Checklist for putting a car back on the road after 3 years


This is a pretty generic question, but I have a 1996 Honda Accord EX with about 100,000 miles on it. Three years ago I had an accident that ripped the front bumper, grill, head lights and right fender off, also slightly crinkled the hood. For financial reasons I couldn’t get it fixed, and it has only been run a few times per year for the last three years. On each trip of about two miles at 20 to 30 MPH up a private dirt road, it has performed quite well.

My plan is to spend the summer learning how to replace the missing body parts and muffler myself and doing whatever engine maintenance is appropriate for a car that’s been neglected for so long.

My goals are get it to pass inspection for as little money as possible and to learn a little about my car.

Are there any sources you can suggest for a checklist of what to do, check, replace, etc? Also, where to find parts? I’ve called every junk yard in NH and no one is keeping cars as old as 1996.

Thanks for your help!


For salvage parts, try one of the “you pickum” salvage yards. All of them have cars that old, and older. There are usually free-lance mechanics in the yard (not employees) who will pull parts for you for a few dollars. +++ The list of the safety items are available from the department of motor venicles, or, you could ask an inspector at one of the inspection garages.


There are numerous places on the internet where one can purchase aftermarket body parts as well. Although these parts do require some additional work to align and fit properly they do meet all DOT safety requirments.
~Michael (dartman69)


3 years off the road is quite a
Have a load test done to the alternator/battery.

I’d change all the fluids and ensure they’re up to the full marks.

Was the vehicle up on blocks or sitting on the tires?

Check the tires for cracks between the treads and sidewalls.

If you need a new rad, depending whether or not the tank is damaged, have a new core put in and tested.
It’s cheaper than a new rad.

You’ve no idea what condition a scrapyard rad is in.

Among a lot of smaller details, think for a minute about the odds of rodents accessing the wiring.
For some unknown reason they seem to like the taste of wire insulation.

Was the vehicle left outside?

Electrical connections and cables could be corroded by now and will need removal/cleaning and reinstalling WRENCH tight.

Also, if left outside, the brake system (lines, etc) will need a very close inspection for corrosion.

Brake pads could be stuck to the rotors or the brake shoes to the drums.

Heaven help you if the parking brake was left activated.

There is a good chance that seals and gaskets could have dried up and will leak once heated.

There’s a lot more but those I’ve mentioned will get you started.

I would concentrate on the safety issues first as was earlier suggested. The brake system is definitely one of them.


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