Question of the Week: What’s the first thing you do to your car?


Making a vehicle uniquely yours is one of the best parts of ownership. From engine swaps to your favorite sticker on the rear glass, customizations come in many forms. This week we want to hear about the first thing you do when a new-to-you car enters your garage.

Vintage cars have a lot of character. Some come by it naturally, with tasteful body lines and factory refined exhaust notes. Others are built into creations that fulfill their owners’ vision. A vehicle becomes an extension of the owner, and each of us carefully curates exactly what that image is.

This Buick is a perfect start to a project.

To some, the factory got it right the first time—no custom work required. For the rest of us, the ratchet starts clicking before the engine has cooled from the trip home. Even small changes like custom radios, shift knobs, and blue-dot taillights can make your car just that—your car.

We want to know what you start with when you get a new-to-you ride. Is it a simple tune-up or are there parts waiting to go?


What’s the first thing I do when a car first comes to my garage? Well duh…make sure I have a good story for my wife of course. Then, if it’s drivable, I change all fluids and consumables.


Whenever I get any used, or collectable car I give it a thorough cleaning top to bottom. You can look all day at a car and not see body imperfections but wash that same car and issues with the body will jump out at you. Same with the interior or engine bay. I suspect that occurs because people look at the whole car and judge it’s condition but washing and waxing forces you to just look at one small area as you work.


I typically give the wiring a once over. I like to know my new purchase isn’t going to burn itself to the ground and inspecting the electrical system will often tell you what kind of mechanic was the last to work on the car.


I typically change every fluid and filter in the car before doing anything else. Gives me good peace of mind that I know the general health of the mechanicals. Unless the previous owner has documentation that shows otherwise, it is safe to assume that things like diff oil and transmission fluid changed have been deferred maintenance, I have yet to run into a time where it wasn’t the case. It is a cheap and easy maintenance item, yet nobody bothers…


After a quick (or sometimes not so quick depending on the condition of the car) clean up, the first thing I usually do is brakes and tires. This is generally simultaneously done along with replacing spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor, spark plug wires, battery, and ignition coil. I like cars that start and stop.


I agree and do the same as tommy44432
I give it a thorough cleaning top to bottom.
But before that I cover it with plastic painters sheets
and BUG BOMB the entire thing inside and out.
While detailing the car I’ll start a log book with a
long list of what needs to fixed, replaced, upgraded, etc…


Most cars I’ve bought are in really bad shape, lots of welding and repairs, rebuilding. We make sure the brakes get a good rebuild, front end & steering, tires and an engine overhaul. All my old cars are 6 volt, I leave them that way, fix generator & starter and all electrical. My '36 Ford had the original 18 amp generator, I found a 30 amp unit from a '39 Standard, this fits perfect and with fan on the generator pulley as original, I also add the regulator, we end up with plenty of power for a tube radio and 50 CP headlight bulbs. That is the only change we made to the car, a better charging system.


A very interesting comment regarding bug bombing the vehicle! I take it you must have encountered some nasty critters in the past?


The first thing I do is to remove any Dealer identification from the car and then install my Retired Army license plate frame.


One word, RUBBER! Replace the squishy stuff, and the fluids in them.


I recently received a 1985 IROC-Z that had been in the family since new. My first task was to insure that all mechanical issues were addressed. Although many things on my car had recently been serviced, I found out a had some overheating problems due to a partially blocked radiator. I replaced all cooling system components with GM replacement parts to maintain the original look of the car. Second priority was a complete cleaning inside and out.


Some how I survived my teen years. I wasn’t’ really that crazy but I did pull some stunts and as most of us who were stupid teens the first thing I did with my car was to see how fast it would go. February 1967 I was 16 going on 17 and my father let me buy a 55 T-Bird that had been sitting for a couple of years in a back yard. Of course after I took possession and at my first opportunity with a friend as a passenger we took it on a long straight road north of town. It got to 95 in one direction and about 90 coming back. As we were doing about 90 I was saying to my friend how it needed a tune up and all but it did run pretty well. I didn’t know these cars had a telescoping steering column and I can only imagine the look on my face matched his when for some reason I pulled back on the steering wheel and it moved about 4 inches.


I usually check the drive line out, from motor to rear differential. if that is in satisfactory condition I will move on to the rest of the car.


I always swap out the rims after clean-up and freshening. Two of the many, black one is my 18th BMW in eight years. zX is now my 17th. What can I say.


If the car is all original and runs perfect like my 1963 Chevrolet Nova 2 dr. HT , all I did 33 plus years ago was clear coat to bring back the shine. Nothing else was needed. Had original plates and plate frames from the dealership it was bought from. The Triumph Spitfire is a whole new animal. Paint needs some touching up. The engine needs a little more work and wiring possibly needs some work. I also bought sound reduction kit for floorboards and new carpet kit. Now they are in garage for the winter. Will do what I can myself while snow falls in Montana. The Nova, well she is and always be my baby as she came into my life when I needed her to. She also has been a Haggerty car for all these years.
Even through divorce fought to hold on to my car and did so.

Nancy Kelly-Bushly


Yes, I may be a girl, but I do get my hands dirty and stain my nails in make up and holes in my Jeans!


Do you live far from Montana? Do you fish or hunt? If so want to hunt Montana or fish. Free room and board also food for help rewiring my Triumph Spitfire. Not a joke but a real offer. Nancy Kelly-Bushly find me on Facebook say you are from Haggerty forum.


I just bought a 51 chevy fleetline deluxe that been in storage since 1977. so as always if i have a car like this, is to repair anything that has to do safety,. so the first thing i did was the braking system from soup to nuts. Then i replaced the fuel system, starting with the gas tank and sending unit, along w/ new gas lines fuel pump, and a carb rebuild. I’ve Been driving it now for about a year and loving it !!!


When I bought my 50 Pickup it had a very tired 350 as soon as I convinced the wife I did a 6.0/4L60 swap and I can’t be happier it’s awesome!!