During the recession, you may have chosen to save some money by registering your car as a non-op, parking it in the garage, and riding your bike to work instead. Or perhaps you’re interested in rescuing a classic car that has been languishing in storage for years, just waiting for the owner to sell. Either way, you may be looking to fire up an engine that hasn’t been turned over in years. Ideally, everything will be just like you left it and the car will start up and run with no problems. But most of us don’t live in fairy land, and so the more likely outcome is that your automobile either won’t start or it will have some issues you’ll need to address in order to make it road-worthy. Here are just a few steps you might want to take.
The first thing you should do is check the fluids. If the person who put your car on blocks was smart, they drained the fluids before letting it sit in order to avoid settling or corrosion, or they turned the engine over and ran it at least once a month in order to ensure everything was still in good working order. Oh, if only everyone knew how to maintain a non-op properly. In truth, even if your car has been well cared-for, there could be some issues. But if there are fluids in it, you’ll probably want to drain them and replace them. And if there are no fluids, you’ll obviously want to add some. Trying to start an engine that is virtually dry is a great way to make it seize and do some serious damage.
Of course, giving the car a good once over is also a must. You’ll need to check spark plugs to make sure they’re clean of debris, inspect all the hoses to ensure that they aren’t cracked, check the lines to see if they’re intact (just in case some pests have gotten into the engine compartment or undercarriage and chewed up the electrical), and make sure the battery has a charge and that the terminals aren’t suffering from massive corrosion, just for example. These are just the basics, of course. There could be all kinds of problems with an engine that’s been sitting for a while. And even if you get it running, you’ll want to check the front and rear lights, measure the air pressure in the tires, and do a thorough brake inspection before you roll it out of the garage.
From there your first stop should be the shop of a trusted mechanic (you’ll get there even sooner if the car won’t start). Whether it’s running or not, though, you might want to think about having it towed to the shop if there are any doubts about its relative road-worthiness. Better safe than sorry. When you’ve left your Ford sitting in the garage for a while, you’ve purchased a used Audi, or you’ve bought the vintage Jag you always dreamed of, you may have some trouble getting it up and running. But by doing a basic tune-up at home or taking it to your mechanic for a thorough inspection (or both) you should have your car in ship shape and ready to be registered as operational again in no time.