starting up an old car sitting for long time

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Mar 6, 2004
I'm trying to help a friend of mine to start up an old car thats been sitting for maybe 3 years or more. Its a '67 Plymouth Fury III. Ok so we tried to jump start it, doesn't work. Took the battery to the gas station to get it charge but doesn't hold a charge so probably need a new battery. So what are somethings that I need to do to get the car started up? I don't know a whole lot about old cars. I check the oil dipstick, it looks very dark should change the oil of course. I flipped through the oil section of the manual and it list 20W-40, 10W-30 and even 5W-20 for very low temperatures with 10W-30 being the preferred grade. I not really restoring the car at the moment, just need to get it started up. Thanks for your help.
You need 3 things to get it running-fuel, spark and air all at the right time. Check the basics. Do you have good spark? Are you getting fuel at the carburetor? I would also be concerned about sticking valves if it hasn't run for several years. A compression test will tell you if you have enough compression to start it.
You most likely have a fuel problem. I once started a 1980 Caddy sedan deville that had sat in my friend's field for about 3 years, and all I did was put some gas in the tank then dribble a small bit of gas into the carb and it fired right up surprisingly. Then we caught the grass underneath the car on fire and had to start ramming snow under the car (it was winter) until the flames subsided. My dad once bought an AMC Eagle (loved those cars) for parts that had sat for a bit over a year, and he did the same as I did, put some gas in the tank, dribbled a small bit in the carb and it came to life. If you do decide to put some gas in the carb, make sure it's only a very small amount, try your best not to spill any gas, and tell any onlookers to stand back a bit. Preferrably, have a bucket of water on hand in case there's a bit of a fire, it's happened to me a few times.
a '67 Plymouth - I love it! [Cool] Here's something you definitely want to do. Don't start that car on the old gas. (Maybe you've already done this but . . . . ). Drain all the gas from the gas tank, (it will stink real bad as it's three year old gas). One easy way to start the car on fresh gas is to remove the fuel line from the fuel pump and run it into a gas can, (or to do it right, remove the gas tank, clean it out, fill it with fresh gas, let it run through the fuel lines, etc.) Obviously, working with gasoline, you'll need to be very careful, no smoking or playing with fire. The gas that's in the tank will have a ton of varnish in it and you don't want to be pumping that into your engine. Secondly, pull the spark plugs and pour a little Marvel Mystery Oil in each plug hole, let it soak over night, or even a few days for that matter. Third, check to see if you have spark, are your points dirty? Are they set properly? How about your ignition wires? Cracked? Broken? Air intake - any critters make their home in the air cleaner or around the carb in the three years car has been sitting? You'd be surprised how homey an engine compartment can be for some. The ulitmate question, (if you can find out), why was the car left sitting and what condition was it in when they parked it? Running? Kind of running? Died so they pushed it to the backyard? That's will help you figure out what you need to do. Good luck and keep us posted! I always thought the '67 Plymouth was a cool looking car! Hey, what size is the motor? 318? 383? Or, (be still my heart), 440? The ulitmate question
It's expected that the battery will be dead after sitting for 3 years. Once that is replaced draining the gas is probably a good idea. If you are asking what oil to put in, I wouldn't put anything expensive in it for the first run after sitting for 3 years, I personally would put some decent dino oil in there(10w30 as you said is just fine), start it up, let it idle for at least a minute so that you know the oil has been circulating awhile before trying to move. Personally, I would change the oil and filter as soon as it first changes color for the first oil change(probably around 500 miles). That will get any contamination and left over water or loose sludge out of the engine. Out of personal experience... I have started a car that was sitting for 2 years after simply changing its oil. The tank was half full with 2 year old gas and the owner wanted the car gone and was giving it to my friend for free. The engine cranked about 5 seconds or so and ran fine.
GreeC, I believe you. It is just strange, because I got my ideas from an article I read by those "Click and Clack" car guys. They said to do what I said. Top up the old fuel with high octane gas. Hmmm...
