How to Keep Classic Cars Running

When you’ve got a great classic car that you’ve lovingly restored, the last thing you want to do is keep it cooped up in the garage. But the fact is that a lot of older vehicles aren’t equipped to handle modern roads, for a whole bunch of reasons. Today, I’m looking at why that is, and what you can do to get your favorite set of wheels back on the road without breaking laws or breaking the bank.

Probably the biggest difference between cars from the mid 20th century and vehicles made today is the cooling systems. Today, we use pressurized cooling systems to keep engines from overheating. They’re more efficient at transferring heat than older car systems, so even though they make a lot of steam, they keep coolant from burning off. That’s not the case with older systems, which burn off coolant pretty constantly. You can pour in water as a quick fix, but that rusts things quickly and that’s not something you’re going to want with something you’ve paid an arm and a leg to restore. So I use something called Evans Waterless Coolant. It’s a coolant that works in older cars, and can be used to top things up whenever you need to without rusting any components. It’s pretty darn impressive, since it won’t boil and it won’t freeze unless you’re in a really extreme climate, so in my case I’ve been using the same bottle full in most of my vehicles for years without having to change it or add any.

red car

Another big difference between classic cars and modern cars is that the generators on a current model are massive bigger than the old generators that used to power 20th century wheels. That’s mostly because we use so much more electronic gear in our cars these days. Even if you’re doing a fairly authentic restoration job, you have no choice but to upgrade your headlights and safety equipment, and most of us probably want to get a good stereo setup that will work today. If all that’s going to work properly, you have to fix the generator to make it more powerful. If you can afford it, one great component I’ve found is a Gener-Nator, which is a device that turns old generators into modern alternators. Darned if it doesn’t look exactly like the old generator, but I guarantee you won’t have any power dips or cuts with this thing running. Again, I use it in all my classic vehicles.

Since pretty much every older car is a stick shift, you have to deal with old transmissions which really aren’t as good as they used to be. One trick I’ve learned is that rather than trying to replace an old system, you can add manual transmission lubricant to the gearbox, which controls friction and balances the gears. It’s basically what we have in new automatic gearboxes. I haven’t slipped once since I’ve started using it, and it really takes care of all the guts of the tranny. Mine comes from Red Line Oil, but any number of lubricant companies should be able to help you out with some.

car engine

Last of all, you’re going to have to get the engine back to its prime. A fuel injector cleaner is helpful for getting the whole thing working more powerfully, and you might want to consider overhauling each of the injector caps, as well. The cleaner also helps to control emissions, which is something you should really consider when you’re making all your tweaks. No classic car is going to be as clean as a Prius, but you really should try to cut down on smog so that the other cars on the road can focus on how cool your car is instead of how badly it reeks.

Alright, those are my tips for driving classic cars in 2016. Hope you’ve enjoyed them.