Auto Restoration Checklist

by Rob Wagner
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Restoring an antique, vintage or collectible automobile is a massive undertaking that requires extensive planning and the proper tools, shop venue and parts to complete the project. While auto restoration projects require a certain amount of skill, how you approach the job and your knowledge of the vehicle under restoration is more important than possessing the skills of an experienced auto mechanic.


Have the proper hand tools to restore an automobile. Own a complete set of socket wrenches in millimeter measurements for imported collectible cars or inch measurements for American-made vehicles. A 100-piece hand tool set should include: sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, mallets and vice grips to do the job. Purchase a rollaway tool chest. Purchase tools such as a torque wrench, brake puller, engine hoist, sanding machine, floor jacks, hydraulic jacks, work gloves, air-filter masks. Use a digital camera to record each step of the restoration.


The environment you work in should be clean and spacious. Most two-car garages are sufficient to perform a complete auto restoration. Absent a garage, a carport with a concrete floor will do if kept dry. Consider renting garage space in an auto industrial-zoned district if a personal garage or carport is not available. Keep the garage clean. Have a large flat workbench with mounted vice to perform parts restoration and repair. Purchase the following: metal containers of various sizes to soak and clean parts, labeled plastic bags to store small parts, compartmentalized bins to store and inventory parts, shop rags, cleaning solvent, and brooms and mops to clean the concrete floor each morning and evening after work. Purchase a 30-gallon oil drum to store hazardous chemicals for proper disposal.


Keep a vendors and parts checklist posted above the workbench that lists parts required for the job and which vendors will supply those parts. Keep your list limited to known vendors. You do not want the list too long that you lose track of who is supplying which parts.


Divide your parts list into two sections: Parts that will be cleaned and refurbished, such as suspension springs and drums, and parts that must be replaced, such as wiring harness or other parts requiring replacement.


Purchase an original or reprinted copy of a factory shop owner's manual and a parts manual. This is your restoration bible and identifies every part down to the last screw and nut. The owner's manual provides step-by-step instructions for removal and installation of parts.

The Vehicle

Compartmentalize the dis-assembly and re-assembly of the vehicle. Start the removal process with the engine and transmission, and then work from the ground up: Wheels, brakes, suspension, rear axle, steering box, interior components, such as seats and dashboard gauges and body or fenders, doors and trunk lid depending on the extent of the restoration. Each section of the vehicle should be completely dis-assembled before moving on to the next section.

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