Right now, lots of us are underusing our vehicles. If you’re working from home and practicing social isolation, your car may only be leaving your driveway once every couple of weeks. Here’s how to keep it in road-ready shape.
Cars can certainly be stored for extended periods of time, but with a catch. Even though many people put their “summer” cars in storage for the winter, cars require prep to be stored idle that way. If you’re only expecting your car to sit for a month or two, what can you do to make sure your brakes don’t lock up, and you don’t have any other issues? It helps to understand why problems can arise when you let your car sit too long.
Potential Issues Idle Cars Run Into
It’s easy to not think of vehicle maintenance and care when your car is parked. With many of us staying home and not commuting by vehicle to work, cars are getting less use, which is increasing your risk of future issues.
You May End Up With a Dead Battery
You may not realize it, but the battery in your car loses charge over time, even when you’re not using the car. If you’re driving your car every couple of weeks, it should be fine, but don’t just start it and let it sit idle—a cruise around your neighborhood will allow your battery to recharge.
If you’re going to let your car stay parked for a month or more, you’ll want to take steps to prepare the battery for storage time.
You can disconnect the battery when the car is sitting for an extended period of time, or use what is known as a “battery tender.” Battery tenders are like trickle chargers, which slowly charge your battery to keep it from discharging, but with more advanced circuitry to protect the battery.
Flat Tires Are a Possibility
While it’s less of a problem when it’s warmer outside, the tires on your vehicle will start to lose air, slowly, over time. Because your tires aren’t moving, the lost air leaves flat spots on the tire from the pressure of the weight of the car. If you fill the tires with air every few months, it may keep them from getting permanent flat spots, though.
Rodents May Make Your Vehicle Their Home (and Meal)
Whether your car is sitting outside or stored in the garage, mice and rats may pose an issue. Your vehicle offers them shelter in both warm and cold weather. Not only will they bring in debris to build homes under the hood or in the exhaust, and they may also chew on wires.
By driving your car every week or two you make it less likely to become a critter haven. Be sure to pop the hood and look for evidence of rodents like seeds, nesting material, and other debris.
Moisture Collects in the Gas Tank
If you’re not keeping your gas tank topped off, you’re leaving your vehicle prone to collecting moisture in the tank, whether it’s caused by humidity or wet winter weather. This can happen with your vehicle’s oil as well. Driving your vehicle every couple of weeks will help burn off that moisture, prevent corrosion, and keep costly repairs at bay.
So, How Often Should You Take Your Car for a Drive (and How Far)?
If you want to keep your vehicle in optimal shape while spending little time driving it, you’ll want to go for a drive, at minimum, every couple of weeks. Taking your car out twice a month and driving it about 10 miles will help keep all of the above issues from happening.
If you get the chance, take your vehicle out onto the expressway so you can get the engine up to over 50 mph, allowing your car to get fully warmed up before you park it again. Even a short trip from the closest expressway exit to the next one down the highway and back should do the trick.