The MGA With An Attitude
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER -- CF-101
This article covers Seasonal Affective Disorder and Long Term Relationships. It was written with an understanding concern for an all too common problem - NEGLECT.
"The sticking needle is in the float bowl...I think it is still suffering from goo left over from sitting for five years. It came down with just a gentle tug with my fingertips..."
Remove the float valve. Disassemble it into its two basic parts (needle and seat). Spray and soak with carburetor cleaner for cleaning. Reassemble and cross your fingers. If it was just goop from dried out fuel you might fix it that way. If it still gives problems after cleaning, install a new float valve.
"It has only been run about three hours in the last five years ... and all this in the last month..."
Cars don't like being neglected, being left alone for long periods of time. With the sedentary life style muscle tone deteriorates, they develop arthritis, they get depressed, and they can get upset and vent their problems on anyone who happens to venture near. When locked up for the winter they suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder from lack of sunlight. When you finally bring them out for a little exercise it takes a while to nurse them back to good health. In the meantime you might expect sticking hand brake from lack of motion, failed battery from long term discharge, leaky hydraulic cylinders from corrosion from deteriorated fluid, clutch disk frozen to flywheel from moisture and rust, condensation causing rust in the fuel tank, evaporation causing sludge in the carburetors, non-operable fuel pump from corroded contact points, no ignition spark from corroded contact points, failing generator from corroded commutator or sticking brushes, leaky water pump from corrosion of the seal, failing water pump bearings from corrosion, failing fuel and water hoses from deterioration of the rubber, leaky seals all over the car from deterioration of the rubber, sticky control cables for engine and heater controls from condensation and corrosion, rodent nests in the far reaches of the engine bay, and various pest's foodstuff cache accumulated in some small places (like far up the tailpipe for instance), and body rust in lots of places where it didn't exist the last time the car was allowed in sunlight and open air. Most of these things (except maybe the rust) will never happen when the car is active on a regular basis. They just simply NEED regular social intercourse. A little TLC goes a long way towards keeping them happy.
"I don't own this car ... and don't want to be a permanent mechanic ... I am getting it back to the owners wife ... and hoping that their 20 year old son exhibits some interest ... first he has to learn how to drive a stick."
Sorry, but if you're not interested in a long term relationship the only way out is to absolutely refuse to play those silly games. Regular long term care can make for a healthy relationship. If you don't want to bother, the best thing is permanent separation. If you still have affective concern for the car, then you need to get it into the care of someone else who will care enough to offer the necessary affection and TLC. And if this new partner doesn't possess the required social skills they will need some hand holding and counseling for a while. Meanwhile don't hold your breath in anticipation, because the rescission rate with new partners is disturbingly high, like more than 50% failures of the new associations. This is especially bad when the new partner sees the responsibility being thrust upon them but doesn't comprehend much benefit in return for the effort. Counseling cannot always solve the problem. Sometimes a new partner is the only solution, and maybe it takes a few tries to find a workable match.
"What should I do to keep this running during the winter? Does gas stabilizer make any sense? Does starting it once a week make any sense...and letting it run for twenty minutes or so until it is good and warm?"
Like I said, it will need regular social interaction. The less regular it is, the more you have to pay attention to preservation tactics. Best thing for a car in middle age is to remain active. You should start it and drive it regularly, at least once a month minimum. Hope for some nice weather, and take it out for some exercise. It can help the relationship if you both get dressed up and find some friends to socialize with. Even a smile and a wave from a stranger is better than nothing, but people and cars with a common interest make much better social partners.
And when you have to be away for any length of time, be sure the car is at least safe and well sheltered and well fed. The environment should be clean and dry, air in the tyres, fuel tank mostly full to prevent condensation, fresh oil in the engine, a warm cover to keep the chills and bugs away. And if you really can't be there for months at a time, then you should make arrangements for someone else to drop in occasionally for a little of the prescribed social care, warm it up and give it a little exercise at least once a month.
If there will be no one available for regular socializing for a very long period of time, then about all you can do is to tuck it away with the best of care and hope that it's still moderately healthy and happy when you finally return. Then you have to catch up with the large backlog of socializing, check up on everything that has been neglected for so long, make amends, have a nice date on the town, and still maybe have to attend to a few more little problems before the relationship is perfectly healthy again. If such a relationship should fall into permanent neglect, there's no telling how long the car will survive in isolation. If it is too long neglected you may ultimately be faced with the decision between the cost of intensive care or funeral arrangements.
"Best strategy is...draining fuel and re-hydrating in spring?? Or keep it started through the winter??"
Best thing is to keep it running and drive it regularly, even if infrequently. Draining fluids and dehydrating it is only for multi-year storage periods. Fuel stabilizer and fresh engine oil can help for an inactive period of several months, but you may still encounter some of those other problems. Full fuel tank is much better than half empty. A 20 minute run once a month is better than 5 minutes once a week. The frequency is not so important as getting it up to full operating temperature. A five minute run and cool down may do more harm than good, unless this is the only exercise that it ever gets. When it does get some running time it is good to exercise as many of the working parts as possible. Running the engine while stationary doesn't do much for the suspension and brakes, heater controls, electrical switches and electric motors. Best to exercise everything possible at every opportunity. If you only get together once a month it's nice to do a lot of social fiddling to maintain a healthy relationship. Serious social intercourse is more lasting than a smile and a pat on the rear.