Cars that were previously used for daily commutes and trips to see friends and family are now going for long stretches without being used. The time spent sitting idle can cause numerous issues when it comes time to start driving again.
Below are a few things to keep an eye on if your car isn’t being used for an extended period. These helpful tips will help ensure your vehicle is still in excellent shape the next time you hit the road.
Wash your Car
Dirt, pollen, bird droppings, and everything else that finds its way onto your car will damage its paint. Be sure your car is well washed, including the wheels and undercarriage, before parking it for an extended time. Wax and polish add an extra layer of protection as well.
Clean the Inside
Now is the perfect time to ensure the interior is clean and disinfected. This will prevent odors and ensure that bacteria/germs don’t have a place to grow.
Inflate and Rotate your Tires
Flat spots can develop on tires if they sit on the same part of the tire for too long. Keeping them properly inflated is one way to help prevent this. You should also move the vehicle periodically to avoid this as well. This can be as simple as putting it in neutral and rolling it one foot in either direction.
Fill your Tank
Not only is gasoline at the lowest price since 2015 but a full tank is also better for your car if it isn’t being driven for an extended period. This is because it helps prevents additional moisture from condensation and prevents seals from drying.
Add Fuel Stabilizer
Fuel stabilizer helps prevent the fuel in your tank from evaporating or degrading. It also helps prevent ethanol buildup and protects your engine from gum, varnish, and rust. If your car is going to sit for 30 or more days, it’s a good idea to use a stabilizer in a full tank of gas. Look for a fuel additive that not only stabilizes but cleans the fuel system as well.
Change the Oil and Filters
Used oil contains contaminants that can damage your engine, so it’s best to change your oil if it’s going to sit for an extended period. Just be sure you drive for at least five to ten miles afterward to fully circulate the new oil through the system.
Top off Fluids
It is a good idea to keep your fluids topped off, including coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. You should already be checking these regularly, and now is a good time to look in your manual to see if it’s time for them to be changed.
Don’t Use the Handbrake
Using the handbrake for an extended period can cause the brake pads to become stuck to the discs or drums. Instead, use wheel chocks to prevent your car from rolling. They’re inexpensive and won’t do any damage to your car.
Hook up a Battery Tender
The battery is often the first thing to go when a car sits unused. It’s being used even when the car is off for things such as your alarm and running onboard computers. A battery tender can easily be attached and detached when you need to drive. If you know you aren’t using the car, you also disconnect the battery entirely and store it in a warm location.
Get a Car Cover
If your car will be sitting outside during this time, invest in a quality cover. This will help keep your car protected from particulate matter and sun damage. They are also breathable to ensure no moisture remains trapped between the cover and the car.
Go for a Drive
The easiest way to avoid having to do the majority of these things is to go out for a nice drive every couple of weeks. A ten-mile trip, especially one during which you get above 50 mph, will solve most problems that your car might experience if left unused for too long. It prevents flat spots from forming on tires, removes rust from the brakes, engages all of the car’s fluids, lubricates the engine, and charges the battery. Just don’t undo all of the time you spent cleaning your car earlier.
If you must be on the road right now, our AAA Car Care centers are currently open for any service needs you may have. Now is a good time to change your oil and filters, top off fluids, and get a report of your car’s overall condition so you don’t have any unexpected surprises. You can reserve an appointment here.