In many parts of the country, winter seems to have a way of forcing most people's "hobby" vehicles into the garage where they'll stay awhile.
But spring changes everything. The sun's warmer, plants are greener, the roads are starting to lose the last evidence of snow, and most Corvette owners are thinking about bringing their cars out of hibernation.
Vehicles destined to spend between four and six months in the stable usually undergo a storage routine in preparation for winter. They're washed and waxed, they get a change of oil, interiors are cleaned and detailed and, sometimes, equipped with a bag of desiccant material to fend off humidity. In addition, spark plugs are pulled, fuel stabilizers like STA-BIL are added, and some engine oil is squirted into the cylinders. Owners have even been known to put their cars on stands or occasionally roll it forward or backward a few feet to avoid flat-spotting the tires.
Even with pre-storage preparations, it isn't a great idea to fire up your Corvette after it's been sitting for a while. You can't give it a hot cup of coffee and it isn't going to do any stretching exercises. But there are some things you can do to make that first springtime startup less traumatizing.
1. First, remove the battery if you didn't when it went into storage, and connect it to a charger so you'll have plenty of oomph when you start it the first time. Make sure it's holding a charge and that each cell, if applicable, is topped off to the proper levels with distilled water. Leave off the caps while you're charging the battery. You may want to consider upgrading if you discover a battery problem.
2. Change the engine oil and oil filter while the battery is charging. This helps eliminate any moisture in the crankcase. While you're under there, have a look at the condition of your tires and suspension components. Look at the insides of your tires. Brake fluid there indicates a leak at the calipers. Sort out those leaks with fresh parts, if necessary, then flush and/or bleed the system using the right procedure for your car, making sure to keep the master cylinder topped off with the proper type of fresh fluid. Also consider greasing the zerk fittings on all suspension components according the directions in your car's shop manual.
3. Once you're done under the car, move to the engine compartment and visually inspect all the hoses. Check every vacuum line, coolant hose, and fuel line, paying particular attention to the hose ends immediately adjacent to the clamps. Sometimes these areas can develop small tears or cuts that can result in fluid or vacuum leaks that can be difficult to track down later. Replace any hardened or cracked hoses.
4. Open the radiator and expansion tank, if applicable, and have a look inside. If there is oil floating on the top, you may have larger problems and you shouldn't be cruising anywhere for a while. If the coolant level is low or discolored, or if you can't remember the last time you gave the cooling system a flush and a fresh batch of coolant, drain the system and add the proper mix of fresh fluid and water. This is also a good time to consider installing a new thermostat with the proper temperature rating for your car.
5. Next, inspect your distributor cap, rotor, points (if equipped), and spark-plug wires. Renew them with fresh pieces if there's any doubt about the condition of any of these components. Remove the spark plugs and add a couple of healthy squirts of fresh engine oil to each cylinder. Rotate the engine a few times by hand, then replace the plugs with new ones of the proper type and heat range.
6. Hopefully, you started your Corvette's engine periodically during the winter and allowed it to come up to operating temperature. If you didn't, it's probably best to treat your first engine startup of spring as if you were starting a new engine for the first time. Remove the distributor and prime the engine with a pre-oiler (see sidebar). Remove the drill and pre-oiler, reinstall your distributor, and button it all back up.