needs to be, pump the gas pedal a couple times.
    • Then, try turning the key and let the engine turn over for just a few seconds.
    • If it doesn't fire up, stop, let it sit for a minute, and try again.
    • If you managed to get some fuel or oil in the carb, you will probably have to try a couple times to get the engine to start, because the fuel/air mix is off.
    • However, that little dose of gas will quite likely give you a sputtering start followed by a fail, followed by an engine that turns over but does not fire.
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    Add another teaspoon of raw gas to the venturi. If you get a sputtering start and then a fail, you can try adding another teaspoon of raw gas straight to the venturi, or just alternate turning it over and giving it a break, until it starts.
    • Because the fuel lines are empty, it will take a while to get fuel from the tank, through the pump, through the filter, and into your cylinders.
    • Your fuel pump doesn't work on air alone, so it might take a while and several tries, but the little bit of gas you are manually adding will eventually cause the engine to turn over, and draw additional fuel into the carburetor.
    • This is especially true on cars with a mechanical fuel pump.
    • If you have an electric pump, you might be able to hear it cavitating, and will hear a change in the sound it makes once actual fuel is moving through it.
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    Clean your spark plugs to fix a car that doesn't spark. If you've been turning your engine over repeatedly, and it won't start, you probably have varnish or carbon deposits on your spark plugs.
    • Remove your spark plugs and give them a good soak in raw gas.
    • Clean them with a toothbrush and let them dry out before replacing them.
    • If you have new spark plugs, you can try replacing them entirely.
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    Check your distributor to find bad contacts. You can also check the distributor, if there is one, to look for anything that could be preventing contact.
    • Any contaminants, such as rust or water, could cause bad contacts.
    • Use WD-40 to clean the contacts.
    • Be mindful that your distributor and wires must go back exactly how you found them.
    • If after you try all the above steps, your engine won't start, you may have more complex and serious problems keeping you from running.
    • You might need a rebuild or a new engine, but this probably won't be the case if the car was running when you put it into storage.
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    Provide ventilation to avoid breathing in the fumes of your car. Once the car is running, make sure you ventilate the room and avoid breathing in any engine fumes.
    • Expect smoke, and if your gas has gone bad, expect bad smelling smoke that lingers for a while.
    • If you are in a closed storage facility, get out, let the car warm up, and let the air clear.
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    Let your car idle to avoid damaging the engine. You can also expect some rough idling from your car, but don't let this tempt you to 'gun it'.
    • Let the idle even out on its own, and if the car has trouble keeping itself running, give it a little gas until things even out.
    • Once the engine is at its optimal temperature, the idle should start to level itself out on its own.
    • If not, it's most likely bad gas, so let it burn off some more of the bad gas while you add some good gas.
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    Put the car in gear and park it somewhere safe. If you haven't already, put the car in gear and roll it out of your storage facility, onto some pavement or gravel.
    • Someplace level is best, because you should now go back and check your fluids again.
    • Keep an eye out for fresh leaks and drips.
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    Re-check the fluids. After you warm up your car, the fluids' consistency may have changed to reflect their more accurate levels.
    • Automatic transmission fluid usually shows a correct level while the engine is warm, and the transmission is set in neutral or park.
    • Engine oil shows correctly with a warm engine, but with the engine off.
    • Let the car cool down before you check coolant levels, but if you have no visible leaks or detectable smells, you probably don't have to worry.
    • Do another walk around, to make sure tire air pressure is acceptable, top off fluids as needed, and find a good radio station.

Things You May Need

  • A can of fresh gas (preferably high octane).
  • A pint of ethanol alcohol (this can be the fuel treatment you get at the parts store).
  • A bucket.
  • Some shop rags.
  • An air compressor, or a filled-to-the-brim air tank (don't forget some hose, and a fitting appropriate for putting air in tires). Hopefully you have one with a pressure gauge built in. Bring a gauge as well, one way or another.
  • A couple quarts of oil (just in case).
  • Some transmission fluid (if your car is an automatic).
  • A grease gun and a fresh new canister of your preferred grease.
  • Some class cleaner, paper towels.
  • Your preferred leather/upholstery cleaner and conditioner.
  • A gallon of distilled water.
  • Your preferred brand of spray lubricant.
  • A new air filter, just in case.
  • A shop vac, or a portable vacuum.
  • A jack.
  • A small bottle of brake fluid.
  • A car battery charger, and maybe a spare car battery, if you have one.
  • Some of these are optional. The cleaning supplies are obvious for cleaning, which you will want to do more of once you are out of storage in a safe place.

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Categories: Accuracy | Cars