Author Topic: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?  (Read 106438 times)

MissStache

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Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« on: May 06, 2014, 12:28:59 PM »
Thanks to a move that has put me withing walking distance of the Metro and several grocery stores, I find myself hardly driving at all anymore.  I haven't driven my car in 10 days and it is just sitting happily parked on the street.  Is it OK for a car to sit unused for several weeks at a time, or do I need to do the occasional crank up and drive around the block a few times?  Perhaps this is a stupid question, but I don't know a lot about internal combustion engines or car batteries!

And I have thought about selling it.  I think about it every day when I walk by it and see it sitting there.  It is paid off and the insurance is cheap.  The thing that is holding me back is that I have a hobby that requires frequent weekend travel to places that are 3-6 hours away and inaccessable by any transportation other than car.  In the next 3 months I will go to western Maryland, North Carolina, Western Virginia (twice) and Pennsylvania (twice).  And potentially Rhode Island.  I still think it is most economical to keep the car rather than renting something when I travel, but feel free to facepunch if I am missing something!

dcheesi

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2014, 12:38:36 PM »
No! You need to drive it, preferably once a week. I think once a month is the bare minimum, but every week or two would be safer.

I let my old car sit for a few months. When I needed it, not only was the battery dead but it started overheating on me as well. Turns out I had blown a gasket, which I can only assume was a result of letting it dry rot in place for so long.

jrhampt

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2014, 12:43:13 PM »
I frequently go for a couple weeks at a time without driving mine when I'm working from home a lot, and it is okay.  I think as long as you're not going months without driving it, you may be fine.  Some of this could depend on the vehicle, though - my spouse's car tends to get sluggish in starting if he doesn't run it once a week or so.

phred

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2014, 12:58:18 PM »
drive it once a week until it warms up.  The important reason is to keep your hand to eye motor skills as good as they are now.

Sebastian

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2014, 01:04:31 PM »
Yes make sure you drive it. My last car died this way. I think the clutch cable rusted it self shut (idk how that's even possible). I would drive it once every other week at a minimum.

Gin1984

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2014, 01:11:29 PM »
Thanks to a move that has put me withing walking distance of the Metro and several grocery stores, I find myself hardly driving at all anymore.  I haven't driven my car in 10 days and it is just sitting happily parked on the street.  Is it OK for a car to sit unused for several weeks at a time, or do I need to do the occasional crank up and drive around the block a few times?  Perhaps this is a stupid question, but I don't know a lot about internal combustion engines or car batteries!

And I have thought about selling it.  I think about it every day when I walk by it and see it sitting there.  It is paid off and the insurance is cheap.  The thing that is holding me back is that I have a hobby that requires frequent weekend travel to places that are 3-6 hours away and inaccessable by any transportation other than car.  In the next 3 months I will go to western Maryland, North Carolina, Western Virginia (twice) and Pennsylvania (twice).  And potentially Rhode Island.  I still think it is most economical to keep the car rather than renting something when I travel, but feel free to facepunch if I am missing something!
When my husband and I were deciding on getting rid of our second car, we added the yearly insurance, maintenance and car taxes we would pay and then went on expedia to determine an average day car rental cost.  When we discovered that it would take 33 days of rentals to equal the cost of the car, we decided to dump it.  We only need to rent a car three time in the last 3 years.  But since you do drive, that calculation will be different for you.   

soccerluvof4

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2014, 01:18:06 PM »
Start it up and let it run once a month till its warm BUT more importantly you do want to roll around a few blocks or so to keep the rubber on the tires from rotting

BlueHouse

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2014, 01:40:32 PM »
I have no idea whether this is true on newer cars or not, but I was told (many years ago) that the worst thing for a car is to drive it regularly, but not fast enough or long enough to get the oil warmed up.  So the instruction then was to drive for at least 15 minutes on a regular basis OR when you start it up, get it on the highway and do at least 60mph.  I was given the image of congealed fat sitting on the oil and you have to burn that off. 

