If the Car Hasn’t Run For a While

We don’t start any car without checking oil and coolant. If the car hasn’t run for about six months or more, we make sure the fuel system is clean, the cooling system is clean and filled properly, and the brakes work.

Drain coolant, if any, make sure radiator is clean, replace radiator hoses, flush engine water passages, check for leaks, make sure water pump turns freely and quietly, replace with correct coolant (read labels on container, especially with aluminum heads or engines). Pull wheels, check tires, brakes and wheel bearings.

Calipers and wheel cylinders should move freely and be clean and dry. If caliper or wheel cylinder pistons resist retracting, crack the bleeder screw and try again; if this frees them, you probably have brake hoses or lines that are clogged inside. Sometimes brake hoses can look OK externally (no obvious cracks or stickiness) but have come delaminated on the inside and act like one-way valves for brake fluid.

The fluid in the master cylinder is probably gone or deteriorated; if there is any question about it, rebuild or replace the cylinder. When bleeding the system, bleed the master cylinder first, cracking the output lines if it doesn’t have a bleeder; no point to pushing air or bad fluid through the system. If the fluid in the reservoir or any cylinders is black or has black specks, you have a seal problem.

Light rust can be removed from discs and drums with fine sandpaper; badly rusted or scored drums or rotors should be replaced. Drums and rotors can only be turned .060″ or less, and this is the depth of a medium scratch.

Check suspension for perished bushings, sloppy tie rod ends and bearings.

Check electrical connections (especially at the fuse box and the back of the starter solenoid, and the battery ground to engine and body) for corrosion or deterioration.

In general, assume that everything has rotted or gotten contaminated, and apply your intelligence to the project.