Take a look at how many miles you’ve driven this year. Does the number shock you?
While the number varies based on the age of the driver, the US Department of Transportation states that, on average, people drive just over 13,000 miles per year. And that was before the COVID-19 set in. Thanks to staying in place several months in 2020, many of us are driving a lot less than before.
But it’s not just the pandemic that lowers the miles we put on our vehicles. Working from home may be our new norm. Maybe you’ve shifted your goals, and will hang closer to home, more time spent on family activities inside your house. Vacations? The only road trip you’re planning is to the local park.
How does that impact your car?
Whether it moves or not, it still needs maintenance. Car repair tips may change based on mileage, but you still have to put in the work. Here’s how.
Keeping your battery charged
While some parts are designed well enough to sit without problem, your car battery needs regular interaction to keep it fully charged. Car batteries aren’t designed like the ones you put in your remotes, or in your phone. Instead, they discharge over time.
The best way to keep it charged and fully operational is to drive your car at regular intervals. But there isn’t a “step by step” plan for how often that is. As a battery ages, it needs more frequent charging. Temperature changes can also impact the outcome.
While there isn’t a standard for every car, a lot of experts recommend getting in and driving at least once per week. Starting your car and letting it idle for a few minutes isn’t a solution either. The battery needs the stop and go action you only get from driving. At the very least, drive around the block a few times.
Keeping all systems going
If you don’t start up the battery regularly, it loses its charge. Likewise, if you don’t drive regularly, the various systems in your vehicle won’t get the proper lubrication they need to operate best.
If oil starts to settle, for example, the fluid may start separating, seals and belts can begin to dry out. When you do start your car up again, minor damage can quickly grow into more, and escalate the necessity and cost of your repair bills.
Taking your car out regularly ensures all fluids move into action. They keep all moving parts working as they should. That’s one of the reasons idling isn’t recommended; the other systems can’t function while idling.
Even your tires can be impacted
Tires are made of rubber. They’re designed for movement. As a car sits, all of that weight can add pressure to the tire, causing flat spots to develop. Think of a wheel that isn’t perfectly round; it doesn’t operate correctly. With too many flat spots in place, the only course of action is to throw it out. And that can be a costly expense.
Be mindful of where you park
Not all of us are lucky enough to have a garage to park in. And while sitting on the road may work for short timeframes, be especially mindful of where you park if your car will sit for a while.
Parking on soft locations like grass or dirt can allow moisture to sit in the undercarriage of your car. This can cause a host of problems, including rust on some of the parts.
Parking under trees can allow sap, needles, bird droppings, or fruit to leak down onto the paint, being a nightmare to remove. And in some cases, remove the paint altogether.
Keeping your car filled
If you’re not driving, why top off your tank? There are two reasons to do so.
First, having a full tank prevents moisture from accumulating inside the tank. Fuel that is compromised by moisture can start to break down fuel particles. It can also allow microbial growth to set in, which can damage the entire fuel line.
Second, it also stops gasoline fumes from building to hazardous levels. As your fuel system ages, tiny leaks can start to form. Leaving your car set can allow fumes to settle in rather than dissipate while driving.
Keep your car clean
That may sound counterintuitive since you aren’t driving. But a dirty car attracts more problems. Inside and out.
Start with the interior. Clean out the trash and ensure food and crumbs are nowhere to be seen. Rodents and other small animals are looking for places to nest. Why not choose a warm place where food is already in place?
A clean exterior will also protect your paint from unwanted marks and stains. Chemicals leftover from our harsh winter streets can rust and damage the undercarriage. And depending on what’s sitting on your paint, it can quickly eat through to protective coating.
Stick with your normal maintenance schedule
Even though you might not be putting thousands of miles on your vehicle each year, it’s still important to stick with a preventative maintenance schedule. That means changing the oil every few months. Checking hoses and belts to ensure they are in good condition. Checking tire pressure, and ensuring they still have ample tread. Ensuring your brake system works well.
Check your car before you start driving more frequently
Your car has been sitting for several months. You get in and head out of town on a road trip. What could go wrong?
A lot, actually. If a car sits and you don’t pay attention to it, problems can arise just out of sight. They may work, until they don’t. Do you really want to be on the road, miles from town?
Your best course of action when you are ready to return to a normal level of driving is to give your car a thorough check-up and ensure everything is working at its best. Ease back into driving. Take it out for a few miles, watch, smell, and listen.
In most cases, potential problems will surface quickly. If you’re careful at watching for them, you’ll notice them and be able to repair them before they grow into something bigger.