Essential Tips for Starting Old Cars After Long Storage

Have you ever felt the thrill of awakening an old car that’s been sleeping in a dusty garage for ages? It’s okay if you haven’t – most people will never feel it.

The excitement, the anticipation, and the sheer joy of hearing the engine roar back to life – it’s an experience like no other. But starting old cars after a long period of inactivity isn’t as simple as turning a key in the ignition. It requires meticulous preparation, some elbow grease, a few tools, and a whole lot of patience.

Essential Tips for Starting Old Cars After Long Storage

Key Takeaways

  • Get your classic ride ready for action by checking for any nest-seeking critters or damage in the engine bay, and by giving belts and hoses a thorough inspection for wear.
  • Don’t start your engine on stale juice! Drain old fuel, slap on a new fuel filter, and give your fuel pump a once-over to ensure a smooth ignition.
  • Spark up your car’s electrical system by testing the lifeblood (battery), and swapping out any tired spark plugs or ignition coils to get that engine purring.

Preparing Your Old Car for a Successful Start

Just as a hibernating bear needs coaxing to wake up, so does an old car from its long slumber. The initial step to awaken your old car is its careful preparation to avoid damaging its delicate parts.

The preparation calls for intensive cleaning and scrutiny of the engine bay, along with a meticulous examination of the belts and hoses for any wear or damage. These procedures aim to guarantee your car is in optimal condition for its revival.

Clean and Inspect the Engine Bay

During its long rest, dust, dirt, and even critters may have lodged in your old engine bay. It’s important to clean it thoroughly to stop these unwanted particles from entering the engine upon startup. Your car’s engine, like you, prefers not to ingest dust and dirt.

But cleaning isn’t all there is to it. You also need to inspect the engine bay for signs of rodent intrusions or any other damage. The last thing you want is to discover a family of mice has made a nest in your engine.

Clean and Inspect the Engine Bay before starting your classic thats been sitting

Examine Belts and Hoses

Belts and hoses in your car contribute significantly to its operation by distributing power to various components. These can become brittle and begin to crack over time, particularly if the car has been idle for an extended period.

A thorough examination of your car’s belts and hoses for wear and tear is a key preparation step for a successful start. Keep an eye out for:

  • leaks
  • bulges
  • cracks
  • any other damage that could cause future issues

If you notice any issues, it’s best to replace them before you attempt to start the car.

Reviving the Fuel System

With your car’s engine bay prepared, the fuel system, including the fuel injectors, becomes your next focus. Considering your car requires fuel to run, the old gasoline in the gas tank might have degraded and lost its combustibility if the car has been idle for an extended period.

Reviving the fuel system involves draining and replacing the old gasoline, cleaning or replacing the fuel filter, and inspecting and servicing the fuel pump. These steps ensure that your car’s engine gets the fresh, clean fuel it needs to start successfully.

Drain and replace old gas before you try to start you old car

Draining and Replacing Old Gasoline

Fuel, just like any other substance, has a shelf life. Over time, it can degrade and lose its combustibility. If you try to start your car with old gasoline, it can lead to a variety of problems, from clogging up the fuel lines to damaging the engine.

Draining your car’s tank of old gasoline and refilling it with fresh fuel is a key step in rejuvenating the fuel system. This step guarantees your car gets the fresh, clean fuel required for smooth operation. And there’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh gas going into an old car.

Cleaning or Replacing the Fuel Filter

The fuel filter, a significant component in your car, ensures the fuel flowing to your engine is contaminant-free. The filter, over time, can become obstructed with dirt and debris, potentially causing the following engine problems:

  • Reduced fuel efficiency
  • Engine misfires
  • Difficulty starting the engine
  • Stalling or hesitation during acceleration

Regularly replacing your fuel filter is essential to maintain the performance and longevity of your engine.

If your car has been sitting idle for a long time, the fuel filter may need cleaning or even a complete replacement. Having a clean fuel filter ensures that your car’s engine gets the clean, uncontaminated fuel it needs to run smoothly.

Find fuel filters on Amazon.

Inspecting and Servicing the Fuel Pump

The fuel pump in your car, which delivers fuel from the tank to the engine, is an integral part of the fuel system. For a successful car start, it needs to be in good working order.

If your car has been sitting idle for a long time, the fuel pump may have suffered wear and tear. Inspecting and servicing the fuel pump is an essential step in reviving your car’s fuel system. Any signs of damage or wear should be addressed before you attempt to start your car.

Restoring the Electrical System

Your car’s electrical system is like a human body’s central nervous system. It manages everything from starting your car to energizing the lights and other electronic components. If the car has been idle for a long time, the battery might have drained, which means you’re going to need to give some attention to the electrical system.

Revitalizing the electrical system requires testing and potentially replacing the car battery, along with inspecting the ignition coil and spark plugs. These procedures ensure the electrical system is in a functional state, ready to reanimate your car.

Testing and Replacing the Car Battery

The car’s battery, akin to its heart, supplies the necessary electrical power to start your car and energize all electronic components, including the starter motor. If the car has been idle for a considerable duration, the battery might have drained.

Testing your car’s battery to ensure it has enough charge to start your car is an essential step in restoring the electrical system. If the battery is unable to hold a charge, it will need to be replaced before you can start your car. If it just needs a little boost, we suggest a portable jump starter to give your car or truck the extra push it needs.

