How to Protect a Classic Car | YourMechanic Advice

How to Protect a Classic Car

A classic car is one that is more than 25 years old and has been proven to be popular or sought after. Popular classic cars are typically from the late 1950s, 1960s, and into the 1970s with examples including:

  • Chevrolet Camaro
  • Dodge Charger
  • Dodge Dart
  • Ford Mustang
  • Plymouth Roadrunner

There are many other popular models that are considered classic cars including domestic, European, and Asian models. What is common among them all is that, as a classic car, they need to be protected in order to stand the test of time.

Classic cars are among the only vehicles that can be considered an investment. A classic car, even if it is not a rare model, is often 10 times more valuable now than its original purchase price. They maintain their value because they are rare, are no longer produced, and are treated as prized possessions.

Classic cars require extra measures of protection to keep them in top shape because the technology used to build them was not to the same standard as it is for modern vehicles. The sheet metal may not have been protectively coated as thoroughly, the glass windshield may be a more delicate surface, and the paint may not be as resistant to UV light from the sun. If a classic car were to be treated as a normal vehicle, you would find that it would likely degrade at a faster rate than your modern car.

Here’s how to protect your classic car to keep it in the best shape possible.

Part 1 of 4: Drive your classic car mindfully

A car is meant to be driven unless it is in a museum. If you own a classic, that means you want to enjoy it. The key to operating a classic car is to be aware of your surroundings and to be careful when you drive it.

classic car driving on a sunny day

Step 1: Drive your classic car only when the weather is appropriate. Because the metal used on classic cars was sprayed with primer and paint and not dipped or coated by electrolysis like modern cars, any bare metal is more susceptible to rust and corrosion.

Drive your classic car when the roads are dry and there is a low likelihood of rain in the forecast.

Avoid driving shortly after rainfall to prevent wetness on your metal components.

Avoid driving your classic car in the winter to prevent salt accumulation which can severely damage your car’s paint job and accelerate corrosion.

Step 2: Drive your classic car on high-quality roads. Avoid driving roads riddled with potholes or unknown routes.

Avoid driving on gravel roads where stones can chip your paint.

If you encounter an obstacle or hole in the road that cannot be avoided, slow down to prevent possible tire, suspension, or body damage when driving over or through the problem spot.

heavy traffic

Step 3: Drive your car responsibly. Although your engine may be powerful and your car fun to drive, take care in where you choose to open it up.

If you lose control of your car and get into an accident, it can cause irreparable damage and dramatically reduce its resale value with a collision on record - not to mention that you could hurt yourself or others!

Avoid parking in mall parking lots or in questionable neighborhoods to prevent the possibility of vandalism, attempted theft, or even door dings from cars parked too close.

Part 2 of 4: Perform regular maintenance

Your classic car requires more attentive maintenance than modern cars. They were built in an era where engine rebuilds were performed as routine maintenance and fluids changed much more frequently. Never delay proper maintenance to ensure your classic car lasts as long as possible.

car hoisted up with oil dripping out

Step 1: Change your oil regularly. Oil change intervals have increased by thousands of miles since the classic car era.

Classic cars should have an oil and filter change every 2,500 miles at minimum, or at least annually.

Use high-grade oils such as a fully synthetic oil for the best protection from wear.

Change the oil filter every time you replace the engine oil.

spark plug in a classic car

Step 2: Change the spark plugs every 20,000 miles. Spark plugs tend to deteriorate faster in classic cars due to factors including the higher chance of flooding the engine, the less reliable points ignition system and lower quality manufacturing standards opposed to modern engines.

Replace the spark plugs along with the distributor cap, rotor, and spark plug wires for the best results.

Step 3: Change the coolant every 3-5 years. The coolant in your engine and radiator deteriorates whether it is circulating or not.

Drain and refill the coolant every 3-5 years to prevent it from leaving deposits inside the engine and radiator.

Change the engine thermostat every time you change the engine coolant.

Step 4: Replace the air filter annually. The air filter is the least expensive maintenance item on your car and ensures only clean air is introduced into the engine to be burned.

A clogged air filter causes running problems including increased fuel consumption, engine stumbling, hard starting, and even stalling.

Part 3 of 4: Keep your classic car clean

Materials Needed

  • Bucket
  • Clay bar kit
  • Cloths (microfiber)
  • Hose
  • Mitt (microfiber)
  • Soap

Your classic car will last longest if you properly clean and protect it, whether you drive the car or leave it parked.

man wiping down exterior

Step 1: Keep the exterior clean. If you drive the car, it is exposed to environmental elements including tree sap, bird droppings, bugs, and acid rain that can damage your paint job.

Wash your classic car’s paint and chrome exterior as soon as you notice something stuck to your paint.

Classic car paint is more susceptible to corrosion than modern car paint, so immediate action will help reduce the chance of paint damage.

Use a microfiber mitt and gentle car wash soap, and hand wash your classic car.

Dry it completely with a microfiber cloth or chamois to eliminate water spots.

man using a clay bar

Step 2: Use a clay bar. If the paint feels rough or gritty, clean the paint further with a detailing clay bar.

