Winter Means Progress for Your Project

SEMA Member News—March/April 2014

Winter Means Progress for Your Project

By Todd Ryden


Wintertime doesn’t mean covering your car and not looking at it for several months. It’s the perfect time to work on upgrades and maintenance to be ready for the new cruise season!
Wintertime doesn’t mean covering your car and not looking at it for several months. It’s the perfect time to work on upgrades and maintenance to be ready for the new cruise season!  

Much of the country is past the point of dealing with cold, damp, wintery weather, which means that we’re all getting a little antsy to fire up our hot rods. Most big cities in the snow-belt offer a couple of indoor shows and even swap meets to break up the winter storage blues, but that just fuels the fire of what we’re missing out on due to a choice of regional residence.

What really fans the fire of not being able to drive our rods several months out of the year is reading about the shows, races and events taking place in the fair-weather states across the South and West Coast. Modern technology makes it even worse, as we see and read about the events as they’re happening rather than reading about them several weeks after they’ve happened. Drag racing kicked off in early February; fairground shows started in March; Mooneyes had a huge cruise around Christmas; and the Pomona swap meet has already had its first event.

Yes, those in the sunny states get to drive their cars all year long and not worry about the harsh cold months ahead. They wear Hawaiian shirts and shorts for 12 months out of the year and have no idea what an ice scraper is used for. In theory—and temperature—that all sounds grand. However, it’s safe to say that they’re really missing out on some prime garage time to work on their cars.

Those guys will never understand the pleasure of taking your car out for a last cruise in the crisp fall weather before backing it into a tight corner of the shop. Or the feeling of satisfaction as you fog the engine with oil before turning off the key. They will never get to scour the local ads for heated storage or enjoy the ritual of lighting up the pilot light of the shop furnace every fall. They will never know the aromatic whiff of a freshly opened box of mothballs to ward off fuzzy, wire-munching critters.

The winter months provide hot rodders with the best excuse to tear into our cars. We’re not just talking about a little adjustment or a weekend tune-up. We’re afforded several months to get going on those major projects that we talked about over the summer. Here’s a list of several do-it-yourself updates (some with the help of buddies) that you can work on during the cold months.

  • Camshaft or head swap to bring a little more pep in the spring.
  • Upgrade to fuel injection, with time to do the fuel pump and lines right the first time.
  • Step up to an overdrive transmission to keep the rpm down on long cruises.
  • Finish or re-do the upholstery—finally.
  • Detail and update the dash and instruments.
  • Perform suspension upgrades with new springs or air bags.
  • Though it’s cold out, this is a perfect time to add air conditioning.
  • Update the wiring harness to get those pesky electrical issues over with for good.

Maybe you don’t have a long list of upgrades and fixes to work on over the months of hibernation, but there are plenty of maintenance items you can attend to. Better yet, get your kids away from the videos and tablets and put wrenches in their hands. This is an ideal time to teach them about the fun of vehicle maintenance.

  • Flush the cooling system and inspect hoses and belts.
  • Push out and replace the brake fluid and check the pads and shoes.
  • Pack the wheel bearings and inspect the suspension components.
  • Fix oil leaks in valve cover, oil pan or trans pan gaskets.
  • Replace the sparkplugs or build a new set of wires and take a look at the cap and rotor.
  • Install a set of heavy-duty sway bars or better shocks.

So you see, those Southern and West Coast builders are missing out on a lot of quality car time. And when springtime breaks, the winter-weather guys will be ready to fire up their hot rods and hit the road without stopping for several months!