How Long Can a Car Sit without Driving

Right off the bat, let’s get it out of the way that there are so many reasons for a car to sit. They were not made with that intention but it happens. And all of us at one point or another have worried about the battery dying or the engine getting too cold and whatnot. That’s because your car is a very special item to you. It’s your pride and joy and you want to take good care of it.

And now, more than ever, this guide is relevant because all of our cars are sitting in the garage while we wait for the pandemic to subside. There is also the other possibility that you got a car but not the license just yet. Or maybe you got a drift car that is not legal for the roads in your country yet.

So, here’s a guide for everyone to get those troubles off your mind. Let’s talk about how long we can let the vehicle sit and what you need to do to make sure it doesn’t get damaged while it is sitting pretty in storage.

Cars are meant to be driven every day. So, there are a few areas that take a hit when they are not moved.

So, How Long?

There are a lot of things to consider while answering this question. And weather plays a major role in the answer. For instance, leaving a vehicle outside under direct sunlight to let it burn to a crisp is a problem. On the other hand, leaving it outside in a place where it is snowing non-stop is a whole other thing.

They are both really bad scenarios and never leave your car out there if you can help it. If you can’t, remember that the thumb rule (and the simple answer to the question at hand) is to not leave it that way for more than two weeks. That is if you merely want it to start again…ever. But if you follow a few guidelines, you can keep a car sitting in storage for months without any major issues.

Conventional wisdom of some kind has taught people to start a car while parked and keep it going for a while so that the battery does not go flat. It is also believed that this gives the engine a little bit of a wake up. While there is some truth and science to this, this actually is not a great practice. When you start a car in parking, you risk the building up of condensation in the engine. This is likely to cause long-term damage.

The best thing to do is to take a car out for 15-20 minutes once every two weeks. Try to reach a speed of at least 50 miles per hour. This makes sure that all the components and engines of the fluids get to reach optimal temperature. And, of course, this charges the battery too. Now, driving the car is not always an option. That’s probably why you’ve kept it in storage, right? In that case, here are some other ideas.

Maintaining Battery in Storage

The thing about long-term parking is that you need to make sure your battery gets enough action but does not accidentally get drained. If it makes sense in your situation, meaning you don’t need the car alarm, the first thing to do is to disconnect the battery from the car.

You can also try a battery trickle charger or maintainer if you need the alarm. This is a great way to keep the battery topped up for long periods if you have an electricity source nearby. That shouldn’t be difficult though, right?

The battery is maintained by an alternator when your car is regularly used and never goes flat. But when your car is in storage, the rules change. The battery could die within weeks or even days if it is not charged. This is particularly true for cold-weather regions.

Preventing Rust in Storage

This is one of the things that people who don’t use storage fail to think about. Rust is the enemy of every person who loves their car. This is also why it is important to choose a good location for long-term storage for your car. Assuming you have a choice, pick a dry and ventilated area to avoid rust on your car while it sits idly.

You should also remember to do a thorough cleaning of areas like wheel arches and tight corners of the car as a precaution. These areas are often prone to rust when the car is left alone. If there is road salt or grime leftover in your car, the winter months are going to give you hell. The thing to keep in mind is that your car needs to be dry, warm and in a ventilated space. For that, you must also consider the ground you are parking on.

Grass is likely to absorb more moisture on rainy days and generally overnight. This can start to erode the metal parts of your car pretty soon if you don’t pay attention.

Reviving a Car That’s Been in Storage

There is a possibility that you are out there googling this question because this is a “done the crime and will do the time” scenario. But maybe you were hoping that the damage isn’t all that much.

Well, don’t worry too much about it because this is a common problem. A lot of people make this mistake and it’s mostly fine. You just need to do a few things while reviving it and hopefully there isn’t any permanent damage.

To revive a car that has been sitting for a while, you need to start by assessing the tires. Step one is to check the tire pressure and make sure it meets the PSI requirement. This is usually on the sticker inside the driver’s side door or the sidewall of the tire. If you need new tires, you could either use spare tires or take off the rims and get new ones.

Next is to check gas and oil. You must remove the old gas and get a new filling. But some cars have an anti-siphon mechanism. In that case, you must add some fuel stabilizer to your gas and keep it that way for a few hours.

This will remove any possible water that has accumulated in the gas tank. The stabilizer is available at most auto parts stores. If that does not work, you might have to use an additive. This helps your car work for a little while and uses the fuel that is gummed up inside the tank. In that case, the exhaust might have a bad smell. That’s because the gas in the car is old.

Then you must start it. If the engine starts, let it sit for 10 minutes. If it does not respond, your battery might be in trouble. So, try charging it first. If that does not work, you will have to get a new one. Sorry.

But, if it works, check under the car for any leaks while the engine warms up. There will be a puddle under your car if a gasket has gone bad. If you notice leaks, you must take it to a repair shop right away. This is to make sure all the gaskets and seals are functioning well. If you feel like your checks were fine, you can get going.

If all seems well, come back up and check the temperature of the car. If it overheats, you have something to worry about. To check that, you must turn on the heater and let the blower cool it down. If anything seems fishy, turn off your car immediately and take it to the shop. If not, you are good to go.

If you have to take it to the shop, it is a good time to get the oil changed. Dirty oil, or the lack of it, means there is nothing to lubricate the different metallic parts of your engine and they are brushing against each other causing friction.

In that condition, if you keep the car running, it damages the engine and will seize up the whole car. Typically, this is to be done one in every three or six months depending on the mileage and your car’s model. But it is a good idea to change it right after taking it from storage but to be safe. This is not an aspect of maintenance that you want to take lightly.

Parting Words

The simple answer to the question, “How long can a car sit without driving?” is two weeks. But that is irrespective of weather, age and condition of the car. It also does not take into account the surroundings of the car.

The best thing to do is to take matters into your own hands and examine the whole car and decide the time period for yourself. If you neglect it, you might end up with a couple of heavy auto bills.

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