Time to give your

classic a check

1997 Mazda 323
1990 Porsche 911
1986 Toyota Corolla

SPRING sunshine has begun to warm the air, the roads are free of salt - and owners of classic cars are keen to clear out the winter cobwebs and go for a drive.

Buthow do you ensure your classic is safe and ready to go?Toyota UK's press fleet manager Graham Bothamley, who has more than 100 modern and classic Toyota and Lexus vehicles in his care, has the answers, which work for any brand of classic, of course.

"The most important and first thing is safety," says Graham. "Cars which have sat for a long time can develop issues and your first task is to make sure your classic is safe to drive.

"Some items can perish or degrade when not in use, others can corrode, and then there's always the issue of rodent damage, it's amazing how much one small mouse can cost you!"

He adds: "Once you have established that it's safe, you need to make sure it's ready and isn't going to leave you stranded, or with a big bill. A bit of time and mechanical sympathy now will help ensure a brilliant season of driving your old car, and it'll thank you for it!"

Here are Graham's top ten tips for bringing your classic out of storage for a great season of enjoying the open road.

Check the oil levels and look for signs of leaks. Pipes can develop leaks even when not in use as they expand and contract with wide changes in temperature through Winter and into Spring. Inspect the fuel lines for the same reason (and double check whether your classic can run on E10 petrol with those original lines).

Pop off the fuel filler cap and smell the fuel vapour to make sure the petrol in the tank is okay after storage.

Check the coolant level and look for any signs of leaks or corrosion in the system.Make sure that when you've completed this checklist you then warm up the engine and check again for leaks in the system when it's hot - better find out on the drive than out on the road.

Check brake pedal feel, fluid level and condition. Check brake hoses for cracking. If your car hasn't moved for some time old brake systems can suffer. Don't assume it will stop like it did the day you put it away for winter!

Check if the handbrake releases correctly, inspect the brakes visually and then when you first start the car drive slowly just a few feet, and the same in reverse, to see if there are any binding or dragging noises or if the vehicle continues to move afterthe brakes are applied.

Check / charge 12v battery - top up if required (a "trickle" charger to use through the winter is a great addition if you don't already have one).

Check exterior lights for correct operation and check windscreen washer fluid level, wiper operation and blades for splitting (rubber can dry out and crack and split in storage, especially in well-insulated, warm and dry garages).

Check condition of the tyres: correct pressures, look for cracks,check tread depth. Also check wheel nuts are still set to the correct torque.

Check for rodent damage.Our furry friends can be a real problem. Use a torch to check for chewed cables and wires, and for signs of nesting in the engine bay and wheel arches. A nest can interfere with safe operation and even present a fire risk and chewed wires are a real safety issue.

Take particular care to check the air filter as rodents seem to like the texture of the element when building a home! Remove the airbox and inspect thoroughly.

Get an MOT done even if it's not a legal requirement. It's a great way to get a second safety check carried out even if your classic is registered as "Historic" and MOT exempt.

And Graham has one final tip too. "After your proper first drive in the car it's a good idea to run through most of this list again. Heat, expansion, vibration and so on can expose issues which may have been hidden when the car was stationary. But most importantly of all, enjoy it!".

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