Looking After A Car You Don’t Drive Regularly
Having your car lay dormant for extended periods of time can be detrimental to its health and performance. Unfortunately, due to the current state of the world, many people have had to retire their cars to the garage for extended periods of time. It’s no surprise that covid has had a significant impact on many people’s driving patterns. With lockdowns, quarantines, and working from home situations, many have seen a decrease in the time they’ve spent driving – with some people rarely getting behind the wheel these days. While this has resulted in some short-term monetary benefits – saving on fuel, woohoo! – it does leave the potential for expensive issues to fix further down the track. Dead battery, anyone?
So, what can you do to avoid any damage or detrimental effects on your car while it’s in a lockdown situation of its own?
It generally goes without saying, but cars were meant to be driven. They were not designed to be left unused and sitting in your garage. If you’re in a situation where you’re seeing limited use of your car, then it’s a good idea to keep the engine in good condition by starting your car every couple of weeks driving it around for 15–20 minutes. This will get the engine fluids moving through the car like they should. This short drive will also ensure the oil gets up to temperature and is enough to top up the battery charge. If you notice your car’s not starting smoothly, it might be a good idea to have the engine looked at by your mechanic.
On top of maintaining the health of your car’s engine, use these simple maintenance tips for the other parts of your car to keep it in good condition while you’re not driving it regularly.
To prevent deterioration, you should ensure your tyres are at the correct pressure level. Even whilst parked they can lose pressure and become uneven. Deterioration can be sped up or slowed down depending on where the car is stored. Outside, with exposure to the elements (such as sun, snow, rain etc.) can contribute to discolouration, cracking, bulging, and flaking. If you have no choice in having to store your car outside, covering your tyres can be a temporary solution. Another good reason to take your car for a little drive is to avoid getting flat spots on your tyre – which can settle onto your tyres if you haven’t given a spin in 30 days.
If you’re dedicated to looking after your car and keeping your tyres in optimal condition (which isn’t a bad idea considering how expensive they are), you may want to invest in a tyre pressure monitoring system and tyre inflators to keep control of the pressure.
Speaking of storage, if you’re not going to be driving your car for extended periods, then it’s a good idea to look into storage options for your car. As mentioned, the elements speed up the deterioration of your car, so undercover and in a secured room is the way to go. However, if this is not possible, the next best thing you can do is invest in a car cover – particularly a hail or storm safe one in Australia.
When storing your car in a publicly accessible place, whether it’s on the street or in your driveway, be wary of the area you are storing it. It may be worth letting your neighbours know that it is being stored for a while so as to not let them think it has been abandoned. The last thing you want is your car getting towed.
The battery is typically the fastest part to deteriorate when your car isn’t in use. If you don’t use your car, your battery will lose charge and need to be jump started. Ensure your battery remains charged by hooking it up to a battery tender or trickle-charger if you’re planning on leaving it in storage for a longer duration. Otherwise, taking your car for a drive each fortnight will help keep the battery working.
Your engine oil can deteriorate and become old over time due to fluctuations in temperature. If the car is being stored for a long time, with irregular drives in between, you should change the oil every 6 months or so. This will remove any unwanted water from condensation. To check your oil, open your bonnet and remove the oil dipstick. The oil should be a ‘honey’ colour. If it is black and dirty it needs to be changed. For more information on changing the oil and DIY maintenance, check out our tips on at-home repairs and replacements (and what repairs you should definitely leave for the pros).
Definitely fill your tank up with fuel before storing it. This prevents corrosion in your car’s fuel lines and engine, and rust and condensation build up. Also, it’s going to mean no emergency trips to the petrol station with handheld tanks needing to be filled and taken back to your car.
If you are storing your car for a long time, you should definitely clean it thoroughly before doing so. Externally, any sediment, bird droppings, mud, dirt, leaves, or other substances, could erode and stain the car’s exterior. You should consider going a step beyond the normal wash and polish and wax your vehicle too to extend the longevity of your clean. Check out this article for DIY detailing tips.
Internally, you should remove any rubbish, and vacuum and dust your vehicle. This will ensure the soft carpeted interior doesn’t take-up any foul odors that will continue to fester over time. Spraying an antibacterial mist over your carpet to kill any underlying bacteria before storing.
Another reason it is important to clean your car is to prevent rodents from entering the vehicle – we know, gross. It is common for small animals to want to create nests inside your engine if it is parked for a long time. Another issue is that if they die this can cause a terrible smell throughout the car if not checked regularly.
Other fluids that may dissipate or become contaminated are antifreeze (coolant), windscreen washer liquid, and brake fluid. Keep an eye on the level, colour, smell, and consistency of these fluids to look out for any changes.
Having your car out of use for long durations is critical to the health of your car, so it’s as important as ever to keep up to date with your regular services to ensure everything is running properly. This is especially true if you haven’t been as hands-on with changing and maintaining fluids.
While it may seem like a waste of time having a car that you’re not using, there’s a silver lining to everything. You have the perfect downtime to get those little repairs and touch-ups you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t found time for. You can tend to parts of your car that have required attention, such as windscreen cracks, punctured tyres, scratches, and more.
Novus Autoglass is a global brand in glass repair. Novus repairs and replaces broken and cracked windscreens efficiently using the latest technology to get you back on the road faster. Book in your service online or call 13 22 34 to hear more about our services.