Classic Car Maintenance: Fluids

To begin, let's look at petrol and diesel. Aside from making sure you have enough for your trip, it's a good idea to check the entire fuel system at least once a year, check diesel because it has a habit of finding paths and holes that most other fluids don't, and likewise petrol because if it does leak, a hot surface or spark can cause an explosion.

Inspect the Fuel Tank

First, inspect the fuel tank; it is composed of pressed steel and is prone to corrosion, particularly where straps or bolts are present in most classic automobiles. Examine it well for any bubbles or damp / dark patches, and notice whether the fuel gauge moves substantially at regular intervals when the car is parked.

Next, inspect the plumbing; once again, many automobiles used steel pipes, with subsequent replacements being copper or plastic (plastic being especially prone to hot exhaust pipes because many manufacturers ran the two pipes close together!)

Hopefully, someone installed a fuel filter beneath the bonnet to prevent dirt or rust from reaching and clogging the carburetors. This will assist in showing any corrosion from the tank and pipes that may be present, so replace it after any repairs to these to offer you a clean slate. The fuel filter in a diesel engine will not be clear and will most likely resemble an oil filter.

Check the fuel pump for operation by attaching an alternate outlet hose to a petrol can, using caution as you mix electricity and flammable vapors, and ensuring that the pump continues to work with the ignition turned on.

Finally, with the ignition on / or the engine started and switched off, inspect the carburetor (s) for any damp / dark spots, especially where the fuel lines connect to the carbs. Alternatively, inspect the injector pump and the piping connecting the injectors on the cylinder head.

Check the coolant

Checking the cooling water level is usually a good idea, but there are other things to look for as well. It is worth mentioning that if you overfill the cooling system, the water level will correct itself and reach a normal level. The anti-freeze and corrosion inhibitor in good clean cooling water should cause it to appear somewhat green or blue.

If the water is brown, this indicates corrosion or rust in the system; a certain amount is to be expected as this occurs naturally. If the water is murky or you are unsure, it may be worth emptying, flushing, and replacing with fresh water and anti-freeze. The problem should be checked again in a few days or approximately 50 miles to see if it has been addressed.

If the fluid has an oily texture or a rainbow, this should be checked further since it might be a sign of trouble. Sometimes it's just the natural oils from the different components that bleed out when they're fresh, such as lubricants in pumps or sealants if they're utilized. It might, however, suggest a more serious issue, such as engine lubricating oil running into the cooling system, and that a catastrophic engine failure is imminent; ideally, your engine oil inspections will identify this.

Examine Engine Lubricating oil

Engine lubrication oil is once again required for engine operation. It is critical to ensure that there is neither too much nor too little. If there is insufficient oil, the engine can get dry, damaged, and even seized; if there is insufficient oil, the oil can bubble and build up back pressure in the lower portions of the engine, eventually damaging the crankshaft and pistons. Therefore, you must use the correct dipstick in your engine; even engines of the same kind might have various dipsticks due to differences in how they are built or how the oil flows; check with your local club or specialized classic vehicle garage.

Oil Leaks in Classic Automobiles Are Common in the Following Places:

  • If the sump plug (engine bottom) is worn, incorrectly tightened, or the copper washer on the plus has hardened over time, replace it. Sometimes the gasket can leak, which is generally a sign of a bigger problem, and the sump might break, especially with cast steel or aluminum sumps.
  • If the gasket (typically cork in older cars) has hardened, the rocker cover has been overtightened or not installed properly. These leaks are normally simple to repair by installing a new gasket.
  • Because of worn seals, the back end of the crankshaft (where the flywheel and clutch are attached) (and it has to be said usually poor design from the manufacturers), this is a typical leak, so don't panic unless you're losing a lot of oil or have clutch problems. The oil from this leak is useful for covering the underneath of your car to prevent rust, but you should try to fix the leak.
  • Because of improper fitment, worn gaskets, or just rattling loose, the oil filter, again, these leaks are easy to repair.

If your car engine is leaking oil from other locations, this is usually not a good sign, so have it checked out by a professional. Another oil-related facility that should be changed regularly is the oil filler cap, which is typically vented and contains wire mesh filters that can become unclean and enable over-pressurization of the oil system.

Things to look for in engine oil:

  • If the oil has the consistency of treacle when cold, it's time for an oil change.
  • If it seems quite dark, it is time to replace the oil again.
  • If it has lumps, a flush and oil change should be performed at the very least.
  • If it has a lot of white / brown sludge or mayonnaise, 'it may be time for a change, but it might also be a sign of a head gasket failure, which enables cooling water into the oil and creates the mayonnaise.' However, small amounts of this can be created from condensation if the car has been parked for an extended length of time.

Oil should be replaced at the mileage intervals indicated by the manufacturer, while annual is recommended if you drive fewer miles each year.

Although you do not need to change the oil regularly, it is always good to perform an annual level check or when you detect a leak or hear a noise. It should be noted that differential whining from the rear axle is rather common and is frequently caused by wear and tear rather than a lack of lubrication.

The gearbox and axle, like the engine, may require various oils depending on their age. Some older gearboxes are OK with engine oil, whereas subsequent gearboxes require specialized gear oil, which is commonly used in hotter climates. A specialized sump plug spanner will almost certainly be required for the rear axle.

Brake fluid

Brake fluid - apparently, you would want to make sure you have plenty of this so that you can stop when you need to. Still, many people overlook that braking fluid may deteriorate and separate, causing corrosion to the brake components and loss of force at the wheels when you press the brake pedal.

It is worth monitoring the brake fluid level every three months to ensure there is not much change; apart from a level drop indicating worn brake pads / shoes, a large level drop might indicate a leak. A level decrease should be avoided not just for the reasons stated above but also to avoid allowing air to enter the system, which diminishes the efficacy of the brakes since air compresses more rapidly than braking fluid.

When bleeding brakes, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Bubbles may indicate a breach that allows both air and liquids to enter.
  • The color black indicates that numerous components, notably steel pipes, are corroding.
  • Bits, again another evidence of corrosion

When any of these occur, it is best to inspect all of the components and replace any that are found to be defective. It is also advisable to continue the bleeding procedure until the defect (s) have disappeared, as the contaminated brake fluid may still be present in the retained pieces.

Another issue with brake components is exterior corrosion, which can wear pipes and cause them to leak or rust together, necessitating the replacement of all damaged components. A little copper grease may keep it at bay here, and if you have them, try to keep the rubber / plastic dirt covers on bleed nipples in place.

The flexible hoses that link the wheel brakes to enable suspension movement are one of the weaker spots on braking systems. Apart from perishing and splitting, they can also suffer from laminating, which weakens the walls and makes them prone to expanding under pressure, resulting in the brake pedal's force being used up in the pipes rather than the calipers or wheel cylinders. Pipes with exterior metal braiding are frequently available, which lessens this danger, although they are only effective if clean and not corroded.

Driving a classic car may be an emotional rollercoaster. On the one hand, you can truly go back in time and experience the "golden age" of motoring. The good thing is that owning a classic car does not have to be prohibitively expensive if you do your research, choose intelligently, and maintain it correctly. Although the list above provides a broad overview, it should be sufficient to get you started.

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