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Restoring a Vintage Car - Basic Workshop Safety

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 26 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
Restoring Vintage Car Vintage Car

One consideration that any potential vintage car owner should make is where they are going to work on their vehicle once it’s been purchased. This is because there is next to no doubt that you will either have to regularly work on your restored vintage car in order to keep it running smoothly. If you have taken on a complete rust bucket as a restoration project, then it is imperative that you have ample space in which to undertake the work. Also take into account that space to store a plethora of tools and even chemicals in order to carry out the necessary repairs and renovations is a must.

So essentially when take all these separate elements and put them under one roof, you do have the potential recipe for disaster. However, although a workshop can be a dangerous place, with some basic knowledge of how to handle chemicals and tools, as well as some fundamental safety procedures, it needn’t be a place where accidents happen.


Before you even step foot into your workshop you should consider how your clothing can affect your safety. With lots of heavy machinery, potentially sparks and chemicals being used, the less bare skin on show the better! So open-toed sandals and soft canvas shoes should be replaced with steel toe-capped boots if moving and working with heavy machinery and car parts. When handling chemicals, oil or using abrasive materials, gloves should ideally be worn at all times. If welding you can buy special protective heavy-duty gauntlets to protect both hands and lower arms from the sparks.

You should also consider investing in some ear protection, as exposure to ongoing loud machinery and tools could lead to problems such as tinitus (non-stop ringing in the ears). The lesser side effects could be headaches, which are obviously still not ideal, especially when trying to concentrate! Eye protection is a must when you’re using powertools where fragments of metal fly off, as well as for sanding jobs where small particles can enter the eye and scratch or irritate it. When welding, adequate eye protection should always be worn. You should be aware that mig welders require different safety lense ratings than those needed for electric welders.

A facemask should be worn for jobs where dust can be kicked up or blown about – for instance sanding and wire brushing, and even cleaning! Exposure to the small particles could cause mild to serious irritation of the respiratory system, as some particles may be poisonous. In addition to wearing a facemask, always try to ensure that your garage or workshop has plentiful amounts of ventilation.

Fire Risks

When restoring or maintaining a vintage car, you may be using flammable materials, as well as working with electrical power tools and wiring. For this reason it is highly advisable to always try to have fire extinguisher on hand in case of a mishap. You should also make sure that you have a clear escape route out of the building.

When using equipment such as blow torches and welders, always make sure that before you being, you’ve removed any flammable materials from the section or item you’re working on, as well as the surrounding area. The final piece of advice is basic common sense – never smoke in your workshop or garage, for very obvious reasons! If you’re desperate for a cigarette, take a break and have one outside well away from the chemicals and machinery.

Jacking Up

If you need to work under your car, you’ll need to jack it up properly. Just using a trolley jack, ramp or axel stand is actually very risky if they’re used beyond their capabilities. You should always use the appropriate jack for the load you need to lift. Jacks will usually display their maximum load, so always check this before jacking – never ever take the risk of overloading the jack, as the results are just unthinkable! Also ensure that the car or part is jacked up on solid, flat even ground. Even a slight slope could cause an unforeseen tipping or collapsing accident.

Hand & Power Tools

The advice with hand tools is basic but important – always use the appropriate tool for the job, and try to invest in the best possible quality of tool. Generally, the more you pay, the better quality the tool will be, and the more durability it will have.

The same ethos applies to power tools – a more expensive too usually equals superior quality and durability. With power tools it’s also important to only use the tools for the job they were intended for, and within their limits. Accidents can and do happen, so for jobs such as cutting through cables, wiring problems or accidental overloading of power points and sockets, installing a power breaker cable wherever and whenever possible will ensure that any accidents can be ‘contained’. The last point is to check that before you begin your work, always check that your working area is clear of flammable or brittle materials, as well as wandering pets or little fingers! Remember that loud power tools will inhibit your ability to hear a verbal warning about any imminent dangers or accidents!

Storing & Disposing of Chemicals

The first rule of chemical storage is to keep all chemicals away from direct sources of light, heat and certainly any naked flames. Always check the labels and store accordingly. Flammable materials and chemicals, including any oil or petrol, should be stored upright in closed containers. Don’t be tempted to mix chemicals, even if you think they are the same. If you need to dispose of any chemical for any reason, never pour them down the sink or drain! Just make sure that the bottle or container is labelled correctly and take it to your local tidy tip, where the appropriate facilities are in place to dispose of it safely.

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I have rescued from an open barn a 1928 Graham Paige saloon fabric body by Mulliner Brothers of Birmingham. I have tried without success to find any details of this coachbuilder and if there are any plans /drawings of the type of fabric bodies they produced. can anybody help. Please
The Red Baron - 26-Jan-17 @ 11:03 AM
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