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Old Car Pre-Flight!

Summary:
Pilots usually don’t fly before they make sure the plane will. Or rather, that it will probably continue flying once it’s up in the air. They’ll do a thorough walk-around and pre-flight before slamming the throttles home and rotating. The stakes aren’t as high with things that don’t fly, of course – but it’s still sound policy to do a “pre-flight” check of any car that isn’t a relatively new car – and especially if it’s a vintage car that only gets taken out every once in awhile. Because in-between, things can run low. Air, for instance. Most cars made before the late ‘90s do not have tire pressure monitors – which you really shouldn’t trust without verifying, either – so it’s up to you to monitor the tire pressure. The older the

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Pilots usually don’t fly before they make sure the plane will. Or rather, that it will probably continue flying once it’s up in the air. They’ll do a thorough walk-around and pre-flight before slamming the throttles home and rotating.

The stakes aren’t as high with things that don’t fly, of course – but it’s still sound policy to do a “pre-flight” check of any car that isn’t a relatively new car – and especially if it’s a vintage car that only gets taken out every once in awhile.

Because in-between, things can run low.

Air, for instance.

Most cars made before the late ‘90s do not have tire pressure monitors – which you really shouldn’t trust without verifying, either – so it’s up to you to monitor the tire pressure. The older the tires the more likely they – or the valve stems – are leaking, even if it’s only a little.

Over time, it can amount to a lot.

And it may not look it.

Tires can be low but not obviously so.

But being down 15 pounds on the right rear can dramatically change the way your car handles – and brakes – and not for the better. It also increases the likelihood of a tire failing due to friction and heat build-up.

Besides checking tire pressure – manually, with an accurate gauge – it’s a good idea to check the tires themselves for signs of dry rot, such as cracks on the sidewall or bulges on the sidewall; the sight of either indicates a tire that is need of being replaced before you drive the car.

This happens fairly often with little used vintage cars – which often have vintage tires.

My ’76 Trans-Am, for example, is wearing a set of BF Goodrich radials that date from the late ‘90s – because I only drive the TA once or twice a month. Even though the tread is still good, the rubber almost certainly isn’t what it was. If I were going to drive the TA every day – or aggressively, at high speed – I would replace these tires even though they look good.

Oil and other vital fluids can also run low – whether by leaks or via consumption. All engines use some oil but ancient engines often use more – not necessarily because they’re worn but because they were designed with looser tolerance than modern engines.

Especially vintage high-performance engines.

Eric Peters
Eric Peters is a freelance car/bike/political columnist. He escaped the corporate-owned media Big Boys years ago. Without the censorship of the corporate tools

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