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You & Your Car

Taking a car out of storage will cost thousands - if you do it wrong Add to ...

I have a 1989 Audi my parents put away years ago. They passed away recently and I want to get the car ready to sell. I may even keep it myself. The odometer shows 13,850 kilometres and I know my dad used fuel stabilizer in it and his boat engine. Is there anything I should do before attempting to start the engine? -Bob in New Brunswick

What you do at this point can save you thousands of dollars – the cost of having the engine rebuilt if you do not take the necessary steps. The process will be very complex and involve a lot more than the fuel.

Fuel stabilizer has a useful life of a few years. Replace the fuel in that tank and blow out the lines. Check the brakes to see if they have seized; if so, they should be replaced or repaired before you go further.

But the bigger problem, I believe, would be the possible lack of lubrication and damage caused if you were to get the engine started. At various points throughout the engine – valves, piston rings, bearings etc. – metallic surfaces in contact with each other require lubrication. If the engine has been still too long there would be no oil, perhaps not even a film of oil, between these surfaces.

It takes a while for the oil pump to circulate the oil and build enough pressure to push it through the various lines and orifices where it is needed. I would suggest removing the spark plugs, squirting an ounce or so of oil into each cylinder, disconnecting the source of power to the plugs and using the starter to turn the engine over for 10-15 seconds at a time. Don’t hold the starter in motion longer than that as it will overheat.

Wait a couple of minutes before cranking the engine again. Do this three or four times to allow some oil to be circulated. Install new plugs, reconnect the power and with new fuel it should start.

Do not rev the engine. Let it idle – which may sound rough as the injectors can be clogged or valves or other parts sticky.

Let it idle for a few minutes, then shut it off and change the oil and filter. Try a couple of very low-speed runs. Shut the engine off, check for leaks etc. on the way to a service location.

While it is in for this service have the power steering and brake systems flushed and those fluids replaced. Check the transmission fluid level and seals. Check all hoses and belts for wear and slack. And don’t forget tires age as well. If they are more than eight to 10 years old, it is time for new ones even though the current ones may look good.

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