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Revitalizing after Storage

Contributed By: Jeff Gunn

I have owned two vehicles that sat for several years unused before I got them, a '71 Javelin and my '78 Cherokee. I can tell you what is normally required to get an engine running after sitting for a LONG time.

First, you need to change the oil and filter and install new spark plugs. You might also do a compression test while you have the plugs out. Inspect the entire ignition system for possible faults. This isn't much of a problem with newer FSJs since they have the "box" so it either works or doesn't. On a points-ignition you would want a basic tune-up kit, points and condenser. If possible, drain all the old gas out of the gas tank and refill with fresh. Check the coolant to make sure it has plenty, and drop in a new battery. At this point you're ready to crank it. Some starting fluid (ether) is helpful at this point. Both the vehicles I had started and ran after this process, although they smoke alot while burning out the old gas from the carb. I wouldn't rev it too much at first, it hasn't run in years and probably needs some time to "loosen up".

After you get it running and decide you want to keep it and use it, there's still plenty to do. You will want to replace all the belts, hoses, and vacuum lines. Basically, anything rubber will probably be suspect. I had to replace the brake cylinders, master cylinder, and calipers on both vehicles. The carburetors needed to be rebuilt as well, the gaskets dry up and they get varnishy and don't run well. Electrical components usually fail pretty quickly too, starters and alternators etc. You may need to replace the wheel bearings, they tend to get out of round or something from sitting in one position for too long.

A final point that I want to make is that most vehicles that have sat for years were parked because they needed something fixed. On the Jeep I had to replace the fuel pump right away, the Javelin needed headers and exhaust and the ignition had been put together incorrectly. I still find things that previous owners have screwed up (and screw things up myself occasionally ;-) ) In other words be prepared to do some repairs before you go joyriding, but both the Jeep and the Javelin turned out to be good rides after some a little work and a few $$$. Jeff

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