Someone will correct me if this is outdated info or just plain wrong. 

Argyle

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2014, 01:56:42 PM »
In several stretches over the last ten years I've driven my car only once a month (and then only for a short distance), and haven't had any trouble.

But when a car sits on the street without moving, the neighbors notice, and that can cause trouble.  We've had two cars like that on our block, and eventually both of them got towed away.  One had a sign on it for a while (saying something like "We're going to tow your car unless you call this number"), but I didn't see any notice on the other car.  So it might be worthwhile just moving it halfway up the block every second week or so.  Those cars had sat for at least a month without being moved, though.

HairyUpperLip

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2014, 02:11:01 PM »
What make? Model? Year?

In general, I would suggest at least starting it up every other week and let it idle for a bit. Eventually you'll need to drive it for the sake of driving it though. Cars don't respond well to sitting for too long.

10 days isn't enough to panic or anything though.

How often do you think you will be actually using the vehicle after this move? (outside of your long distance drives)

MissStache

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2014, 02:24:21 PM »
Thanks for all the input, everyone!

What make? Model? Year?

In general, I would suggest at least starting it up every other week and let it idle for a bit. Eventually you'll need to drive it for the sake of driving it though. Cars don't respond well to sitting for too long.

10 days isn't enough to panic or anything though.

How often do you think you will be actually using the vehicle after this move? (outside of your long distance drives)

It's a 2006 Kia Spectra, automatic transmission. 

I think I'll maybe use it once every couple of months for a Costco run or trip to Target, but other than my long distance trips, I can't see a reason to use it any more than that. 

dcheesi

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2014, 02:25:37 PM »
I have no idea whether this is true on newer cars or not, but I was told (many years ago) that the worst thing for a car is to drive it regularly, but not fast enough or long enough to get the oil warmed up.  So the instruction then was to drive for at least 15 minutes on a regular basis OR when you start it up, get it on the highway and do at least 60mph.  I was given the image of congealed fat sitting on the oil and you have to burn that off. 

Someone will correct me if this is outdated info or just plain wrong.
I've heard that as well, but then I used to drive less than a mile to/from work most days (pre-MMM, obviously!), and I never had a problem with the engine or transmission until I stopped driving it and let it sit for too long. OTOH that was just past 100k miles when I killed it, so who knows how the short trips might have affected the total lifespan (but it was a '90s GM, so that wasn't an unreasonable mileage to start seeing problems).

HairyUpperLip

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2014, 02:28:12 PM »
Oh okay - the car is not very old so I wouldn't overly stress it. Just take it for a short drive every couple weeks.

I lived in Iowa for awhile with a very modified car and it used to sit for 6-7 days at a time. Most of the times it ever moved were simply for pleasure driving honestly. It was my only car so I walked to work, groceries, friends, etc.

My wifes car sat for awhile too when we lived in Iowa for a second time and we walked most places. I think her car sat even longer than when I was out there solo because her car gave no pleasure to drive, haha.

Anyways - long story short, you should be fine. Just occasionally crank it up and drive it. Cars can deteriorate just sitting.

HairyUpperLip

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2014, 02:31:22 PM »
I have no idea whether this is true on newer cars or not, but I was told (many years ago) that the worst thing for a car is to drive it regularly, but not fast enough or long enough to get the oil warmed up.  So the instruction then was to drive for at least 15 minutes on a regular basis OR when you start it up, get it on the highway and do at least 60mph.  I was given the image of congealed fat sitting on the oil and you have to burn that off. 

Someone will correct me if this is outdated info or just plain wrong.

If made as a reference towards short drives in stop and go traffic then that's true. That's very hard on a car.

It helps to warm up a car properly for engine life.
If you are gas mileage king, they say start it and go. Always park backwards.
If you are a car nut, they say let it warm up a bit before you go.