Spray detailing lubricant on the paint and rub detailing clay on the paint to remove any stuck on contaminants such as rail dust or road salt.

You can also clay your classic car to remove old car wax before applying a new coat.

Step 3: Wax the exterior regularly. Car wax protects your car’s paint from UV damage, protects from permanent damage from environmental elements, and leaves your car shiny and attractive.

Wax your classic car annually if you keep it in storage, or every 6-8 weeks if you drive your classic car.

Step 4: Protect your tires with a tire conditioner. Apply a high-quality tire conditioner that also leaves the tires looking deep black.

Tire conditioner prevents early tire degradation due to sun exposure and aging.

Step 5: Keep the interior clean. The best practice is to avoid introducing items inside your car that can cause a mess.

If you do end up getting a stain on the carpet or seats, treat it immediately with upholstery cleaner before the stain sets in.

Part 4 of 4: Store your classic car

Whether you put your car away for winter or if it only comes out for car shows, storing your classic car safely will make it last as long as possible.

indoor storage facility

Step 1: Find a climate-controlled car storage. While you can park your car in your garage at home, most home garages aren’t equipped to monitor and control humidity levels.

A constant, moderate temperature will help your car last much longer.

Off-site climate controlled car storage also means less opportunity for potential damage such as a child resting a bike against your prized classic car or a box being placed on the car hood.

cars being covered in storage facility

Step 2: Use a car cover on your classic car. Whether you choose to store your classic car at home, off-site at a climate-controlled facility, or on your driveway, using a high-quality fitted car cover will prevent dust and dirt from settling on your paint, UV damage from the sun, and potential scratches from an accident.

Step 3: Check in on your stored classic car. Every 3-6 months, check in on your classic car to ensure its operation.

Take it for a short drive to keep mechanical parts moving, preventing them from seizing up.

Whether you drive your classic car regularly or keep it in storage, it’s important to make sure it has the correct amount of insurance. Have it appraised every few years and insure it with your car insurance company for its appraised value. If your car insurance provider doesn’t extend enough insurance for your classic car, reputable classic car insurance companies like Hagerty will provide you coverage.

Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

YourMechanic Oil Change Service

Average Rating


Number of Reviews


Rating Summary


26 years of experience
90 reviews
26 years of experience
Chevrolet Venture - Oil Change - Orlando, Florida
Mr. Jimmi Phillips is a true professional. Finally, found a mechanic who is not only knowledgeable but who understands that his profession is not work but an avocation. Jimmi provides expert service that allows one to feel most confident in the work being provided. Quality, value, integrity, and service best describes Mr. Phillips.
Honda Accord - Oil Change - Orlando, Florida
Showed up a little ahead of time. Fixed my idling problem and gave advice if there were future problems with it. I'm happy.


8 years of experience
89 reviews
8 years of experience
Lexus ES350 - Oil Change - Fresno, California
We love Jonathan. He is knowledgeable, professional, trustworthy, and did a terrific job. Thank you.


14 years of experience
408 reviews
14 years of experience
Nissan Altima - Oil Change - Antioch, Tennessee
I have booked Joe several times at this point and I feel he is very knowledgeable and patient when explaining needed repairs to me. He communicates well and has a pleasant manner and disposition. I have never felt that he would suggest a service that was not needed, which has not always been the case when I used to take my car to a dealership for service.


21 years of experience
49 reviews
21 years of experience
Audi A4 - Oil Change - Las Vegas, Nevada
Michael arrived a little early and was very professional. He finished the service quickly but was unable to reset the "service due" indicator on the dash.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Related articles

How to Deal With a Car Battery For Long-Term Storage
If If you store your car for the winter, or for other long periods, it’s important to make sure that your car battery is properly cared for. Long term car storage can wreak havoc on your battery. Isn't it okay...
Preparing Your Car for Long-Term Storage
There There are multiple reasons you may need to store your vehicle. Perhaps your convertible is used only in the summer, and will need to be put into long-term storage throughout the winter. Maybe a project car is being stored...
How to Buy Good Quality Seat Covers
Kids, Kids, pets, even you – nearly everything that enters your vehicle is tough on your car seats. We live in our cars these days, and everything from sodas from lunch to glitter and mud are going to stick into...

Related questions

How to get rust off of my project car?

Hey there. This is one of the toughest decisions in starting a classic car restoration project. Rust is relentless. The absolute "best way" to deal with rust is to disassemble the car, have it media blasted, or acid-dipped, then immediately...

Is it safe to switch from 5/30 weight formula Shell oil to a synthetic oil to store for the winter?

Hi, thanks for writing in. You should not need to change the oil from the 5/30 you have in order to store the car for the winter. I would recommend filling the car up with fuel and having the tire...

How Do You Deal With a Car Battery for Long Term Storage?

Batteries need special care when being stored for an extended length of time. A battery has 3-5 years’ life expectancy. This can be shortened when doing long term storage incorrectly. When the battery is connected, voltage draws from the vehicle’s...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 ·