Dave Stribling
January 11, 2017

Ran When Parked

My Mustang has been parked and not started for about eight years now while I had it stored. What should I do before I start it up again after such a long time so I don’t cause any damage to the engine?

Ted Makosis
Via the Internet

Here are the steps I would take before I fired an engine up that has been in storage for such a long period of time like yours:

1. Disconnect the battery. It’s most likely dead and needs replacing, but disconnect it, nonetheless.

2. Pull all the sparkplugs and check them. Look for buildup and for corrosion. Some of the valves were open while it was stored, and if moisture got down in the cylinders, it may cause a problem. While you have the plugs out, squirt a little Marvel Mystery Oil down in each cylinder. It keeps the rings from running dry. If the plugs look bad, go ahead and replace them.

3. Rebuild the carburetor. The gas in it is eight years old, and if you don’t run the carburetor once a month (especially for older Holleys), they will dry crack the gaskets and leak all over your engine. Not to mention, any residual fuel is now a varnish-like sludge.

4. Unless you stabilized the gas and kept it that way, drain the tank, and put in fresh fuel. Replace the fuel filter, as well, and you might even need to blow out the fuel lines with compressed air.

5. Likewise for the oil and coolant. Drain it, and replace it and the filter. Check the condition of the oil for any signs of water condensation or coolant leaks.

6. Prime the oil pump. In some ways, you need to treat this like a fresh rebuild. You never want to dry fire an engine, and right now there is no assembly lube to protect it. Note the location of the rotor on the distributor with a marker on the edge of the distributor housing before you pull it, and give the oil system a good priming. Some auto part’s stores have an oil-pump primer available as part of their loaner-tool programs.

7. With the Mystery Oil in and the engine pump primed, make sure the engine turns over smoothly before you re-install the sparkplugs. Place a breaker bar and a socket on the front crank bolt and turn it over a couple of times to ensure it is smooth.

8. Make sure the entire ignition system is in good shape. If you have points, check the condition of the points and change if necessary. The rotor and cap can corrode, as well. Look for signs of moisture under the cap.

9. With everything back in place, reconnect (or replace) the battery and start the engine. Listen for unusual noises like rockers out of adjustment. If you hear something, shut it down right away.

10. The Mystery Oil in the cylinders will smoke on startup; don’t worry about it. Check the carb for leaks. Run it up to temperature and make sure the thermostat is opening properly. Check the PCV system and see if it is functioning. An engine that sits a long time may stick a ring or do something else that causes blow-by.