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How to keep your classic car in top shape this winter

5 minutes

As the cold weather draws in, classic car owners have two choices: put their car into hibernation or face a brutal British winter.

Either way, preparation is key, says motoring journalist John Silcox.

  • Decide whether you’re keeping your motor on or off the road
  • Protect your bodywork against the elements
  • Be clever in order to get the best results

Protect your classic car from moisture and damp this winter.

Keep your car dry

Moisture is a car’s worst enemy. It causes components to rust, ruins electronics and eats away at seating and upholstery.

'Fighting off the damp is a full time job,' says Director at Hexagon Classics Jonathan Franklin, one of London’s leading classic car dealerships. 'Most vintage cars should always be stored in a garage overnight, better still if it is heated and has a dehumidifier.

'A soft cover can be an added protection for hibernating cars, but you must make sure there is room for the air to circulate and I’d recommend taking it off every couple of weeks on dry days to let the car breathe,'  he says.  

Keep your car clean

In winter, the roads are covered with salt to keep the ice at bay, but this can wreak havoc on your vintage bodywork.

'I recommend giving your car a thorough jet wash after each winter outing,' says Jonathan. 'If the car is being stored, dust can be a real nightmare too as it attacks paint, so before laying the vehicle up, valet it and then give it a few layers of wax.'

Maintain your battery

'Investing in a good quality trickle charger will change your life,' says Jonathan.

'Batteries suffer from the cold and lack of use in winter, so a trickle charger will keep it topped up and you will never have to suffer the ignominy of turning the key in the morning and discovering you’re out of power.

If you’re storing your car, simply disconnect the battery from the car. Old circuitry drains much more than modern electronics.' 

Vaseline up

Petroleum jelly is a natural water repellent. so it’s a useful ally for classic car owners, albeit a rather messy one. A popular tactic for winter preparation is covering all rubber joints with the stuff (especially door seals) to prevent them from stiffening up, splitting and freezing over.

Silicon sprays are now available and do the same job. Don’t put the Vaseline away yet though, as it can be rubbed on delicate chrome parts to stop the expensive metallic finish from pitting and rusting.

Don’t scrimp on antifreeze

Antifreeze is an essential ally in winter, not only because it stops your engine from freezing over but because it prevents the water your cooling system uses from corroding everything it touches.

'Whatever you do, don’t go cheap on antifreeze,' says Danny Hopkins, Editor of Practical Classics Magazine. 'It’s the quickest and easiest mistake to make in the book. If it’s too weak or of poor quality it can ruin an engine which is why I rely solely on classic brands such as Bluecol.' 

Discover the joys of silica gel

If you never knew what to do with those tiny little sachets of silica gel that seem to come in the packaging of just about everything nowadays, here’s a good chance to start recycling them.

'Silica gel can become your new best friend,' says Danny. 'These sachets are designed to absorb moisture so collect them and put them to good use in your classic car – in the glovebox, door pockets - you can even put some in your toolbox to stop your spanners getting rusty.' 

Just because it’s winter, you shouldn't forget all the regular checks you make on your classic car, including fluids, brakes, headlights, tyre tread and wiper blades. Constant checks are essential if you want to take care of your classic car, but the right insurance could also help give you peace of mind.

Taking care of your car is even more important in winter as any trouble can leave you stranded on a cold roadside. One final thing to prepare is a small survival kit made up of a blanket, a torch and some chocolate – just in case the worst happens.

John Silcox is an experienced car journalist and regularly contributes to a number of car magazines including Auto Express


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