Checking the Ignition Coil and Spark Plugs

The ignition coil and spark plugs play a pivotal role in your car’s ignition. They ignite the fuel-air mixture in the engine, which subsequently initiates the car’s startup.

If your car has been sitting idle for a long time, the ignition coil and spark plugs may need some attention. Checking these components for wear or damage and replacing them if necessary ensures a strong spark for a successful start.

Lubricating and Protecting the Engine

Similar to how your body requires sufficient lubrication for smooth movement, your car’s engine demands the same. Lubrication minimizes friction among different moving engine parts, preventing damage and facilitating smooth functioning.

Protecting the engine involves changing the engine oil and filter, and lubricating the cylinder walls and other components. These steps ensure that your car’s engine is well-lubricated and protected from wear and tear, ensuring a successful start.

Changing the Engine Oil and Filter

The engine oil serves as the lifeblood of your car, reducing friction and preventing damage by lubricating various moving engine parts. However, over time, the oil can deteriorate, losing its lubricating properties, and the filter can get clogged with dirt and debris. Monitoring your engine oil level and oil pressure is crucial to ensure the optimal performance of your vehicle.

Switching out the engine oil and filter is a significant step in engine lubrication and protection. Utilizing fresh, premium oil and a new filter guarantees a well-lubricated, contaminant-free engine for a successful start.

Lubricating Cylinder Walls and Other Components

The cylinder walls and other moving parts of your car engines need to be well-lubricated to prevent damage and ensure smooth operation. If your car has been sitting idle for a long time, these components, including the engine block, may need some extra lubrication.

Lubricating the cylinder walls and other components involves using a high-quality lubricant to reduce friction and protect these parts from wear and tear. This process ensures that these components can move smoothly, ensuring a successful start.

Getting Your Classic Car to Start after storage

Cooling System Maintenance

The cooling system in your car is instrumental in preventing engine overheating. It circulates coolant throughout the engine to absorb heat and transport it to the radiator for dissipation into the air.

Maintaining the cooling system involves checking and replacing the coolant, and inspecting the water pump and radiator. These steps ensure that your car’s cooling system is in good working condition and ready to keep your engine cool during the initial start-up.

Checking and Replacing Coolant

Also known as antifreeze, coolant is a critical part of your car’s cooling system. It absorbs heat from the engine and conveys it to the radiator for dissipation into the air.

Checking the coolant level and color, and replacing it if necessary, is a crucial step in maintaining your car’s cooling system. Using fresh, high-quality coolant ensures that your car’s engine stays cool during the initial start-up.

Inspecting the Water Pump and Radiator

In your car’s cooling system, the water pump and radiator play a pivotal role in maintaining engine coolness. While the water pump circulates the coolant throughout the engine, the radiator dissipates the heat absorbed by the coolant.

Inspecting the water pump and radiator for leaks or damage, and repairing or replacing them if needed, is a crucial step in maintaining your car’s cooling system. These steps ensure that your car’s cooling system is in good working condition and ready to keep your engine cool during the initial start-up.

Starting the Old Car Safely

With your car prepared, the following steps will help you start your car after a prolonged period of inactivity:

  1. Revive the fuel system.
  2. Restore the electrical system.
  3. Lubricate and protect the engine.
  4. Maintain the cooling system.

However, keep in mind that igniting an old car after a prolonged period of inactivity requires more than just a twist of the ignition key.

To safely start the old car, patience and care are paramount. It’s important to have a fire extinguisher at the ready and to crank the engine gently to prevent any harm to the delicate parts. Let’s dive into these steps in more detail.

FancyLife Fire Extinguisher

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Safety should be your foremost consideration when starting an old car. One of the most significant safety measures you can adopt is Crank The Engine Gently When Starting a Car That Hasn't Been Started In A While

Cranking the Engine Gently

Igniting an old car calls for a gentle approach. The engine and other components might have become delicate over time, and excessive cranking of the engine could result in damage or even a seized engine.

When you’re ready to start your car, follow these steps:

  1. Turn the key gently and patiently.
  2. Listen to the engine and pay attention to how it sounds.
  3. If you notice any unusual noises, stop and investigate before proceeding.


So, there you have it – the adventure of starting an old car after a long period of it sitting. Hopefully it is nice and easy for you!

It’s not just about turning a key in the ignition; it’s about preparing your car, reviving the fuel system, restoring the electrical system, lubricating and protecting the engine, maintaining the cooling system, and finally, starting the car safely. Remember, patience is key (at Get Vintage Vehicles we have to remind ourselves of that often!) Take your time, be gentle, and enjoy the process. After all, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of hearing an old car roar back to life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do when starting an old car?

Before starting an old car, make sure to flush the fuel system, check the battery, oil, and cooling system for any issues. Then, start the car and ensure it’s working properly.

How do you start a car after 20 years?

To start a car after 20 years, you need to ensure the engine can rotate freely, clean and lubricate the essential components, and check the condition of the air, fuel, and coolant. And make sure the fan belt is intact. Good luck with starting the car! You might need it.

Do old cars have trouble starting?

Yes, old cars can have trouble starting due to slower ignition and worn-out parts like the battery or starter motor. Regular maintenance and part replacements can help improve their starting performance.

How often should I change the coolant in an old car?

You should change the How can I tell if my car’s fuel pump is working correctly?

You can tell if the fuel pump is working correctly by checking for signs of wear or damage, or by having it checked and serviced. Keep an eye out for any issues to ensure your car runs smoothly.

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