Everyone has their two cents. But really I bet if she didn't even drive the car but once a month she will be okay. Even with her every month schedule I doubt a 2006 Kia will give her too many headaches. Worst case is probably a dead battery.


I'll chime out and let car safety guy talk. I don't need to be known as a car guy on this forum too. :P

Ashyukun

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2014, 02:42:24 PM »
Once every few weeks should be good on a newer car, but it would be better to do more than just let it warm up- taking it out for a spin so everything on the car that moves gets a bit of a workout is good. Getting it up to highway speeds for a few minutes is probably best- the engine and everything else will hit peak operating temps and the engine will get fully lubricated. Cars are made to be driven, and if they sit too long things will rust/seize/freeze up or at least wear out faster when it is actually driven.

El Gringo

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2014, 03:02:05 PM »
Congrats on the metro accessible move!

I've got a 2000 Toyota Corolla that I had before I moved to DC. I basically just use it every 2-3 months to drive back to my parents' place in PA, or an occasional adventure outside of the metro area (sometimes it goes even longer when I travel abroad for work). Several things to note:

1) I normally keep it under "storage insurance" which is really cheap (like $30/ 6 months). Whenever I think I'm going to use it, I contact my insurance company and ask them to take it out of storage and put my regular insurance on it. Then when I'm done using it, I put it back in storage. They're ok with this as long as I don't use it for another 30 days.

2) It's not uncommon that I need to jump my battery before I use it. I always intend to occasionally start it up so that the battery stays charged, but time flies and I forget!

I got it inspected a few months ago, for the first time in 2-3 years, and I was afraid that it would have all sorts of problems due to just sitting around. But it was actually only small things that needed repaired.

Mr. Frugalwoods

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2014, 03:08:29 PM »
Like others have said, it's better to start it up and drive it every once in a while.

The classic case here is the "old lady driving to church once a week".  Drive the car once a week for at least a couple of miles and you'll be fine.

Cars are meant to be driven, and if they aren't so much can go wrong:  Seals can dry out, rubber can deform, gas can go bad, insects and rodents can establish themselves.

Milspecstache

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2014, 03:27:45 PM »
Regarding the battery-dying issue:  I have that problem with my truck which gets started once a week or once every other week.  To fix it I put a solar charger in the window and that keeps the battery topped off.  Probably not an issue unless you have some kind of parisitic drain on the battery which I think my radio was causing.  Easier for me to buy the charger and forget about it than try to find/isolate the drain.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2014, 08:01:01 PM »
You mentioned being on the street, which makes it harder to plug in a trickle charger. 2-3 week intervals in summer is acceptable in my experience, but outdoor storage in winter is murder. Batteries drain, rotors rust and warp, all sorts of Very Bad Things.

Rube

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2014, 10:18:31 PM »
Yeah trickle charger on the battery, drive it long enough to get the condensation out of the engine and rust off the brake rotors. At the very least roll it 8 inches to avoid flat spots on the tires or put it on jack stands.

BurquenaAbroad

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2014, 03:16:36 AM »
I'm not sure if this is pertinent to your situation, but something no one has mentioned yet is parking. Are you allowed to leave your car parked on the street for that long?

It sounds silly, but I got a $100 ticket because it looked like our car hadn't been moved lately. We're temporarily staying with a friend at her apartment complex, and the caretaker thought it must be a stolen/dumped car. Even after we sorted that though, the caretaker threatened to have our car towed! All because we don't drive the car every day like the other rat-race residents here. :/

So, double check your local parking laws.

BlueMR2

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2014, 05:23:03 AM »
Thanks to a move that has put me withing walking distance of the Metro and several grocery stores, I find myself hardly driving at all anymore.  I haven't driven my car in 10 days and it is just sitting happily parked on the street.  Is it OK for a car to sit unused for several weeks at a time, or do I need to do the occasional crank up and drive around the block a few times?  Perhaps this is a stupid question, but I don't know a lot about internal combustion engines or car batteries!

