Solved on Sunday: Beware of flaming passions when taking your classic out of winter slumber

(Editor’s note: In conjunction with Road Ready Inspections, we offer this space each week so you can ask questions about your classic car or about the hobby in general. Submit your questions in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them!)


I often see cars at the car shows with fire extinguishers under the tire and fire extinguishers mounted inside the cars. Should I be carrying a fire extinguisher in my classic car?


Having first-hand experience with this fun little fire drill I can definitely say, been there, done that, and I have the ashes to prove it.

When I was about 18 years old I built a 1966 GTO with a 389-cid, 3 x 2 carbs and a 4-speed. The very first time I took the car cruising to the local drive-in I decided I would cruise by a potential girlfriend’s house to show off. About a block from her house I shifted into 2nd gear and the GTO hesitated and died unexpectedly. So I merely hit the key to restart the car and pumped the gas once to get it going again.

That’s when I saw the smoke coming from under the hood. As I came to a screeching halt right in front of the potential girlfriends’ house I jumped out and threw the hood open. It was a full tilt fuel fire and my 3×2 carbs were under assault.

I raced to her door and yelled to call the fire department. It was much like a scene from the Keystone Cops when her dad answered the door and discovered he had a car fire on his front lawn! You think he had a fire extinguisher?

Back then there was no 911. In 1971 it took 15 minutes to dial I-Need-A-Fire-Truck-and-HURRY on a rotary phone hanging on the kitchen wall. Clack clack clack clack. Clack clack clack clack clack. Clack clack clack clack clack.

Unfortunately while I was on the slow phone to hades I was watching a fast fire decimate my GTO.

Coincidently, the fire station was just a few blocks away and they raced right over. The firemen had the fire out in seconds. Was I ever relieved! Not so fast, little did I know the fun was not quite over.

To add insult to injury, after the fire was out and a tow truck hooked up my GTO and drove off with it, my ”no longer potential”girlfriend and I were following the tow truck back to my shop. I suddenly looked up to see smoke billowing out from the passenger compartment of my GTO and the car was ablaze yet again even as it rolled down the highway on the back of a tow truck. No problem. The truck driver simply drove tow truck with blazing GTO in tow to the fire department, where they took another shot at it.

Get a Class B Carbon Dioxide fire extinguisher, a big one. The dry chemical type extinguisher will do more damage than the fire does. Do Not Leave Home Without It!

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My car sits in the garage every winter for months and when I take it out in the spring I am never sure what I should do to it maintenance-wise before I just get in and drive it off. Should I be checking or changing something to protect it?


Yes, you should definitely be changing something. Like, the way you store your car for the winter. Change that.

The process of putting your classic car back on the road after a long winter hibernation should not start on a sunny spring day with a turn of the ignition key. The process should start way back when you rolled the car into the garage pre-snow.

Classic Car StorageClassic cars have a way of deteriorating while just sitting there so it’s best to do some preparation to help preserve your car and to make it easy to un-hibernate in the spring.

Here is the low down to make sure you hit the streets in style come spring:

When put into storage:

1) Add a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-Bil to insure the fuel octane does not diminish and dry fuel residues do not build up inside the inter-workings of your carburetor or fuel injection. After putting in the additive, let the car run for 15 minutes or more to insure the additive has reached the engine.

2) I also add Sta-Bil Protection as well because the fuel we now use contains ethanol which can damage many parts of your old car fuel system sitting over time.

3) Add some Lucas Engine Oil Stabilizer to your engine oil. Again, run your engine about 15 minutes to circulate the additive through all of the engines working parts. This will eliminate the dry start when you hit the key next spring. Remember, when your car sits, the oil that lubricates the pistons, bearings and the like is constantly draining back into the oil pan. Come spring, there will be nothing left in the critical places to lubricate your engine on start up for the first few minutes. Lucas Oil Stabilizer makes sure oil stays where oil needs to stay.

4) Air your tires up to maximum pressure or, if possible, jack your car up and set it on a set of jack stands. This will prevent flat spots from developing on your tires as it sits.

5) Make sure all fluids are clean and levels are full.

6) Disconnect battery or connect battery to a storage trickle charger if you have one.

7) Cover car in a safe clean, dry area.

When removing car from storage:

1) Remove cover and reconnect battery. If the battery was not on a storage charger, put battery on a slow charge for a few hours to get its full power back.

2) Check all fluid levels including engine, coolant, transmission fluid and brake fluid, definitely the brake fluid.

3) Check under vehicle for any leaks on the ground, on bottom of engine or on brake backing plates.

4) Readjust tire pressure as needed

5) Before you start your car, hit the brake pedal.

6) Got brakes? Hit the ignition and cruise!

I realize this is a bit of work however it’s fun at the same time having an excuse to tinker with your hot rod and it’s reassuring that it will be ready to roll come spring.

I can only think of one other thing more fun than this. It’s when you start your car in the spring having done no storage maintenance and backing out of the garage only to discover the brake pedal goes straight to the floor and you have no brakes because the brakes developed a leak and all the brake fluid drained out on the ground. Happy Motoring!

barry sig

Read on to find out if there was a year no Corvettes were built, and how to decode cowl tags:


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