Munich - Owners of convertibles are now eagerly awaiting the spring weather – and with it, their first open-topped drive in the sunshine. A little time for a few simple actions, a little tender loving care, and you’re off – providing the car is in good shape. The experts at TÜV SÜD know what to look out for.
“When a car has been in the garage for a few months, simply turning the ignition key and setting off is not enough”, warns Eberhard Lang of TÜV SÜD. This is particularly true for vintage cars, which need preparations appropriate to their advanced age. By taking a few tips on board, classic car owners can ensure their spring drives are all pleasure and no pain – and also prevent their four-wheeled treasure from excessive wear and tear that ultimately reduces its value.
Power:If the battery has been connected to a continuous charger throughout its winter storage, the only work involved will be to unclip the leads. If not, charging the battery is now essential, even if the residual charge might be enough to start the car on its own. “Otherwise the battery may never become fully charged, depending on the length of travel”, says TÜV SÜD’s Eberhard Lang. The battery charger should not be from the same era as the car itself. “The battery is certainly newer than the car, and designed for modern charging technology.”
Oil: If the car owner changed the oil before garaging the car over the winter, checking the oil level will be enough. Otherwise an oil change is on the cards. It is essential to choose the right type and viscosity for your classic engine. “Lubricants for today’s engines are generally very thin synthetic oils, and can spell death for classic cars”, warns Lang. Oil manufacturers sell special products for classic cars which are appropriately labelled. Unlike modern cars, the gearboxes and axles of vintage and classic treasures also demand fresh oil at regular intervals.
Movement: Convertible roofs require special attention before the car is taken out for the first time. Open and close the top fully a few times to check whether all joints and closures are still in good shape or need light lubrication; the same goes for doors, bonnets and boots. Squealing hinges are a sign of wear that can be prevented with a little oil or grease. The car manual generally advises the right product to use for each part.
Water: A thorough wash is useful – and not just to enhance the car’s looks. After all, even the best garage storage will leave a thin film of dust. “Fine dust and dirt can be particularly damaging when care products are applied to the roof or other parts; they act like sandpaper”, explains Eberhard Lang from TÜV SÜD.
Air: Convertible drivers are not the only ones gasping for fresh air in spring. The interiors of convertibles and classic cars should be thoroughly aired to drive out any moisture that has penetrated during the winter, and the musty smells that accompany it. And perhaps the tyres need extra air too. “They will certainly have lost a few tenths of a bar”, says Lang. Drivers that boosted the tyres’ air pressure before putting the car into storage are sitting pretty, and only need to check the pressure – or even reduce it a little.
Chemistry: To keep roofs and soft tops watertight and flexible, car owners should apply care products appropriate to the material. Lang firmly advises against “miracle products and special secret tips”; by using products by reputable brands or even the car manufacturer, drivers will always be on the safe side. Leather upholstery can deal with a few raindrops more effectively if it has been protected in spring with a good-quality care product. The TÜV SÜD specialist recommends devoting particular attention to cars with synthetic leather upholstery; specific products are available that keep the material flexible and prevent – or at least help to prevent – unsightly cracks and tears. “Synthetic materials from the 60s and 70s did not have such effective protection against UV rays and environmental influences”, explains Lang. Modern chemical products can compensate to an extent.
Checks:Visual checks of coolant and brake fluid levels, or hydraulic oil levels of power steering, should not show any losses. Windscreen washer fluid no longer needs anti-freeze, but an additive that helps to remove dead insects and other summer challenges. Lights and other electrical systems must naturally be in top condition – so be sure to check all functions, not forgetting the horn, ventilation system and windscreen wipers!
Ready to start: Lang advises against letting the engine run before setting off. However, he recommends hitting the brakes a few times and moving the steering-wheel while the car is still stationary. Repeated light braking during the first miles – at moderate speeds and medium revs – will remove the unavoidable light coating of rust that has accumulated on brake discs and drums. A slight ‘crunching’ noise is normal at this stage.