Laying up the Minor for the winter

Well, do you put your car away after the last rally? Or do you use it on Sunny afternoons all through the winter? Are you one of the innovatives who puts a calor gas stove in the passenger footwell to use the car the whole year round?
The service list is similar for all these eventualities. Skip them and end up by the side of the road, five o’clock on a busy roundabout in fog and rain with the temperature hovering around freezing, the mobile phone battery dead or worse, no credit, a hungry child in the back and a whinging SWMBO who will be late for a hair appointment. It’s not that I’m sexist, these things just happen this way.
Rule Number one: a battery will not last a fourth winter. Yes, there are weird and wonderful chemicals you can add to the electrolyte from recipes in magazines aimed at mini enthusiasts and these will foam and bubble quite excitingly. But the battery will not last a fourth winter. Replace it in September/October just as the first frosts are waiting around the corner and you’ll not fall into the frosty morning trap. [Swing the handle if you must, but there’s an art to not breaking your arm in the process…..!] Rule number two: fill with antifreeze. Ok, so you didn’t drain last year’s. So get a hydrometer and syphon off some of the coolant and check. Bet you used cheap glycerine antifreeze anyway and it only lasts a year because it evaporates faster than water. While you’re heading for the sun in August or ticking over merrily at a concourse for the judge, the antifreeze is busily evaporating. Sort your hoses first and then refill with two litres of antifreeze and the rest water. If you do it in September then any leaks will show themselves before the worst of the winter and it’ll be an easy Sunday Morning job to sort. While you’re at it, invest in a bottle of screenwash additive and pour the lot in.
Rule number three: buy some points. I presume your distributor cap and leads are in good working order? Aren’t they? Grab hold of them while the engine is running and you’ll soon know! Fit new points in September whether your car needs them or not. New ones will last right through until spring with only one adjustment after a hundred miles while the old ones might not. The silver tarnishes with age as well as use. How much are they? £2.35 at my local shop. Is it worth it?
Rule number four: see to your brakes. Braking on snow and ice is no joke. Personally I back off my front shoes by one notch in the winter so that gentle braking brings the back brakes on first. This is pure preference. Make sure you have plenty of lining left to last until spring. Pack some grease onto the pipe unions behind the drum and the bleed nipples too. This prevents corrosion from salt and makes it dead easy to strip and replace if you need to later.
Rule number five: see to your lights. The hanging connections at the front inner wings are a constant source of trouble in the winter, bad earths, bad connections, dim lights. Take them out and scratch the connections with a strip of sandpaper. Check the earth connection at the nearside. Fit new black connectors. Buy a spare headlight bulb or sealed beam and put it in the boot.
Rule number six: Buy those spares you’ve been meaning to for years. A fan belt for instance. It lies on top of the petrol tank, takes up no useful room. A petrol pump. A hammer keeps an errant pump going for a few miles but if you’re on unleaded then the diaphragm might be the problem and the hammer won’t sort that. Let’s face it, everyone gets a petrol pump problem sooner or later, a spare in the boot is insurance against one failing in the snow on Christmas Eve.
Rule number seven: change your torch batteries. Enough said. Carry the torch with you, see if it’ll fit into the well in the boot and leave it there.
Rule number eight: While you’re in the boot, blow up the spare too. Consider an aerosol of instant punture repair, wrap it in a towel with a bag of silica gel and leave it in the boot. Do I have to tell you punctures only happen when you’ve got a white T-shirt on!
Rule number nine: stock up on CD’s. What better way to relax while you’re waiting for the breakdown service because you skimped on the previous! [Requests to the site please, I’ve been buying Deep Purple and Grateful Dead!] Rule number ten: Print this and fasten to garage wall!!

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