Tips for getting ready for the cruise season

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As driving season approaches, you’ll want to take some time to prepare for the impending fun of weekend cruises and excursions that in all likelihood will take you many miles from the relative comfort of your locality. Taking our cars out for a day of driving adventure with the club is one of the best thrills of the ownership experience. But, getting prepared for the season is highly important. Remember, these cars are not equipped with the myriad of warning indicators, and cellular connected assistants of today’s modern conveyances. To make sure that you have a good season, let’s go over a few of the things that you’ll want to check, prep, store, and repair before cruising in your Cobra

As you take the car cover off for the first time in a few weeks, and you prepare to unsheathe your reptile let’s check a few things before you turn the key. As always, before you begin any service to your car, turn your battery cut-off switch to the off position

Look under your car. Take a close look. Make a note as to the location, fluid type, and amount. Lift the hood to attempt to find the source of the leak. Start at the bottom of the leak and work your way up till you find the source. Is this leak normal for your car, or is it a new type of leak? To put it bluntly, your car should NOT leak. A leak is a symptom of a problem. Sometimes it’s as simple as a lose valve cover bolt, sometimes it’s much more. Make every attempt to solve this problem. If you are unable to solve this problem, plan on taking your car to someone who is experienced, and have them solve this problem. If you choose to ignore your leaking car, well what can I say except that you have been warned.

Now that you are satisfied with your car’s under carriage fluid output, let’s look under the hood. Check the oil level. Top off if necessary. I always plan on an oil change at the beginning of the season no matter what the condition or the mileage of the oil when I shut it down for the winter. Check the brake and clutch fluid for level and color. New brake fluid is clear in color. As the fluid is cycled it darkens. If it’s been a year or two since your last fluid change under normal driving conditions, plan on having your brakes and clutch fluid bled and changed. Securely replace the top of your brake and clutch reservoirs, and move to the radiator. Check the level of your antifreeze. Make sure it is at the proscribed level, add fluid if necessary, and securely replace your radiator cap. Make sure it’s fully on and closed. Locate your radiator overflow canister (or catch can) and find the relief valve at the bottom. Use an empty coffee can or bowl and open the relief valve to empty the canister. I do this several times a year. The last thing you want is steaming hot antifreeze all over your nice new engine compartment

Other items to check are your air cleaner element. If it’s the washable type, wash and clean it. If it’s the replaceable type, replace it. Check your transmission fluid. Top it off if necessary, and like the brake and clutch fluid, if it’s been a couple of years since it’s been serviced, plan on flush and refill soon.

At this point, generally check all of your fittings, all wires and connectors, and bolts under the hood. Make sure your spark plug wires are secure to the plugs, and to the distributor. Check your coil wire, and any other wires and connections. Make sure your wires and hoses are away from any extreme heat sources. Make sure all of your coolant hoses are secure by tightening the clamps at each end. Check your valve cover bolts with a ratchet. Give them a little cinch – not a muscular twist, just a quarter turn or so to make sure they are tight. Test the tension of you accessory belt(s). Make sure that there is very little play. If there is more than an inch or so, tighten them up. If your belt if frayed, change it.

Make sure your air cleaner top is secure. Manually and with a ratchet or wrench, feel for any loose bolts in your engine compartment. You’ll find some – I guarantee it. Other than your intake manifold and other bolts that go into the engine block – find the loose ones and cinch them down. If you can, check your header bolts with a ratchet, and your header/collector bolts with a ratchet. There will be some loose bolts there almost for sure. Again, there’s no reason to get these bolts muscle-man tight – just secure.


One thing I do every year without out fail is a complete nut and bolt check of the car. I take the car to my favorite shop, and they put it on the lift. With their huge assortment of tools, they check every bolt under the car – from stem to stern. From axle and half shaft bolts to shocks and mounts, to sway bars, front brake calipers and everything in between. It takes about an hour or so to get it done. But, every time, without fail, they find bolts that have loosened up – every time. This is a must every year. I’ve had structural and drive-line parts come off my car at speed – it’s absolute carnage. Do this service

While you are there at the shop, remove your wheels and inspect your brake pads, rotors, calipers, and all wheel bearings. For those of you that have spinners this is a must. You should at least once a year remove your spinners completely, and refresh you anti-seize grease on your threads. You also want to learn how to use your lead hammer to remove a wheel, learn how to use your safety wire, and make sure you have those tools at all times in your truck

Okay. Your bolts are tight, your fluid is up to date, just a few more things. Check to make sure all of your lights and gauges are working properly. Replace any bulbs. On my tail lights, I prefer to use LED bulbs. Contrary to popular belief, LEDS on your tail lights only will not overwhelm your electrical system. You really don’t need them on your front turn signal indicators, but I feel they area must on the rear. They are readily available at Autozone.

Make sure to have fresh gas in your tank, and check the pressure in your tires. On a side note about tire pressures, this message is for those of you running 15” rims with standard street tires like Goodyear Eagle GTs, BF Goodrich, etc. There is no need to run your pressures to 32 lbs. These are very lightweight vehicles, and those consumer tires are rated for vehicles much heavier than Cobras. To get the most grip and the least amount of bounce from your tires, run them around 20-22 lbs.

So, other than a thorough wash, wax and detail – your car is now checked, repaired, and ready for the season. But, you’re not done just yet. We have to get you ready now.

Driving these cars for an extended period of time requires some personal prep as well as mechanical prep. For one, get a small tool kit for storage in your trunk. They are available at virtually any store in the hardware isle. A good kit will have a 3/8” inch and ¼” ratchet, standard and metric sockets, needle nose and crescent wrench, various screw drivers and nut drivers, and a small hammer. It’s not large or expensive. So, buy one and keep it in your car. If you have spinners, again, make sure you have a 6 lbs. lead hammer, safety wire and safety wire tool. Make sure you know how to use these tools

You’ll also want a small medical kit for your glove box or trunk. It should include a bottle of aspirin, burn cream, antacids, ear plugs, sun screen, and a couple of those small emergency medical kits that you can find at Wal-Mart or Walgreens.

Other items that you want to keep in your car somewhere are a can of Fix-A-Flat, some towels (both microfiber and larger regular towels), a quart or two of oil, duct tape, detailing spray, extra fuses in a kit that fits your vehicle, and I also carry my spanner wrenches. Also, keep a clean sweatshirt, and spare cap in your truck. And, since these cars have no top, keep a couple of ponchos in your trunk. For me, I also carry my top, struts, side curtains, and tonneau cover at all times. If you have this gear, great. Make sure you know how to use it before it starts to rain.

Basically, I have all of this stuff in a small go-bag in my trunk that stays in there all of the time. It has come in handy for me personally many times, as well as I have been able to help others. Finally, make sure you have your insurance card, registration papers, AAA Card, and inspection papers in your car. And one last tip, program the number of your favorite towing service into your phone. Just sayin.

That’s about it. You and your car are now ready to enjoy the season. So, get out there (with confidence) and put some miles on that car. Just keep the shiny side up.


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