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Storing and Laying Up Your Vintage Car

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 15 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Storing Laying Up Laid Up Vintage Car

You may choose to store your car over the winter or if you own more than one car you may find that one needs laying up whilst the other is in use. Contrary to what you may think, whilst your car is laid up there will be a degree of regular checks and maintenance that will need to be undertaken. Properly storing and laying up your vintage car will make sure that minimal corrosion and deterioration occur during this time.

Before You Store

Just throwing a dustsheet or piece of tarpaulin over your car is not adequate for prolonged storage! You will need to park your car up in a well-ventilated and secure building, making sure to leave the handbrake in the off position. If the building is dry but a little draughty, it can actually be beneficial as it can circulate dry air around the car, preventing damp and therefore thwarting the formation of rust or mold and mildew in the upholstery. Before bringing your car in, sweep and vacuum the storage area, as dust is a main perpetrator in encouraging rust and corrosion. The car itself should be well ventilated, and you can do this by leaving the windows a little wound down. If your car has an open top, it is best to leave the hood up.

Bodywork and Chassis

When preparing your car for storage, as with your regular maintenance checks, start by jacking the car up and giving it a thorough clean, not forgetting the underside of the bodywork. The chassis should also be cleaned and lubricated. Don’t polish it at this point though, as you will need to inspect the bodywork and chassis for any suspect rust patches, or chips and scratches that are prone to rust. These should not be left over the period of lay, as the likelihood is that by the time you next come to check on the car, the rust patch will have grown and caused more damage. Don’t forget to check for rust under floor and in door panels. The rusty areas should be treated with anti-rust primer, filler and finish. Once you have done this, you can then go ahead and polish the paintwork. Chromium plates can be washed and polished, but any bright parts of the bodywork should be either greased or lightly lubricated with Vaseline.

Any fabric such as upholstery and carpet should be brushed or vacuum cleaned. There are a number of conditioning fabric treatment agents that can be applied to protect the upholstery. If there is any chance of the fabric becoming damp, perhaps it is best to remove any loose covers or carpet and store somewhere warm and dry until they’re needed again.

Under the Bonnet

Whilst the car is laid up, a likely source of corrosion can be found in the battery. You can either leave the battery in the car, which will make occasional rotation of the engine and transmission easier, or remove the battery completely. In both cases, the battery will need to be protected from extreme cold conditions, as a battery that becomes frozen can be rendered useless.

If you opt to keep your battery in the car, before giving it a full charge, make sure you clean the outside, dry it and then top up the acid level with distilled water. If removing the battery, again clean and dry the outside, and before charging check the acid levels are ok to do so. If all is well, once charged, the cells can be washed out (always with distilled water) and left for an hour with the water inside the cell. Ideally this should be done three times, before finally filling the cells up once more, replacing the plugs, drying and storing in a warm environment.You should avoid actually turning the engine on whilst the car is laid up. Doing so will leave condensation inside the cold engine – an ideal condition for corrosion to occur. Make sure you drain the petrol system, clean the pump, carburettor and filter and blow out the pipes with compressed air, but leave the cooling system as it too is prone to corrosion if it left empty over the winter. Drying out the petrol system is an important job as it prevents deposits from forming, which can cause blockages and problems later on. You can use anti-freeze solutions in the cooling system if you are not laying up your car in a heated storage area.

The Engine and Transmission

It is best to drain the gearbox, engine and rear axle after the car has been run, as hot (thinner) oil is much easier to drain than when it is colder and thicker. Once this has been done, refill the oil. You can then unscrew the spark plugs, and insert a little oil into the cylinder heads, and then turn the crankshaft a few times. This will both lubricate and protect the cylinders and pistons. If possible, try rotating the engine and transmission fortnightly over the period of storage.

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