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Hagerty Employee

11 checks to make before your first springtime drive

If you’re reading this, you almost certainly have a non-daily-driven enthusiast car somewhere in a locked garage. Coronavirus notwithstanding, it’s time to unlock the door, let that puppy out, fire it up, and drive it.


But you need to check a few things first.


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Intermediate Driver

Yep, had one flat one. Amazingly, it was the easiest one to get to, not one of the ones up against the wall.

Intermediate Driver

5 paragraphs to say inflate the tires?
Pit Crew

Air up the tires? WTH is that? Can't you just say inflate the tires?

Air up? What are you, 5 years old? Don't make me swallow up.

Intermediate Driver

5 paragraphs on putting air in the tires?

Intermediate Driver

I pull my batteries out in the fall and store in the basement over the winter.


New Driver

I agree with the above info, however, I would add a few more steps before storing the cars. Stabil Marine or 360 stabilizes the ethanol, a Plastic sheet under the car stops the moisture from attacking the bottom of the car. A small rug piece under each tire keeps the cold concrete from hardening the tires. Also, I keep a small note pad in each car and write down the oil changes, fill ups, date of storage etc... anything I feel I need to know at a later date. Thanks for the article and keep them rolling.  

New Driver

I put my Alfa Spider up on rollers that not only keep it off the ground, but also maintain the shape of the tire so no springtime flat spots. 


OK, this list is fine for modern cars.  There is nothing in it for my 6 volt battery, nor my drum brakes.  How about checking and topping up the battery?  Either 6 or 12 volt.  How about adjusting the brakes and thereby checking to see if the wheel cylinders have frozen up from the winter sleep?   Note: It is my understanding that starter fluid can be a bad thing to use, especially when the cylinder walls are oil free.


I did all these things back in February when I normally crack the car out of storage so I have it available to me in March and April on those rare nice days. Flash forward to about two weeks ago on April 18th and the last time the car was out was February 23rd. I redid all my checks and found that I was good to go with just a wash although I should probably get tires this year. Because I am what they are calling a "flexible worker" I go in to the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if it is nice out the car will likely be going with me, on my work from home days I only go out if I need to so probably no seat time. I have a feeling I will be hitting the gas station on weekends but taking the long way to get there. While I don't see this as being the best season, I plan to make the most of it as safely as possible.

Intermediate Driver

And remove to plastic bottles you put in the round exhaust pipes to keep the rodents out.

Pit Crew

I have found the 12v inflators don't last long.  You need one for those places without 120v but for your garage a small inexpensive 120v one lasts longer and pumps a lot faster

Intermediate Driver

This article reads backwards for me. On a VW Karmann Ghia, you check for gas leaks under the front and oil leaks under the back. But at least I don't have to worry about anti freeze leaks.

Pit Crew

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Before the old girl goes into Winter hibernation the following is always done. 

1. Place aluminum foil over the air cleaner horn and both exhaust pipe tips.

2. Place a disposable bowl with copious amounts of mothballs on each seat and each floor pan. Additionally place one on top of the engine.

Doing this will save you carpet, seats and under hood wiring. I spread mothballs used the car to help with the exposed wiring.

4. Wash all the glass and all exterior lens and cover with Saran wrap. Beats the heck out of washing off all the Winter crud off in the Spring.

5. Top off all fluids except gas, leave the gas atad low do to expansion in warmer weather.

6. Never ever leave the battery in over the Winter. About 5 years ago Hagerty and yours truly had a  $3000 plus joint problem because of this. Compounded by the high dollar car cover I had over it. Put it inside where its warm and use a maintainer. Not a charger on  even a trickle charger.

7. Last I always get a magnetic key case and put it on the under side.  I dare not venture a guess as to how many folks can't find the keys in the Spring. Of coarse this has never happened the author of this comment. Jim

Pit Crew

One thing you need to do on the test drive is ALWAYS take your cell phone and the telephone # of a trusted tow service.



