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Classics & Hot Rods
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How dry I am...
Just in case you haven’t noticed, we live in a very dry climate. Even our skin and hair are dry and this time of the year, the humidifier runs constantly. Well, this dryness takes its toll on our cars too. If you notice those little cracks along the sidewalls of your tires that run into the tread, it means just one thing… dry rot. And dry rot doesn’t just happen to your tires, anything rubber or vinyl is a prime target. These materials naturally degrade over a period of years depending on climate, temperature and humidity. How you store your vehicle can either help or delay this process. With tires, the air pressure inside your tires is also a determining factor. The common denominator in all these products is oil. As the oils in the rubber and vinyl begin to evaporate, the dry rot process begins.
So what can you do to prevent this happening to your classic car? First, drive that car often, especially during the winter storage period. Drive it at least once per month and more often if you can. Pick a nice day when there is little or no moisture on the pavement and put as many miles on the car as you can. Get the tires up to highway speed and let the rubber compounds heat up. This helps prevent dry rot and gets the oil compounds circulating in the tires. Also, keep those tires up to rated pressure. Under-inflated tires seem to crack and decompose more quickly.
Where you store your car makes a difference. Storing a car near excessive heat or in direct sunlight will speed up the deterioration process. Also, try getting your tires off the cement. Just driving onto boards can make a difference, but be sure not to use treated lumber. The chemicals in treated lumber could possibly react with the chemicals in your tires over a long period of time.
For the inside vinyl, regularly using a good vinyl or leather cleaner and sealer will help keep the moisture in place. Door panels, dash boards, seats and consoles all need to be cleaned and treated on a regular basis. Rubber seals and trim should also be treated to keep them soft and pliable.
Years ago, a doctor friend was discussing the aging process. When someone asked how he was doing…he jokingly said…he was in a constant state of deterioration. Well, that is true of both people and cars. How well and how often we do maintenance on ourselves and our vehicles can determine how long we and the vehicle last. Another one of the doctor’s favorite saying was…”I would rather wear out than rust out.” If exercise is great for the body then the same holds true for cars too. So the best prescription for a long life for us and for our cars may be a good dose of preventative maintenance and regular exercise.