Leading a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for you, and your car would agree. Like taking a walk after spending the day at your desk, your car also needs the benefit of getting up and moving around. Now that we’re more than a few weeks into Stay At Home advisories, your thoughts might be turning to our automotive companions. The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be: How often should you start your car to keep it running?
The short answer: Drive your car for 20 minutes every week to keep your battery charged.
The longer answer: You have more to worry about than just your battery.
Your battery is responsible for getting your car started, and you’re not going anywhere if it’s dead. However, once your car is running, there are more problems that can occur if your vehicle was left unused for an extended period of time. These issues can’t be prevented by simply idling your stationary car every few days.
Keeping the battery from dying is everyone’s first concern. Turning your engine on every week is about more than confirming it will still start. Running your engine by driving it will kick on the alternator, which allows the battery to recharge thus being able to turn on in the future.
If you know your car will go unused for more than a month and you don’t want to remember (or maybe don’t have the time) to take it for a drive, it could be worth it to invest in a battery tender to trickle-charge your battery and maintain it. You could also disconnect your battery entirely, but that could cause a few headaches when you reconnect it. Who wants to spend time reconfiguring their radio?
Fuel & Other Liquids
Actually driving your car also helps circulate the various oils and fluids that flow through your car’s machinery. Not many people know gasoline can go bad. It can create a sticky residue through the evaporation/condensation process and adversely affect your carburetor. Similar to your battery care, if you know you won’t be driving anywhere for a month or more, you’ll want to use fuel stabilizer. Fuel stabilizer is a chemical mixture that provides a protective layer for the fuel sitting in a gas tank. It’s important to note that, after adding fuel stabilizer to your tank, you’ll want to actively run your car for 5-10 minutes to allow the stabilizer to reach other areas of your fuel system.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t really want to drive my car without going somewhere,” then maybe this next measure will convince you. Leaving your car immobile can alter the shape of your tires. This process is known as “flat-spotting.” Depending on weather conditions, a car can develop flat-spots overnight. However, they aren’t likely to be as severe as the ones created by a car parked for much, much longer.
By taking your car for a spin, you utilize the tires which heats them up and allows for correction of any flat-spotting that might have occurred. If you know you won’t be driving for 30 days or more, the alternative is to purchase rounded jack stands, or even to remove the tires completely and set the vehicle on stable blocks.
A car that’s already stopped won’t have much use for brakes. That’s why it’s a good idea to take that 20 minute drive, where your brakes will shed any surface rust that may have developed. Trust us, your brakes are a feature you don’t want failing you.
Also, you shouldn’t engage your hand/parking brake. Extended use can freeze the break, rust rotors, or distort your drums. Putting your car in 1st gear, or reverse with wheel chocks would be the safer solution if you have a manual transmission.
An idle car can also spell trouble for your spark plugs. It’s a good idea to remove the spark plugs and spray a little oil into the sockets before reconnecting them. This is another measure that is more advisable the longer your car goes unused. If you anticipate not using your vehicle for more than a month, consider contacting your local mechanic and ask if this would be best for you.
This might be a bit unexpected, but an unused car is also at risk of damaging the windshield wipers. If unused for an extended period of time, your car’s windshield wipers could become stuck to the glass. This only is a real danger for cars left alone for a half a year or more, but if you’re concerned, then simply prop the blades up the same as you would for a snowstorm.
These issues can crop up in your everyday vehicle during Stay At Home. However, if you have a classic car or a car that you use more sparingly like one kept at a vacation home, then it could be worth it to put more effort into preparing the vehicle for storage. Our certified mechanics would be happy to help you best prepare your car for extended storage. Contact our nearest shop to schedule an appointment today.
Vehicle care information made available by Metro Motor is presented as helpful advice for general maintenance and should not be construed as instructions for at-home vehicle service. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual and a licensed, professional mechanic for diagnostics and repair.