New Driver

First spring time drive? What are you waiting for, it's almost May. I took the hardtop off my MGB 5 weeks ago, had it on & off before that. Of course, I don't really put my car away for winter anyhow, it's too stinking much fun to drive with a Rover 4.6 under the bonnet. A real hoot to drive, I even prefer it to my late Mustang 5.0. In years gone by I took pride in going topless (as in roadster) every month of the year. I'm not quite so strident after 48 years of driving B's (and E's and what have you), about 30 of them with V8 power, but still love to doff my top. Get your butt in gear, spring will be over if you keep waiting.

Advanced Driver

One year when I took my CLK55 out of storage, all was well, but I noticed on the drive home that the radio did not work.  I checked obvious things and finding nothing, I scheduled a visit to the dealer.  On the way to the dealer, the instrument panel began flickering off and on, and randomly the chime would ring.  Worse yet, the engine lost power at 70MPH for about 10 seconds, raising the ire of several Boston-area drivers, and then it came back.  Long story short - $3,500 wiring and fiber damage due to a rat's nest behind the radio.


A few years later, when I pulled the SL63 out, the airbag light came on.  I guessed the cause, and yes, $2,000 rodent damage.  And no matter what you do, you cannot keep them out, short of putting your car on a piston lift.  A scissors lift will not stop them.


So...if you notice anything odd, and particularly if you see signs of winter visitors, you will want to track them down ASAP, both the source of the problem and the guilty parties.

Intermediate Driver

Sometimes the obvious is overlooked.  Mouse and Rat traps around the garage full of peanut butter does wonders.


Critters don't like the aroma of Irish Spring face soap.  When I put my C4 to bed for the winter, I cut the bar into quarters and place them under the hood, and throughout the interior.

Pit Crew

If the car has been in hibernation for any length of time, remember that oil has migrated southward, leaving the top end and cylinders relatively unprotected.  Before turning the key, pull the coil wire, than spin the engine until oil pressure comes up.  Then replace the coil wire and start the engine.

Pit Crew

I enjoyed the article with some very good suggested checks before bringing that car out of storage. Fortunately I do not have to make the car shuffle quite as much as some since my garage has access for six bays which can store 12 vehicles with none over two deep.


Definitely use a fuel stabilizer prior to letting the car sit for an extended length of time.


I would not advise a trickle charger since they seem to damage a battery if connected for an extended time. The battery tenders are the only good choice to keep the battery charged. I have often found that older batteries will fail even if a battery tender is used. Each cell in the common 12 volt lead acid battery is 2 volts. A battery might be discharge and simply recharged with a proper battery charger. After recharging the battery (if necessary) and finding the voltage drops to 10 volts likely means that it  has a "dead" cell and will need to be replaced. Low priced battery stress testers can be used to determine if a battery will be serviceable after charging it after the winter hibernation.


Many newer cars use antifreeze types which might be pink or orange instead of the common older green or blue types. Most antifreeze types are poisonous so make that taste test a very small one.


Tires deteriorate with age regardless of storing in a garage away from direct sun light. Modern tires have a DOT date inscribed in them. The recommended replacement is anything over six years old. Those 12 volt DC air compressors have a very limited capacity and will take a long time to air up a tire. I recommend at a minimum a small 120 volt AC "pancake" air compressor. You can purchase one for around $100.


Finally rodents can damage various parts and destroy the wiring harness. I try to prevent rodent infestations and check during the storage to be certain that they are being controlled.


Happy summer cruising!


Not all 12V compressors are created equal.  Those of us that do some off-highway travel may have compressors with enough output to quickly fill even oversize tires. I have an ARB CKMP12 that I take with me on trips that'll pump up any tire no problem.  Viair is another good option.  These have the advantage of being of use on the road as well as in the garage.

Community Manager

Thanks Rob - I learned a lot with this article!

Pit Crew

Rob- good tips- however one important step you omitted is getting the oil pressure up prior to firing the car. I always disconnect the coil plug and turn over in brief cycles until either the idiot light goes off- and/or the oil pressure gauge moves up to normal range. then I connect the coil and let'er rip!


