Vehicle Collections Care

This post is by Bob Hopkins, Exhibits Coordinator for the North Carolina Transportation Museum, and Bruce McKeon, volunteer extraordinaire for NCTM.

At the North Carolina Transportation Museum our non-operational fleet is drained of all fuel and the vehicles are placed upon jack-stands. We have had problems with fuel going stale in our operational vehicles if not driven often enough. For awhile, we tried to keep minimal fuel in the gas tanks, but with some vintage vehicles, it’s difficult determining the appropriate level due to primitive/ faulty/ or absent fuel gauges. Then there are questions about safety and collections preservation when leaving any fuel in an exhibited vehicle. 

 One of our auto volunteers, Bruce McKeon, developed a system that we have started using with our operational fleet whenever practical. The portable fuel tank is really a 6 gal. marine fuel tank with a fuel bulb and a two-part “quick disconnect” to prevent fumes from exiting and/or dust, pollen, and bugs from entering. There are three steps to follow when installing and using the portable fuel tank.

  1. Drain fuel from existing vehicle fuel tank and remove short fuel hose (identified in green in diagram above).
  2. Mount “quick disconnect” to structure in trunk area. Drill hole in trunk, install hose and grommet in a convenient and safe location.
  3. Install portable fuel tank assembly. Plug into “quick disconnect” and pump fuel bulb to obtain head pressure to the fuel pump.

McKeon humbly comments, “These fuel systems are used in boats all over the world. All I did was adapt it to the museum’s automotive needs.”

As far as how often the operational collection is driven actually depends on the vehicle. We have developed an “exercising’ schedule of every three weeks. This was determined by the number of volunteers, work hours and number of vehicles on the schedule. A rule of thumb, an operational vehicle should be driven a minimum of 17 minutes, no less than once a month. We try to exercise our operational collection at least a half hour, every three weeks. 

Why 17 minutes? 17 minutes is enough time to evaporate the condensation in the exhaust system and to get coolant rate up as it flows through the engine. Some vehicle’s batteries are recharged only when the vehicle is moving, not just running (like in modern cars with alternators). The vehicles need to be driven for a half hour or more; and then sometimes at a minimal speed to keep the batteries charged. Otherwise, we’d need to place them on a battery charger. But there are other benefits for exercising the vehicles too, such as; water and fuel pumps need to be worked or will break down, brake systems need to be worked or will lock up and fail, etc.

Thanks to Hopkins and McKeon for sharing their vehicle collections knowledge!


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on June 15, 2012, in collections access, collections care, collections management, Exhibitions, guest bloggers, historic sites, museums, storage and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I especially liked this one. I started working on my own vehicles with my very first car, a 1977 Dodge Aspen that I got when I turned 16. I was the practical one. My brother got the used car, but it was a Camaro with a 455 HP in it. He wasn’t exactly the practical type. Anyway, I bought a Haynes manual and did all my own repairs. I’ve gone as far as changing the head gasket on my old truck and replacing/modifying numerous carburetors. I wish that I knew more about fuel injection. lol

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