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Some general tips to keep in mind as we bring our vintage cars off the road for the winter


Change Oil and Filter
Antifreeze Protection

Even oil that has been under limited use holds combustion chamber by-products and moisture that has entered through the crankcase breather.  This mixture creates corrosive activity inside your dormant engine.  In some cases, this corrosion can eat away at bearing material.  Also to consider: many vintage cars with carb/choke systems often are subject to extended enrichment during warm up. The excess fuel that isn’t fully burned or expelled “slips” down the cylinder walls, thinning the protective oil film on the cylinder walls, increasing ring wear and that excess fuel can also eventually dilute the engine oil.

Brake Fluid 

Brake fluid is hydroscopic, which means it absorbs and retains moisture.  Atmospheric moisture is introduced through the vent cap on the master cylinder.  If the brake fluid (and clutch fluid, if your clutch is hydraulically activated) isn’t changed every few years, the increased moisture that is absorbed into the brake fluid causes internal corrosion in the hydraulic brake and clutch components.   This leads to fluid leaks past seals or binding of the brake caliper pistons.  If enough moisture is absorbed, it can effectively reduce the boiling point of brake fluid, diminishing brake performance and safety.


First, confirm that the protection level is sufficient (minus 25 to minus 35 degrees usually indicates a mixture of 50/50 antifreeze/water). Next, how does the antifreeze look?  Clear or cloudy?  Is anything floating on or in it?  Antifreeze does lose its ability to protect against internal corrosion as the anti-corrosive protection components are leached out.   This puts older engines at risk as internal corrosive activity accelerates- eating metal and gaskets, pitting surfaces, causing leaks and overheating.  Since matter can’t be destroyed or created, that corroded material that “breaks” away becomes deposited in radiators, heater cores, thermostat housings and coolant passages within the engine. Antifreeze should be changed every few years to replenish the lost anti-corrosive protective properties.


Battery life is greatly diminished if it’s not recharged regularly.  As the battery “sits” and discharges the sulfuric acid in the electrolyte bonds with the lead plates inside the battery’s cells.  This bonding, called sulfation, increases the battery’s internal resistance and if left long enough on the plates, becomes brittle- permanently weakening the battery’s ability to “create” electricity from its electro-chemical activity.   Charging the battery with a professional charger on low, or a trickle charger gently drives the sulfate off the lead plates, back into the electrolyte, reducing the battery’s resistance, allowing the electro-chemical process to return to normal while not overtaxing the alternator's ability to recharge the battery. Charging a battery with an alternator can overheat and damage the alternator.

Set tire pressure and, if you’re not putting your car up on jack stands, at least move (or roll) the car every few weeks to prevent “flat spots” from occurring.  As tires age, flexibility diminishes, tires are at a greater risk to be permanently ruined if left on one spot. Cracking tires are UNSAFE.

Start your engine

Let it warm up fully (off choke as soon as possible).  Vary the RPM’s- don’t just let it idle.  Oil pressure is at its lowest while idling and moving parts are at exposure to metal to metal contact if your engine’s oil pressure is on the weak side.  Drive it if you can – at least around the block – it keeps suspension bushings, shocks, clutch, fan belts and brake parts from taking “a set” – causing parts or pattern distortions or wear, rust build up on contact/friction surfaces. Think of it like exercising – “Use it or lose it”.


Note: If you’re not going to start the engine – at least rotate it manually so the piston rings aren’t sitting in the same position of contact with the cylinder walls.

Cosmetic Care

A) Wash it, including underneath and inside wheel wells, anywhere dirt gets trapped.

B) Wax it.

C) Soft, breathable car cover for inside storage

D) Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “good” outside storage. Inside is always your best option for storage.


Grease or lube everything you can, not only the suspension grease fittings, but a shot of some lube or penetrant on door, hood, trunk hinges, trunk latches, throttle linkages.  Spray some rubber silicone lube on door, trunk and hood seals.  And while you are at it, silicone spray the window channel seals too, something that will help reduce wear and tear, not only on your window regulator but also on your arms.


Depending on what you do with the car during the winter and where you store it, options vary.

A) Fill the tank 7/8 full and add a storage stabilizer – amount consistent with manufacturer instructions.  

    In this case, run the engine to get stabilizer into the carbs




B) Drain all the fuel

    In this case, run the engine until the carbs are dry


Service and Repair

Does your vehicle need repairs from this seasons use?  Make a list while it’s fresh in your mind.  Get a comprehensive Safety and Maintenance Inspection.  Either do it yourself or get one done at a garage (like ours) that is familiar with these vehicles, and will provide you with a written report.  Know what your car needs.  Make informed choices about what to fix on your car. Consider winter a great time to do those repairs.  That way, your car will be ready in the spring.  Have fun and get all of the drive time you can rather than waiting for springtime backordered parts and backlogged garages.


David Cardone at (860) 664-0727
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© 2014 - Cardone & Daughter Automotive - Vintage and Contemporary Car Repair - Old Saybrook, CT USA