Mike M. 

Pit Crew

Yes, I do that but probably didn't explain it well enough.  Thanks for the addition.


I'd never say not to do that but with carbureted engines by the time the thing fires the oil light is out.

Advanced Driver

I've discovered that rodents can be dissuaded from using the large, OEM style air cleaners (those with paper filters) as nests or winter storage by covering the inlets either with a piece of expanded metal or plastic mesh (used as gutter covers) or stuffing the opening with a big wad of coarse steel wool.  Just leave a note on the front seat as a reminder to remove it.  You can also use the mesh to cover larger openings, such as heater intakes.


Not too bad an idea, but you need to be really careful about Hydrogen gas release. 


Wow, the author doesn't remember oil, brake fluid, coolant changes....yikes.  Don't buy a car from people who can't keep basic records.  All it takes is a sharpie and blue 3m tape to write the date, type of oil, and viscosity.  I usually tape these pieces either on the brake booster, near the radiator, or all in an obvious place.  So easy to do!  Why risk moisture in your oil, contaminants from poor or neglected maintenance, and poor lubrication from laziness!!  Just mark your maintenance.


Good article but I try to never never use starting fluid. A little dribble of gas in the carb usually gets the job done. Starting fluid is a last resort. I do use Stabil 360 and never have a problem with ethanol messing up things. 


Pit Crew

Fortunately I live in warm climate and keep my C6 rollin all year long. Love that yellow beast!

New Driver

Have done all this adwises and everything seems to be ok. Next is oil and filter change. Keep cruisin'


Rob you may be overestimating the tidiness of your readership! I'd bet the majority of us have to do at least some shuffling to free our pleasure ride. In my case I have to break down mechanical Tetris before I can think about turning a key. That includes remembering to pull the floor jack out from underneath.


Regarding tires, sidewall condition doesn't necessarily equate to tire condition.  A ten year old tire can look great but will fail catastrophically from invisible UV break down in the rubber.  I've had tires delaminate at speed and it is not pretty.  Replace the tires.  


Since I have ten vehicles to keep running, Rob's comments apply all year round to me.  Thanks for the reminders and tips.

New Driver

When  I first saw the lead photo I almost fell off my chair.... a Bavaria! I have one too, and the same color! Mine is a '74 so the bumpers are different. I'd love to trade info.


For keeping rodents out of my Mercedes 300CD over the winter in a garage I put a plug in the air cleaner intake and one in the exhaust. Sense they are both circular I use the triangular shaped plugs one might use for house plumbing. They are soft and made of foam. I'm not sure how others feel about this because I worry about rust occurring because of lack of air flow. I also use the drive on ramps that keep the tires in shape. I used to use wheel dollies but it's to much work to get the jack out. I found it's easiest to get a running start on the ramps but just don't go to fast or you'll go right over them... also they are nice because they hold the car in place all winter and no need to set the parking break. So in the spring there's no worry of having a stuck on break. Another item I use is a dri-z-air on the interior. It helps with moisture buildup. No fun to scrub an interior in the spring because it molded over the winter... I find the Dri-Z-Air much better than a bag of that sand stuff you can put in the oven to dry it back out. The moister in the car is collected into a container below then Dri-Z-Air pellets. It's not water anymore but chemicals so don't spill it on anything or it won't be the same again. Working at a nautical store we had customers spill it on there wood boat and clean it up before sealing the wood with varnish. Even tho the woods sealed from moister anytime it rained the wood show where the Dri-Z-Air liquid was. Don't spill it that's my point over all! But if you live in an area of the country where you get a lot of moister and want to keep your baby dry Dri-Z-Airs are the best. I live in WA and we deffinty get some moister 10 months of the year!

Intermediate Driver

5 paragraphs on inflating the tires?

New Driver

Excellent minimal DIY instructions for taking out a stored vehicle.

Thank-you.     John Mackenzie, president of VAML Club