How Long Can a Car Sit Without Being Driven?
Need to keep your car parked up? Self-isolating but you want your car to be in tip-top condition when it’s over? This article covers the most common issues that owners face while car are left to sit without being driven.
- Batteries slowly lose their charge
- Tires can develop flat spots
- Gas tanks accumulate moisture
- Unwanted visitors may take up residence
We wrote this article in the summer of 2019, however, with the Coronavirus sweeping the world car fans are looking to park up their cars while they self-isolate. As a car fan going through this myself, I thought I would put together some of these articles that would be helpful to people in this position. I would recommend you check out our best battery maintainer guide to make sure your battery is kept in great condition.
In 2009, President Obama signed the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) into law. This law allowed owners of “clunkers” or old cars to turn their cars into local retailers for a cash incentive on a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. While the federal funds for this program no longer exist, some states still run their own car rebate program.
These programs lead to a good, consumer-driven question: how long can a car sit without being driven? What can you do to make a “dead” car come back to life?
What happens inside when a car sits too long?
The answer depends on a variety of factors including the condition of the car battery and the environment surrounding the car.
If your car sits in the driveway because a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures have rendered you homebound, even the newest of cars hesitate to start.
However, if you’re gone for the weekend, the average car you left in the driveway should still fire right up after sitting for a couple of days.
When a car sits for more than a couple of weeks, it begins to break down systematically.
Batteries slowly lose their charge
Even new batteries can die if they are left too long without a charge from your car’s alternator. Every battery slowly loses its charge when the car sits untouched for a couple of weeks, this will be faster in colder weather. This will give you issues with starting your car while also causing issues with remote central locking and alarms. This can give you a really bad day, especially if your alarm battery dies in the middle of the night.
Tires can develop flat spots
If you do not properly inflate your tires and the car sits in the same spot, tires unmoved for an extended period of time, the tires will develop flat spots where they’re kissing the tarmac.
Gas tanks accumulate moisture
A gas tank filled partway or resting near-empty will eventually collect moisture. Additionally, moisture will collect in the oil. All this excess moisture will eventually lead to a corroded gas tank and corroded parts.
Unwanted visitors may take up residence
With all its nooks and crannies, an abandoned car makes a perfect home for rodents and other pests. Rodents tend to live under the hood or even in the exhaust outlets, and they can chew their way through your tasty wiring.
How Long Can a Car Sit Without Being Driven?
In light of the risk factors, do not allow any more than two weeks to pass without driving your car if you expect it to start again.
If you plan on letting your car sit for long periods of time, take the measures needed to protect it. Put a car cover on it to keep its temperature regulated. Fill the gas tank and the tires. Consider unhooking the negative battery cable to prevent the battery from dying.
How often should I start the car?
Ideally, you should start your car and drive it at a minimum once every two weeks. If you can put some solid miles under the tires then you will also help clear out the powerplant while also charging the battery.
When you do start it, do not just take a neighborhood tour at 10 mph. Instead, take the car out on an open road and open the throttle to at least 50 mph to give it a good workout.
If you just woke up and sat in bed, you wouldn’t be doing your body any good. You need to move your arms and legs, stretch the muscles, lubricate the joints.
Your car works the same way.
You need to wake up the transmission and the engine slowly to let the oil circulate and lubricate the moving parts. Drive it down the road and give the gas a good heavy tap.
If you’ve neglected these steps and have a dead car turning into a lawn ornament, you will want to have the vehicle removed. Basic junk car removal costs little financially but improves the curb appeal of your home tenfold.
Keep your car alive
When you ask the question, “how long can a car sit without being driven,” environment and car quality factor into the answer. Now that you know what you need to do to keep your car maintained, take it for a spin. Put some life back into it.
For more interesting articles about car maintenance, keep browsing our universal tuning guides.