How to Keep Your Classic in Good Nick

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Tags: how to, cleaning tips

Looks can be deceptive.

A Joe Root cover drive may look effortless, but behind the easy facade lies hours upon hours of hard work that went into creating the end result.

So it is with your classic car. Outsiders may marvel at the end product on the road or on display.

But only conscientious classic owners know just how much meticulous preparation, elbow grease and expertise goes on behind the scenes to keep it in top nick.

The good sense behind such background work has been emphasised in a new Coutts report. The British private bank says classic car values jumped by 40% last year and almost 400% on a decade ago.

What better incentive to keep that awesome Aston Martin DB5 or fabulous Ferrari 250 GT in tip-top shape?

The older and better looked-after your classic, the more it should appreciate in price.

Keeping a classic cleaning regime
Hose-hose-hose: your cleaning timetable should always start with a hose-down.
Top tip: pay particular attention to wheel arches, roof drainage channels and the bonnet.

Grime doesn’t pay: wheels attract grime like flies to the spider, especially brake dust. Car shampoo or bog-standard detergent should do the job. Make it foamy and wash along your car’s lines rather than in a swirly motion. Wash off the foam with fresh, cold water with a bucket or hose. Dry off any excess water with that old favourite - the chamois leather.
Top tip: get an old toothbrush to wash in those hard-to-reach panel gaps.

Waxing lyrical: finish it all off with a good wax, not forgetting your plastic or chrome trims. Use a lint-free soft cloth. Wax a minimum of twice every year.
Top tip: don’t overdo your wax treatment. It could take you until the 13th of Never to get it back off again.

Window of opportunity: what’s the point of your Jaguar E-type gleaming as-new when the windows inside and out are dirty and thumb-marked? Save these until last. Trusted window cleaners will do the job.
Top tip: adding lemon juice to tap water can prove equally effective.

Keeping your stored classic ready for action Keeping your car in good nick better retains or increases its value
Keep it ticking over: like people, cars benefit from regular exercise. This helps to prevent corrosion and other faults. It’s not like your Merc - or other classics like it - has anything to be shy about.
Top tip: take your vehicle for a spin on at least a monthly basis.

Avoid extreme temperatures: the secret to young-looking older cars is keeping them away from extremities in temperatures, whether hot or cold. Contact with direct sunlight, dirt and dust are huge no-no’s in storage.
Top tip: take out the battery and drain your vehicles’ fluid.

Undercover assignment: cover your beauty with car covers or soft cotton-based cloths.
Top tip: wind down your window. This enables air to circulate properly.

Hibernation-ready: many classics are stored away for the winter. Ensure that they’re braced for action next spring by changing the coolant, filter and oil. Charge the battery if you’re not taking it out.
Top tip: get some Vaseline petroleum jelly to lightly coat your battery terminals with, to help safeguard against corrosion.

Keeping your classic looking good and staying roadworthy
Stay on top of the game: the secret of longevity is regular maintenance. Embark on a care regime that wouldn’t look out of place on the Forth Bridge. Get a pen and paper or tablet to make a reminder checklist of what you need and when you need it.
Top tip: always know when your classic’s next tyre check, oil change and service are due.

Fluid idea: replace your fluid and bleed system annually. Nothing in your car is likely to attract moisture more than brake fluid. Few things will cause your classic’s components to first corrode and then fail more than moisture.
Top tip: do the economics. Brake fluid is relatively cheap. Sensors, hoses and callipers aren’t.

Flush with success: flush your classic’s cooling system on a yearly basis and the vehicle stands more chance of surviving for longer. Likewise with coolant.
Top tip: equally divide distilled water and coolant to keep your cooling system in good working order. This not only helps to avoid corrosion, it also prevents unwanted deposits from accumulating inside your car’s cooling system.

Play safe: always use your classic manufacturers’ recommended liquids, grease and oil.
Top tip: want to ruin that Bentley R-Type or other classic you’ve hankered after all your life. Of course you don’t. But if you did, nothing would ruin its venerable engine more than omitting to make frequent filter and oil changes.

Good luck!