The weeks are slowly starting to blur together. Have you stopped to calculate how long it’s been since you slipped behind the wheel of your car?
With so much else on your mind, your car might be the last thing to worry about. Yet depending on the age of your car, it might be time to give it a thought.
A car is designed to drive. Each system is created to be started and used on a regular basis. When that doesn’t happen, the internal workings can start to change.
If your car sits without running for too long, there are a number of things that can happen.
We’ll start with the first issue you may face. If you turn the key or press the button to start your vehicle, and nothing happens, it might be a dead battery. There’s a reason for that.
If you take a look around your house, you probably have a variety of things that use batteries. Your television remote. A child’s toy. Your digital devices.
These devices have a battery that holds its charge. Through use, it slowly drains until it’s time to either replace the batteries, or recharge them. It’s an ebb and flow, where you know you get a certain lifecycle from the device until it’s time for replacement.
Car batteries work differently. Its sole purpose is to jolt your car’s engine into service. It also works to keep your accessories working, such as your headlamps and your radio. The battery relies on this jolt to keep the battery flowing.
If your car doesn’t start, you’ll have to jumpstart it to try and get it going.
Jumpstarting your car
Every driver should have a pair of jumper cables in the trunk of their vehicle for safety reasons. While any set will do, if you’re buying new ones, look for ones that are 4 to 6 gauges and at least 20 feet in length. Err on the side of heavy duty; they’ll be more durable and reliable in the long run. This isn’t something you have to replace regularly, so starting out with a good set will last you a long time. And having the extra length will make it easier to connect two cars, especially if you can’t get them right next to one another.
When using jumper cables, it’s better to have two people, one at each end. Keep the red and black clamps free from touching one another as this can cause sparks. Open up the plastic hood that’s covering the battery to have access to the posts. Determine which is positive and negative. Brush away any dirt or corrosive material, then start with the red clamps. Place one red clamp on the dead battery, another one on the live battery. Next, connect the black clamp to the negative terminal on the dead battery, but instead of finding the negative terminal on the live battery, place it on an engine bolt or on the vehicle’s frame and secure for a safer jump situation.
Start the engine with the live battery first, then attempt to start the vehicle with the dead battery.
If your vehicle fires up, keep it running while you carefully disconnect the jumper cables, ensuring they don’t touch. Drive your car for a bit to ensure the battery receives a full charge.
If your vehicle clicks but won’t turn on, it might be a bad starter. If the lights come on and you hear the engine turning over without starting, it may be another issue.
Is the battery the only issue when your car sits without running?
While a car battery dying is one of the most obvious problems with leaving your vehicle sit for an extended period of time, it isn’t the only one. Several other problems can start to surface as it continues to sit.
Engine – the engine compartment is one of the main systems inside your vehicle. It’s an intricate set of wires, belts, nuts and bolts, all holding the various components in place. The longer your vehicle sits, the more these pieces start to wear. They are designed for movement; sitting can actually make them wear faster.
Rubber can harden and start to crack. Various belts and wires can corrode and stiffen. Animals can also play their part as they find a sitting vehicle the perfect place to create a home. And once they settle in, they can chew up wires and loosen parts.
The engine also pushes oil and other fluids through all the various systems located throughout your vehicle. If these fluids aren’t moving, it can impact the entire system.
Brakes – the constant pressure of stopping and going ensures brake fluid moves throughout the system. As the car sits, fluid doesn’t move, which can cause the braking system to lose their gripping ability.
Electrical system – without a jolt and coming to life, sometimes the interior accessories can develop a fault. You may discover a problem when you press the buttons to operate your windows, your seats, or your mirrors.
Fluids – fluids are meant to move throughout the system they were designed for. When not moving, they break down, lose their ability to lubricate the internal parts, and eventually stop working in the system altogether. Keep in mind that this takes an extended period of time, and won’t happen in just a few weeks. But the longer your car sits without running, especially if your car hasn’t been serviced in a while, it can cause internal problems that might not surface right away.
Keep your car safe no matter how long it sits without running
A car is designed to run. And while leaving it at rest for short periods is expected, longer patterns start the process of making internal systems weaker.
Before we start moving again as a nation, spend some time getting your vehicle in top operating condition. Start it up and drive it 10 to 20 miles to ensure all systems get the chance to be fully operational.
And if you notice anything out of place – a noise, a vibration, or a smell – drive it in, and we can test it out. Replacing small parts early will help prevent larger problems down the road.