Taking care of your car – what should you be doing?
The same topic rears its head every year whenever it’s time to put our classic vehicles away for the winter: what should you do to your treasured possession to make sure that you can confidently drive it out of the garage next year as soon as the first signs of good weather appear?
Firstly, we have to say that, regardless of how many miles you do, bring your car for a service. The only way of ensuring that your vehicle is reliable and in good condition is to have it serviced regularly. We believe that a service in the autumn often makes more sense than in the spring because fresh oil provides optimum protection from the aggressive acids present in combustion residues that attack the metal and seals in your engine, especially when it has been left standing for some time. As the 190SL instruction manual says: “Only the best lubricants are good enough for your car.”
The right grade and the right viscosity are important. Dirt in the oil can damage bearings and cylinder liners”.
So, do your car a favour and use 20W50 motor oil for a car like the 190 SL. We don’t want to go into too much detail here, but a lubrication service, fluid change and fluid level check means less to worry about later when you take your car back onto the road. These also maintain the system, especially when it’s garaged over the winter.
Before you put your vintage car away, you should give it a final clean outside and inside (and in that order) to protect the paint as well as the fabrics and leather. To remove the dust and dirt from your car, drive to a self-service car wash where you can clean your car by hand. A good car shampoo, an insect remover, a bucket and several microfibre cloths are the right tools for the job. It’s important always to wash in the shade and, if possible, to allow time for the bonnet to cool down. If you use a steam jet, don’t try to clean the fabric roof, otherwise the impregnation will suffer. As a general rule, you should be careful how you handle the steam jet in a self-service car wash. Don’t get too close to the vehicle. It’s not advisable to use the brushes they provide, as these are often very dirty and can scratch the paintwork or chrome. It’s better to work with several microfibre cloths and to keep rinsing them. Inside, a damp soft cloth is often all it takes to remove dust from the surfaces.
If you want to really get your car into shape inside and out, we advise leaving it to an expert. For example, we offer a cleaning and valeting service for your entire vehicle. We revitalise and polish the leather, paintwork and chrome, and even remove the dust and dirt that’s been hidden in inaccessible corners for decades. If you’d like to give your paintwork added protection, you can treat it to a permanent paint sealant and protector. This offers the ultimate high gloss protection (3 to 5 years) and helps maintain the value of your car. A positive side effect of this treatment is that the car doesn’t need to be washed as often – 50% less according to the manufacturer – because the dirt and other environmental influences find it much more difficult to attack the paintwork. We have had very good experience with the hybrid, high-strength polymer coating from ServFaces. We’ve been using this system for some time to protect our own vehicles and can recommend it without reservation. Here’s a link to the brochure.
Before leaving the car in the garage, warm up the engine and dry out the brakes. The wheels should be just warm to the touch when you park your car. This has two benefits: you can be sure there is no moisture in the brake system and also that any condensation present in the exhaust has evaporated. We shouldn’t need to mention that the roof should remain closed over the winter. Open the doors, the trunk and the bonnet again to allow the rubber to dry off. Raise the windscreen wipers for a short while to allow them to dry completely.
Once everything is dry, you’ll need to turn your attention elsewhere.
The rubber seals on the boot, windscreen, windows, etc. also deserve some care and attention; otherwise they’ll become brittle. There are many ways to do this: glycerine, Vaseline, deer tallow and talcum are the most common. Oil-based products should be used with caution, as they can dissolve the rubber over time. Be sure to always follow the instructions provided with the product you decide to use. Once you have finished, we recommend that you wind down the windows slightly on both sides to allow air to circulate.
A high quality car cover will protect against dust. It should be breathable and have a soft internal lining to prevent scratching. We recommend this one: Car-Cover
Many people jack up their vehicles. This causes the wishbones to drop and the rubber buffers to crumble over the winter. It can therefore cause a lot of extra work. There’s an easier and quicker way.
There are now very good tyre trainers on the market made from a tough plastic/rubber composite that protect against flat spots and are very easy to use. All you have to do is make sure you position them correctly and you can drive off
on the tyres when the time is right. Check your tyre pressures. Mercedes advises 1.7 bar on the front for the 190SL and 1.8 bar on the rear wheels and spare wheel. However, putting slightly more air (0.5-1.0 bar) in the tyres over the winter can’t do any harm.
What to do with the tank and fuel? Opinions diverge on this one, but if you have a metal tank, we recommend filling it.
This will protect against condensation and corrosion.
If you know the car is going to be garaged for several months, you can also take the additional step of adding a fuel stabilising agent to the petrol in the tank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You should normally let the engine run for 10 minutes after adding the additive in order to distribute it through the system.
Humidity ages a car. If you can, try to minimise the humidity levels in your garage. Some people like to use a dehumidifier. There is a wide range available in different qualities. A simple tip that always works: inserting a cloth in the exhaust stops moisture finding its way through the exhaust system and into the combustion chamber, where it can cause corrosion.
One last tip: invest in a modern battery conditioner and connect it to your battery. These devices offer a number of programmes and will prevent the battery from discharging. And when winter’s over, your car will start first time.
Follow these tips and you’ll never again have to worry about putting your treasured classic into hibernation.
If you’d like more information on any of these products, please send an email to [email protected].
We carry many of them in stock.