What Weather to Drive a Classic Car In

Most classic car owners reserve their cars for events and Sunday drives on warm days. However, there may be occasions when you need to drive your car in cold weather, hot weather or rain. These tips will help you get your car out of the garage or out from under its tarp and ready for a drive in any weather.

Preparing You Classic Car for Winter Driving

How Do I Protect my Car from Road Salt?

Wash and wax your car. Keeping your car clean doesn’t just slow paint oxidation. The wax acts as a protective layer, making it harder for salty water to stick to the paint. Likewise, applying metal protectants to exposed chrome, steel and aluminum can keep corrosion at bay.

Vintage cars are more susceptible to rust, especially if they have original paint jobs. Most cars built before the 1970s use steel that isn’t galvanized, hastening corrosion. Rustproofing protects the body and undercarriage, but since this wax or oil-based coating isn’t permanent, it doesn’t affect the restoration.

What Do I Need to Do to Get My Car to Start in the Winter?

Before you remove the car cover and pull your car out of winter storage, do a quick inspection of the exhaust pipe and intake for signs of mice. You don’t want the debris these critters leave behind entering the engine or stopping the flow of exhaust.

Look under the car for puddles of fluids. While it’s easy to add more engine oil, spotting a brake fluid leak can keep you from driving off without working brakes.

If you rarely drive in winter, you may not know that your heater core is leaking. A leaking core doesn’t just pose a problem for your cooling system. The antifreeze can get into your HVAC system, leaving a sticky film on your windows.

Check the battery. Make sure it’s connected properly, and check the electrolyte level. A multimeter can show the battery’s voltage, giving you a good indicator of its health. You may need a jump pack to get enough power to turn the engine over.

Let the car idle for a few minutes. The engine needs to be warm for the fuel system to work correctly. Once you’re under way, take it easy for the first few miles to let the transmission come up to temperature.

If you treated the gas with a fuel stabilizer, it shouldn’t take much to get the engine to start. However, if you emptied the fuel system before storage, it can take a while for gas to reach the carburetor, especially if your car uses a mechanical fuel pump. Adding gasoline directly to the float bowls gives the engine something to run on until fuel is pumped through the lines.

How Do I Make Driving Safer in the Winter?

While bias ply tires may be period correct, their winter performance is terrible. Switching to modern wheels and tires can do wonders for stability and traction. While winter tires are ideal, even switching to all season tires can greatly improve grip.

Do you have equipment to deal with snow, ice and breakdowns? While you probably keep an ice scraper in your daily driver, it’s easy to forget items like these when you’re driving your classic car.

Driving in the Summer

What Problems Will I Face with Summer Driving?

Classic cars don’t deal well with heat. While driving on highways keeps air flow up to move heat out of the engine bay, you can quickly run into overheating and fuel starvation issues in town. Keeping an eye on the temperature gauge helps, but it won’t prevent these issues.

How Can I Keep My Car from Overheating?

Fix the cowling around the engine fan. While you may have the main cowling piece installed, the rubber seals between the cowling and the radiator can rot away over time. Without these parts, the fan will pull air from the gaps instead of drawing it through the radiator.

Use a high performance coolant. Coolant additives and water-free coolant can make your car’s cooling system more effective, lowering engine temperatures.

Consider upgrading to modern cooling components. A new aluminum radiator will release more heat, while an electric fan can spin independently of the engine. Switching to a high flow water pump can keep hot antifreeze flowing into the radiator at low engine speeds.

Need a temporary fix? Place a bag of ice in front of the radiator. This is a common trick used to keep engines cool in parades. The ice chills the air as it passes into the radiator, so it can absorb more heat.

How Do I Prevent Vapor Lock?

When gas inside fuel lines gets too hot, it can vaporize, causing vapor lock. With less fuel entering the carburetor, the air/fuel mixture leans out, reducing power and eventually stalling the engine. While this can happen in a modern fuel injected engine, it’s far more common in cars with carburetors and mechanical fuel pumps. This is due in part to modern fuels, which are blended to be more volatile, so they burn better. This also lowers the boiling point, so it’s easier to turn the fuel into vapor. To prevent vapor lock, you need to reduce the heat reaching the fuel.

Insulate your fuel components. A phenolic carburetor spacer stops heat transfer between the intake manifold and carburetor. Heat shielding wrap slows the transfer of heat from the engine to the fuel lines.

Mechanical fuel pumps mount to the engine, where they absorb heat from the engine bay. Switching to a modern electric system lets you move the pump to the gas tank, keeping it cool.

Older vehicles use an engine-driven fan. At idle, the fan isn’t moving much air through the engine compartment, increasing ambient temperatures. Switching to an electric fan keeps air flowing, even at idle.

Switch to a return fuel system. Instead of adjusting the fuel going to the carburetor according to demand, a return fuel system maintains steady fuel flow, pushing any excess gas back to the tank. This keeps the fuel inside the hoses and carburetor from staying in the engine bay long enough to turn into vapor.

Driving in the Rain

If you need to drive in the rain, start by addressing the basics: make sure your wipers work, check the windshield washer bottle.

Big air scoops look cool, but they pick up everything in their path, including water. Get enough water into the engine, and it can hydrolock. Some factory scoops can be closed, keeping water out. If you have a dragster intake, you should probably skip driving in the rain altogether.

Water can cause all kinds of problems if it reaches an exposed engine. Driving without a hood lets moisture collect in the distributor cap and plug wires, causing ignition problems. It also changes how air flows around and through the engine compartment. Water is more likely to splash onto belts. At high speeds, air can be directed away from the radiator, no matter the weather conditions.

Leaking door and window seals can lead to soaked upholstery. Saturating door seals with a silicone lubricant or a seal conditioner a couple days ahead of time. As the seals absorb these chemicals, they will swell, filling in some of the gaps. However, this fix is only temporary. You should also check the drain holes in the body. If these clog, they can trap rain and condensation, keeping your interior wet and promoting mold growth.

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