One of the joys of owning and driving a classic car is the freedom to cherish it in a way that just isn’t practical or rational for your daily driver.
Here are six ways to protect your classic that might be borderline obsessive but distinguish the true car buff from the everyday motorist.
If you find yourself shaking your head at any of my suggestions, please don’t worry; it just means that you are absolutely normal.
1. Trickle chargers
The best investment you will ever make is the £50 it will cost you to buy a decent battery trickle charger.
It will revive batteries that you thought were dead and then keep them fully charged no matter what, ensuring that your car is always on-the-button and ready to go whenever the fancy strikes you.
Disclaimer: They can be addictive. I now have four, one for each item that has a battery, including the stuff that has a back-up recoil starter and doesn’t really need one.
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2. Car covers
Your next best investment is a decent car cover.
I wasn’t convinced of the need to buy one until I watched my father bump into my new (old) pride and joy as he squeezed past carrying a can of paint. That he could do so without batting an eye or thinking that he had done anything wrong showed me how contemptuously my family probably treated my old Honda when I wasn’t there to remind them to be careful when they were around it.
So a good car cover will not only protect your car from knocks and scrapes from unsympathetic family members, it will also protect it from bird poop, sleeping cats, dust, falling pieces of masonry, and other Acts of God.
You could spend £50 on a simple cloth cover which is better than nothing, or £500 on a state-of-the-art Cair-o-Port, which is what I’ve done.
Disclaimer: Having used a Cair-o-Port I’m completely sold on the idea. However, explaining to my wife why I needed to buy what is essentially a garage-within-a-garage wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped.
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3. Online car service records
Whenever I’m buying an old car, I like to see a box file or two stuffed with old invoices and bills. Of course, if you’re as neurotic as me, then you’ll record your car’s service history on a simple spreadsheet too, with stuff like mileage and costs diligently filled in and totaled too.
Now, however, you can upload it online. Patina is an online repository that builds up your car’s history (or patina, get it?) for others to see. You can add photos, service documents and invoices, as well as text.
Disclaimer: Yes, I write for them, but I write for them because it is such a good website and anyway, it’s free, so what have you got to lose other than the hours spent scanning old documents in a bid to have the most comprehensive record on there?
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4. Expensive car wax
The most expensive car waxes can cost the same as a very nice terrace house in a northern town, which is completely true and clearly utterly insane. However, there is joy to be had by spending £20-30 on something similar.
Yes, it’s unnecessary and no, I doubt that the final finish is much better than you’d get by using something like Autoglym, but if you can’t lash out on something frivolous and gratuitous occasionally then the classic car world might not be for you.
Disclaimer: I give this advice assuming that you are cleverer than me and will remember to dispose of the receipt for the £35 tin of car wax you’ve just bought rather than leaving it lying around on the bedside table. If you are as naive as me, then you’re probably better off sticking with a cheaper variety of car polish…
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5. Oil changes
Most car service schedules rely on a 12,000-mile oil change schedule, which isn’t frequent enough for a classic car that travels only a couple of thousand miles a year as engine oil degrades with time as well as mileage.
I recommend changing your classic’s oil in the Spring when it comes out of hibernation and then in the Autumn when it goes back into storage.
Overly cautious? Maybe, but then I’ve invested in an engine oil suction pump, which is quick and clean, with none of the faffing about needed with a traditional oil change where you have to lay on your back on a cold garage floor while you grope for the sump plug before getting scalded with hot engine oil.
Disclaimer: The lid on the suction container is a push fit. This means that it is not a good idea to shake it to try and establish how much old engine oil is in there. Don’t ask me how I know this.
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6. Drive it!
The best way to keep your classic in tip-top condition is by using it regularly, so don’t be afraid to get out and use it.
Of course, short journeys of just a couple of miles aren’t great but anything that is long enough to get the fluids nice and warm will do more good than harm!
Disclaimer: None. Go forth with a clear conscience in the sure and certain knowledge that you are protecting your investment at minimal cost.
For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.