Getting a garaged car back on road after 12 years

I have purchased a 1994 4 cylinder Dodge Spirit with 21,000 original miles. It has been sitting in a garage unused for 12 years. The car was owned by a "little old lady"who never drove it after her husband passed away in 1996. The womens brother would come over and start it up from time to time and took it out for an 8 mile drive in 2004 to get an oil change. That’s about it. I took it out for a spin and it seems to drive well. I did not get it on the highway. My question is, Other then getting new tires what else should I do to get this baby safely back on the road as it is going to be my 17 year old daughters car. The car looks as if it is coming right off a showroom floor. But I know looks can be deceiving.

Change ALL the fluids and closely inspect the brake system.

Yes, change ALL the fluids. I mean ALL of them. Oil, coolant, transmission, power steering, brake fluid (a full flush and refill, as brake fluid is very hygroscopic, and will corrode brake components internally if it has a high amount of water).

Replace all the belts, including the timing belt. Timing belts should last 80-100k miles, but 12 years is too long for the rubber. This is especially critical, as this has an interference engine, and should the belt snap, you’ll have the valves crash into the pistons, which is a costly repair.

Go over all the hoses, particularly vacuum hoses and the coolant hoses.

Rubber deteriorates over time, not necessarily mileage. If any piece of rubber seems hard, or shows cracks if you bend it sharply, replace it.

If it has air conditioning, refrigerant may have leached out. This vehicle uses R-12. Look into an R-134 conversion, if it’s feasible.

The rubber stuff/fluids are critical and the timing belt is a must. I guess one should assume the battery has been recently replaced.

It could be a great car depending on the price but I would not pay a premium price for it based on extremely low mileage.
If you have to farm out all or most of the things it really needs then that could set you back quite a bit money-wise.
How much are they asking for this thing?

And since tires are made from rubber, replace those, too! Don’t wait, do it within a day or so!! You don’t want a tire coming apart at speed!

Thanks for the info.They are asking $2,400.That’s what the book value says, but that didn’t take into consideration the sitting for 12 years. I found out since I posted that they drove it around the block once a week. Not that that addresses the rubber issues. I am concerned about the cost of timing belt, is that expensive to replace?
I tested the air conditioner and it seems to throw out very cold air. Seems to work well. From what I can figure here, this may cost me another $1,000. ugh!

Thanks, I will take car of tires first

Is there a way to check timing belt with out taking everything apart?

Yeah, seems like this may be a project. Thanks

The timing belt is a fairly pricy job and it’s difficult to say what the price will be because there are so many factors involved. You could probably figure on 4-500 dollars and the water pump should be replaced at the same time.

The A/C is also something that is hard to judge. It may work fine for the next 10 years or not. Once the car is being driven daily and the A/C is used on a regular basis the miniscule refrigerant leaks may start. Or they may not. If a leak did occur it would more than likely be a compressor shaft seal and these can be replaced without buying a new compressor, etc. This should not run more than a few hundred dollars IF it was ever needed. To be honest, I don’t know that I would even worry about the A/C that much.

Timing belt is an absolute must and it’s possible that the tires could still be fine after all of these years. Being garaged is a plus when it comes to tires. If there is no fine cracking on the sidewalls or down inside the tread rows I don’t know why the tires can’t be run safely.
Kind of a tough call on this one because one could wind up sinking another couple of thousand into it if you can’t do some of the basics yourself.

Thanks for all your advice. I think there is a lesson in all of this. Looks can be deceiving for sure. I can do some of the stuff like oil change, radiator flush and hoses. The rest I will leave up to the pros as this is going to be my daughters car. Any advice on the gas in gas tank?

Drain it and refill, change the filter and run a can of Seafoam through it.

Personally, I’ve never used the stuff but apparently it practically performs magic.

Other regulars here can tell you the best methods to use.

good idea on the gas tank. How do I drain the gas? Siphon it?

That’s …hydroscopic

If I were faced with this, I’d find a mechanic that can handle draining the gas. Unless you have the right equipement, you’ll be faced with dealing with a potentially large volume of gasoline. How often did it get filled up? When was the last time?

That I don’t know, It has about 1/2 tank of gas. Any thing I can do other then draining it and changing filter?

It actually really is hygroscopic

Don’t be deceived by the mileage. Its not a value add and never will be. Its a $1000 car or less. Look at for value. $2400 is for Barnum & Bailey.

For a $1000 its a risk. I could see spending $2400 or more if it were convertible.