Thanks for all the replies. When we tried to start the car after the battery got charged, it seemed like it cranks a little, dash lights come on. But when I took the key out I hear some soft ticking sound from the engine that faded away slowly. For sure got to buy a new battery. I'll probably use a siphon pump if the tank doesn't have a drain plug to get the old gas out. I opended the gas cap and it smelled horrible. I'll check the spark plugs. Wires still look good. I removed the air cleaner and its nasty, lots of spider webs and a big spider crawled out. I don't know a whole lot about the history of the car but I was told it was probably parked on the driveway and left there. Motor size I'm not sure but I remember seeing an emblem that says Commander V8, its probably the base model. I'll keep you posted how it goes. Yeah its a nice car, paint still looks okay. Again thanks for the advice. [ May 17, 2005, 08:04 PM: Message edited by: lpcmidst128 ]
I would go the easiest route. 1. Spray some starting fluid into the carburator. If it does not fire up right away you either have no spark or fouled plugs. 2. Pull off a spark plug wire from one of the plugs and ask your friend to hold it for a second while you check something in the car. Then crank the engine. If he jumps you probably have spark. 3. Spray in a little more starting fluid and see if it starts. If it still does not start, pull a couple plugs. They are probably all wet. At this point you are pretty screwed and will have to drain the fuel. It will be a pain in the butt because you will have to get the fuel out of the carburator and the fuel lines too. If the car does start running, top up the tank with the highest octane gas you can get and maybe even put in a bit of octane booster if there is not much room to top it up.
MN Driver - excellent advice on the oil - but I would still be very inclined to clean that gasoline out of the tank and fuel system. I ruined a 350 V-8 in a 1970 Chevy by letting it sit for over two years. The motor was rebuilt with 30,000 miles on it when I parked it. (I had moved away from my parents house and had it stored in my father's barn). Finally, I came home, went out in Papa's barn, dropped a battery in the old Chevy, poured a little gas in the carburator and it fired right up. I drove around with that old gas for about a week, (it stank real bad). What I noticed was that every time I cranked it up, it would turn over a little slower. I thought it was the battery so grabbed another. Same thing, motor turned over slower and slower. The motor would start and run, but each time it took a little longer and a little longer. Then it started to smoke which it had never done before. Finally, it got to where it would hardly turn fast enough to crank. Turns out the gas had turned to varnish and coated the pistons and cylinder walls of the motor. When I pulled the heads, all the cylinders and piston skirts were covered with a dark brown sticky varnish. That was the end of my 350. And yes, I did change the oil prior to starting it after it had sat for so long. Now, this was 20 years ago so perhaps the gasoline they make today is different from then. But I would sure hate to see what happened to me happen to that super cool '67 Plymouth. Just my humble opinion.
In 1999, I bought a '65 Fleetwood that sat in a warehouse for 22 years. Perhaps a bit anal, but I went through a lot of precautions before turning the key. Here is the list as I can best recall: Removed each sparkplug and sprayed some liquid wrench in each hole, followed the next day by a squirt of 30 wt. motor oil. Removed fuel line for carb, and blew air through line to clear any debris. Changed fuel filter. Drained old gasoline from tank. Put in a couple of gallons of Chevron premium. After oil sat in cylinders overnight, turned crankshaft by hand to make sure engine wasn't seized (it wasn't). Put new sparkplugs in. Drained oil, replaced filter and put in 10w30 dino oil. Drained radiator and cooling system. Flushed as best I could without running engine. Filled with proper coolant mixture. Replaced battery and inspected cables. Put a little gasoline in carb. and fired that momma up. Started up easily but rough for a little, then smoothed out. After running it about an hour, once again changed oil, filter and flushed coolant. Drove it for 4 1/2 years as daily driver with minimal repairs. Sold to collector and bought new Caddy. Probably left a step or two out, but this seemed to be a good wake-up procedure. Certainly worked for me.
After oil sat in cylinders overnight, turned crankshaft by hand to make sure engine wasn't seized (it wasn't).
In my view, this is a very necessary and smart move. Otherwise you might break a ring when it hits a rust spot or some cylinder/ring corrosion. Loved the Fury's. The carb will eventually have to be taken apart and devarnished since most likely the gas evaporated and left behind a lot of crud. One of the first things I do to an old carb is check the float to make sure it's moving and not stuck. Sometimes, a good squirt of carb cleaner and letting it sit overnight is all it takes. This assumes fuel is entering the carb and spark is sufficient. Mark the original position of the distributor with paint or finger nail polish since you will most likely need to remove the distributor for upgrades. [ May 20, 2005, 10:41 PM: Message edited by: MolaKule ]
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