Subject: a 1970 Ford Mustang Fastback. This car, bought new as a factory order, has always been stored inside but has not been driven for about 15 years. What steps should be taken before running it again. Or should it just be sold "as is?" – DGC
This was the last year for the first-generation Mustang but my first instinct would be to sell it. However, if it is special in any way – for example, it's a "Mach" or "Boss" model; or if there is a sentimental attachment – it can probably be put back into service, but with a formidable amount of work, and cost. Let's look at it by sections:
Engine: Buy a new battery and cables. The old one will not accept or hold a charge and the cables will have lost some conductivity.
Oil: Drain and replace the filter. Repeat after engine has been started and reaches operating temperature. A lot of little pieces and contaminants will have been brought back to life
Other fluids: Drain and flush fuel, oil and hydraulic lines (power steering and brake systems). Replace with new fluids according to manufacturer specs.
Hoses and belts: You could inspect and look for cracks, aging etc. but this is one area where new is relatively inexpensive and will eliminate problems going forward.
Fuel: Drain and flush the tank and the lines connecting it to the engine. Drain gas from the carburetor. Old gas will have gelled and can clog lines and fittings. It will also have lost a great deal of its combustibility. Inspect lines for signs of corrosion or cracks. It might be a good idea to remove the carburetor and take it to a shop for a rebuild, with new gaskets, jets, etc.
Transmission: Drain fluid, flush, replace fluid.
Differential: Drain and replace lubricant.
Brakes: The metal surfaces will likely have corroded and the linings or pads as well because of the metal particles in them. With the car on stands, try to turn each wheel by hand. If it moves, have someone apply the brakes to see if it stops. It will likely be stuck and need attention – turn the rotors or drums on a lathe to generate a clean surface and install new pads or linings.
Lines and cables: Inspect all brake lines carefully, looking for corrosion or breaks. The parking brake cable will likely need replacement.
Tires/wheels: Check the wheel for signs of corrosion or breakage. Tires have a life of about five to eight years so these will require replacement.
The start: It is critical that you do not rush to start the engine. All the gaskets that seal where things have been attached, from the heads and oil pan to the water and fuel pumps, will have dried out and likely cracked – creating a myriad of leaks. All those moving metal pieces will be without lubrication after such a long spell. Forcing them to rub against each other will cause damage and wear.
Before attempting to start the engine, remove the spark plugs and squirt a small amount of oil into each cylinder to help free the piston rings and prevent scoring the cylinder walls. With the plugs still removed, crank the engine over until the oil pressure gauge registers or the red oil warning light goes out. This will circulate oil and provide essential protection to moving parts.
Remove the air cleaner and squirt some starter fluid into the carburetor. Start the engine. Do not rev it, let it idle and listen closely for grinding or rattling noises. Turn the engine off immediately if you hear anything like this.
Otherwise, let the engine idle for several minutes. Watch the temperature gauge. If it is still working and the thermostat and cooling system are intact, the gauge should start to move as the engine warms up. Use this opportunity to look for leaks around and under the engine and check all the lights.
Use the first short trip to get to a shop with a lift. That 20-minute drive will loosen everything up and evaporate all the moisture in the exhaust and in the engine. It will also give you a chance to listen for unusual noises and monitor the gauges for temperature, battery charging and oil pressure.
With the car on a lift, drain the oil and replace it and the filter – again, having hopefully removed contaminants and little metal particles that will have been disturbed and hopefully captured in the filter. This is also an opportunity to examine the underside of the engine and transmission for leaks.
Suspension: With the car up on the hoist, grease all fittings and examine ball joints, bushings shafts and shocks for looseness or leaks.
This may seem like a lot of work, but it will ensure that old Mustang provides many more miles and years of trouble-free driving. Time and money spent now will pay off in the long run.
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