The Ultimate Checklist to Prep Your Classic Car for Summer Adventure

It’s summer, South Africa is on holiday and the open road is calling.

But what you do between taking off your classic car’s dust cover and loading your luggage, could determine whether your trip will be the adventure of a lifetime, or the nightmare that nobody forgets.

Creative Rides Classic & Collectibles Auctions CEO Kevin Derrick says ahead of a long journey it pays to be prepared – and that means giving your petrol-powered treasure a thorough check.

“Classic cars aren’t the same as modern vehicles. Mechanical is less complicated than computerised, but does need more attention, especially before an extended trip.

“Whether you're planning a cross-country adventure or just a few days away, giving the car a top-to-bottom inspection before it leaves the driveway will save you major headaches down the line.

“There’s nothing quite like being stranded at the side of the road in the hot sun to test the bonds of family unity!”

Pre-Trip Checklist

Derrick says following the expert classic car checklist below will significantly better the odds of a stress-free holiday:

  • Fluids: Classic cars often rely on fluids that may have different specifications to their modern counterparts. Consult your car's manual and, if necessary, seek expert advice to determine the appropriate oil, coolant, and transmission fluid for your vehicle. Check levels, top up and get your mechanic to flush any worrisome systems to ensure optimal engine performance.
  • Tyre Inspection/Maintenance: Inspect your tyres for signs of wear, bulges or cracks. Some classic cars are fitted with bias-ply tyres, which require special attention. Ensure that tyre pressure is correct, including the spare.
  • Brake System Review: Classic cars often have different braking systems to modern vehicles. If you’re not a maintenance pro, have a mechanic inspect the brake lines, pads and fluid levels. Ensure that your brakes are in top-notch condition to handle the strain of long drives.
  • Electrical System: Check the alternator and starter. Classic cars can be more susceptible to electrical niggles, so a thorough inspection of the wiring and connections is essential. Consider carrying a basic toolkit and spare fuses for any unforeseen electrical problems.
  • Battery Health: Test the battery to ensure it has a full charge to avoid any unexpected breakdowns, especially if the car hasn’t been driven regularly.
  • Cooling System: Check the radiator and hoses for leaks, and ensure that the cooling fan is working. Flush and replace the coolant if necessary to prevent overheating on long trips.
  • Fuel System Inspection: Inspect the fuel system, including the fuel pump, filter, and carburettor. Classic cars can be more prone to vapour lock, especially in hot weather.
  • Suspension and Steering Components: Get your shocks, struts, and steering components checked by a mechanic.
  • Exhaust System: Examine the exhaust system for leaks or rust. A well-maintained exhaust is crucial for performance.
  • Emergency Kits: You need two; one for your car and one for the precious cargo it carries. Pack a comprehensive emergency kit including tools, spare parts like fan belts and fuses, tyre repair foam (tyre sealant), a reliable jack and a wheel spanner that you’ve checked is the correct size for the wheel nuts on the car. Also check your first aid kit, including the expiry dates on the contents, and restock anything missing or past its “use by” date.
  • Car Insurance: While not actually part of the vehicle, before you hit the open road ensure that your car’s insurance policy is up to date, that you’re covered – if the worst happens – for car hire, and that roadside assistance is included in your package.

King of the Road

“While classic cars offer an incredibly rewarding driving experience, their performance depends on yours. Basically, you get as good as you give,” says Derrick.

“Investing time and effort in caring for your collector car – with extra special attention ahead of a major road trip – pays dividends.

“If you prepare properly and follow this checklist to the letter, you’ll be king of the road this summer, and along the way collect memories that’ll last a lifetime.”