Collector cars represent an investment in both money and time. After all, part of the fun of owning a classic vehicle lies in taking care of it. However, maintaining classic cars isn’t the same as taking care of a “regular” car. Because of their age and condition, collector car care involves a bit of extra attention and effort.

Here’s how to clean a classic car to help keep it in glorious, pristine condition, and to maintain it for a smooth ride.

Collector Car Care: Gentle Washing

Unlike regular cars, classic cars require more than just a quick pass through the local car wash every now and then. In fact, using the wrong tools or products may even damage your vintage auto. Clean your collector car the right way with the following materials:

  • Soft mitts or towels made from chenille or sheepskin
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Leather chamois or soft microfiber
  • Abrasive-free soap designed for car exteriors
  • Detailing lubricant
  • Clay bar
  • High-quality wax
  • Chrome polish
  • Tire conditioner

How to Wash a Classic Car

You should only wash your collector car by hand, as automated car washes can harm your exterior. Park your car in a shady spot and start washing from the top down, using sheepskin or chenille and non-abrasive soap designed for cars.

Clean the wheels last, using a separate towel, so that any sand, dirt or grit doesn’t touch the exterior paint. Once each section is cleaned, give your car a final rinse. Pro-tip: Don’t use excessive amounts of water, as it may pool in certain sections and lead to rust.

Dry each part of the car thoroughly, once again working from the top down. Dry the wheels last using a separate chamois or microfiber.

If you still feel a bit of grit, use a detailing lubricant and a clay bar to smooth the area. Apply wax (at least every six to eight weeks) and polish your chrome. Finally, apply the tire conditioner after the tires have completely dried.

Maintaining Your Collector Car

Now that the outside of your car is gleaming, let’s talk about maintenance. Drive your car at least once or twice per month. Getting the car up and running for at least half an hour helps slow the ageing process by keeping rubber and seals in good condition, and blowing out moisture.

Parking and storage conditions matter as well. For instance, don’t park your car on a gravel or dirt surface for long periods, unless you want moisture to migrate up into the car. Instead, choose a spot with good drainage.

Keeping your car out of the sun is important for maintaining your collector car. UV rays will accelerate paint fading, cause fabrics to change colour, and degrade plastic and vinyl components.

Avoid leaving your car in snow and freezing conditions. From excess moisture to frozen locks and wiper blades, cold weather can do a lot of damage. A climate-controlled garage is the best choice.

Focus on Engine Oil

Your classic car’s oil should be top of mind when thinking about how to care for your collector car. keeping oil at the correct levels is a key to great performance. Check your car’s oil regularly to maintain proper levels. At the very least, check the oil each time you fuel up.

When you need to add oil, take it slow. Add oil in small amounts to avoid overfilling, which can increase the pressure too much and lead to leakage.

Don’t rely on mileage to time your oil changes. Realistically, most collector cars don’t really rack up that many miles, so it makes more sense to simply schedule regular oil changes, regardless of mileage. Consider two changes per year, once when you take your car out of storage in the spring and once before you put it back in again.

Let’s Talk Gas

Oil isn’t the only fluid that’s key to maintaining classic cars. A tank full of fresh gas is the optimal state for a collector car, so keep that tank topped up. Most classic cars have metal tanks, which means empty tank space can rust.

If possible, avoid fuel with ethanol. Why? Because many classic cars have vented gas tanks, and ethanol attracts moisture. That means rusty tanks. If you must use ethanol gas, adding a stabilizer can help keep it fresh.

Although maintaining classic cars requires a bit more work, it’s all part of the fun of owning a vintage auto. Think of collector car care as an enjoyable part of the whole experience.

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