According to the engine builders I've talked to, the cylinder bores will start to rust after about a week of sitting as the oil slowly drains out of them.  Now, it's not instant failure, but keep doing that long enough and you'll eventually get pitting and loss of compression (resulting in oil burning).

I have cars that often sit for long stretches even though I try to run them at *least* once every other week, preferably once a week.  And it takes a good 30 minute drive to really get everything up to temperature and moving properly.  The main issues I run into are brakes seizing up from disuse.  Rebuilding calipers is pretty cheap and relatively easy if you catch it right away, but if you don't, you can overheat and damage the calipers beyond repair and sometimes take the wheel bearings with it.  Accessories (A/C, power steering, etc) also aren't big fans of sitting for long periods.  You'll get more premature failures.

All that said, you're probably saving way more money by NOT driving, so you should be able to handle those failures and have cash to spare.  It'd be interesting to do the math and find out which is cheaper, driving it to prevent the failures, or just dealing with the earlier failures...  :-)

paddedhat

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2014, 06:00:26 AM »
"In general, I would suggest at least starting it up every other week and let it idle for a bit."

This is worse that just leaving the thing sit. Starting a vehicle, running it for a few minutes and shutting it off, can rot out the exhaust system in a few months. The reason is that the combustion process creates water vapor. This vapor will lay in the exhaust system and rust the pipe and muffler out. The reason it does not happen to most cars is that when they are driven, they reach operating temperatures and the moisture gets "baked" out of the system.
IMHO, I would feel most comfortable if I took the vehicle out for a 10-15 minute trip at least every two to four weeks, and drove it through a range of driving conditions, including at least a few minutes of highway speeds.  Pay careful attention to everything as if you were test driving a used car. Crank the heat up for a few minutes, then the AC, roll the windows up and down etc..... There are thousands of moving parts, seals, and lubricated surfaces that will benefit from being exercised. Just be sure that the vehicle reaches operating temperature and stays there for a few minutes before it gets shut down.

On a related note, in the "you should of listened to your own advice column" , I parked the wife's CRV in the garage after Christmas, and didn't touch it for three months, since we were down south. Here in the Northeast, we have become big fans of a hideous soup know as "brine" that is used for ice and snow control on our roads. It is highly corrosive. When I started the car, it took two attempts to break it loose, since the pads had literally rusted fast to the rotors. The damage is so bad that the brakes are noticeably less effective, and I need to pull the rotors off and have them machined to remove the nasty oxidized build-up on them. Had I properly washed the thing before long term storage, and made sure that it was driven every few weeks, this would not of been an issue.

MissStache

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2014, 06:46:39 AM »
Thanks for all the advice everyone!  I really appreciate the input.  This forum FTW!

Random Poster

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Re: Is it OK to let my car sit without being used?
« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2014, 09:27:11 AM »
On a related note, in the "you should of listened to your own advice column" , I parked the wife's CRV in the garage after Christmas, and didn't touch it for three months, since we were down south. Here in the Northeast, we have become big fans of a hideous soup know as "brine" that is used for ice and snow control on our roads. It is highly corrosive. When I started the car, it took two attempts to break it loose, since the pads had literally rusted fast to the rotors. The damage is so bad that the brakes are noticeably less effective, and I need to pull the rotors off and have them machined to remove the nasty oxidized build-up on them. Had I properly washed the thing before long term storage, and made sure that it was driven every few weeks, this would not of been an issue.

I'm not so sure about your last sentence.

Hondas are notorious for having rust build-up on their brakes, even when there is very little moisture on the brakes or on the car or in the air.

I once washed my CR-V, dried it off, and made sure that the brakes were dry and then parked it in an underground and heated parkade.  Two weeks later, the rear brake pads were attached to the rotors due to surface rust. Luckily, there was no damage done or machining needed, but ever since then, I try my best not to let the car sit for more than 1 week at a time.