Mr Foreman: Old car maintenance tips

January 22, 2018 @ 2:47PM

THE recent story of a padi farmer who bought a classic Proton Saga, won by a retired soldier who had coined the iconic Saga name, was one of the most talked about automotive stories this week.

It also goes to show how many of us hold on to or buy older cars. It may be nostalgia or even the excessive cost of buying new cars but the fact remains; there are plenty of old cars still plying the roads. Being 25 years old, some are in good condition but many are getting a little long in the tooth. Those which are regularly driven have less problems due to continued maintenance and repair but this article is geared more towards the collector or those who drive a modern car and only occasionally drive their revered classic.

That car sitting in the garage (best scenario) or parked outside (not good) needs help to perform its best and hold its value. There are a lot of things that you need to do to keep it tip-top but the best advice is to regularly drive it. This keeps the fluids circulating and the mustiness and corrosion away from engine, chassis parts and interior. Jot down in your busy schedule a few days each month for driving that classic.

Here are a few more tips.

Paintwork and Interior

Wash and wax the paintwork at least once a month. The interior will also need to be cleaned and protected. This helps the car keep its value, especially in your eyes. Nothing holds its owner’s attention better than a shiny car. Use one of the scheduled days to have the car washed and vacuumed. Make sure you go for a long-ish drive to dry the car out fully. Invest in a good car cover, even if you keep the car in a garage. Needless to say, the sun is one of the most damaging elements that you have to keep at bay.


Older engines (even low mileage ones) use a different engine oil from your modern car. Make sure you know which type is suitable for your car. Furthermore, some cars have more maintenance items that need regular replacement such as spark plugs, contact points and distributor caps and rotors. Find a mechanic who appreciates classics and knows your make and model. Even though you may not drive the car regularly, engine oil still deteriorates over time and needs regular replacement. Your mechanic can advise you when to change the oil by inspecting the dipstick.

Before you take your classic out for its drive, check the engine oil level and also the coolant level. Some older cars do not have an expansion tank (this needs topping up as well). Top up with coolant if the level is low. The condition of the coolant can also indicate any potential problems (rust or leaks). If the engine temperature starts climbing excessively, stop the car before the engine overheats. Older cars do not like overheating and parts are scarce. Have it towed or fix the problem before continuing your drive.


If you are unable to drive your car more than once a month (some of us have more than one), the perennial problem is flat-spotting of the tyres. The best way to avoid this is to put the transmission in neutral and roll the car forward (or backward) a foot or two before you take the other car out. Doing this will also keep your brake calipers and discs/drums from developing problems.

Tyres will lose their pressure over time so one of the first stops during your drive should be the service station to inflate your tyres. Crossply tyres run higher pressures than radials, so make sure you know your tyres. Also, some classics use tubes and need careful inspection and usage. Do not use the car unless the tyres are properly inflated first, otherwise damage might occur. A tyre pump would be a wise investment if your classic runs tubed tyres.


Petrol goes stale after a few weeks so driving the car regularly will prevent this. Top up the tank with fresh petrol and also keep an eye on the fuel filter regularly (older cars usually have the filter easily accessible).


Attend to any rust spots you may find immediately. A proprietary rust treatment may be applied to arrest any potential damage or prevent further damage. Sometimes, the rust could be from the inside out, so attempt to apply the treatment from the inside, if possible. Regular washing of the undercarriage will pay dividends in the long run.

Long-Term Storage

When a car is placed in long-term storage, it should be jacked up on jack stands so the weight of the vehicle is not sitting on the tyres. Cover the tyres from sunlight. Regular newspaper taped around the tyres work well. This is assuming you have a proper garage. If you have no garage, borrow a friend’s garage or rent a space.

Keep that old banger running and running well. After all, the difficulties of driving and maintaining an old car are worth the pleasure of driving it, especially if that car has a great deal of nostalgia attached to it.