(as appeared in the Spring, 2015 TSR)
By Charlie Adams
- Start with the brakes by checking your brake fluid level. If the fluid in the master cylinder is down at all from full, look carefully for leaks at the wheel cylinders. If you notice dampness at the master cylinder or a wheel cylinder, rebuild or replace it. Every few years, the brake system should be bled to replace the brake fluid. Brake fluid, except for silicone fluid, accumulates water, which over time will rust steel brake lines and brake cylinders. If one cannot remember when the brakes were last bled, do it again.
- Take a moment to check the steering system for looseness. On TDs and TFs, take a look at the steering rack universal joint, which consists of the three bolts, nuts and six rubber pads. If the steering is obviously loose, investigate and consider if parts need replaced before putting the car in service.
- Take a moment to quickly look at the fan belt and cooling system hoses. If you see signs of deterioration or seepage, consider whether to replace them soon or before the next long distance drive.
- How long has it been since the anti-freeze was changed? If 5 years or more, drain and flush the cooling system.
- If your engine oil is dirty, plan on changing the oil and filter after the engine warmed up.
- Next, if your car has been sitting for a few months over the winter, remove the spark plugs and spin the engine briefly until oil pressure registers on the gauge. This will assure good lubrication on initial start-up. Also, a quick looking at the plugs will provide insight into how efficiently each cylinder has been operating. Once oil pressure shows on the gauge replace the plugs.
- Now start the engine. I often now use a short shot of starting fluid on engines that have not been run for months.
- Perhaps you will want to adjust the carburetors if the spark plugs show signs of running lean or rich. Keep in mind our engines run a bit cooler if the mixture is slightly rich. Also, once an engine is running well, it is usually unnecessary to change the SU settings for lengthy periods of time.
- As the engine idles and after shutting it off, look carefully around the carburetors for fuel leaks and assure the float bowls do not overflow. Look under the carbs as well to inspect the where the jets enter the carburetors. I’m tolerant of a slightly damp jet but drips should form there.
- Check and add air to the tires as necessary. Are the tires aging…sidewall cracks are dangerous and indicate it’s time to replace the tires.
- Lubricate the door hinges and locks, making sure the doors are fully closing to the second step of the striker. Also, it’s a good idea to check the lights, especially the brake lights.
- Finally, take off on a short test drive. Make sure the brakes and steering feel excellent. Perhaps you will want to adjust the valves if they are noisy.