What car parts/systems can deteriorate in condition if not frequently used?

Experiencing lockdown, work from home, having a holiday…there are situations that happen sometimes when cars are not used for weeks or even for months. It is said that sitting unused for a long time is not good for the car and it should be used at least once per two weeks. Is it true? What damage does a car suffer if not used for a long time?

Well, it is true that some damage may happen to your car. As a general rule of checking, there are three things you should pay attention to: the battery, anything that is rubber (serpentine belt, tyres) and the fluids (oils, coolant)

The biggest worry is dried out seals. When seals (such as an engine rear main seal or differential seals) are left unused for long periods of time, they dry out. When this happens and you use the vehicle, it has a tendency to rip/tear the seals and can cause massive oil leaks. Meanwhile, these seals are usually in bad spots where you cannot easily get to them, which means they cost to get replaced.

Battery: Even if you disconnect the battery, it cannot retain all the juice inside forever and it will drain eventually. This will reduce its life. That’s why you need to purchase a battery tender. This is a small battery charger which keeps your battery levels up to where they should be. It also helps with the condition of your battery. By using it, the battery will stay in as good of condition as it can. When you go out to start your vehicle, disconnect (many have quick disconnects which come with them) and your car should start right up.

The gas (petrol) will go bad over time as well. There are two solutions to the issue. 1) Top off the fuel tank before the known periods of the “long sit”. This helps prevent the fuel from absorbing water and causing rust issues in the tank. 2) Utilise a fuel stabiliser to keep the fuel fresh. Most of these stabilisers will keep fuel fresh for a year or longer, depending on how it’s used.

There is another thing need to notice. When using the car, make sure the engine is completely warmed up and used completely warm for several miles (10 or more). If you just run the vehicle for a short period of time, moisture tends to form inside the engine crankcase. This moisture can cause pitting and corrosion on internal engine parts. By running it up to temperature, the water is boiled away as you causing it to evaporate where it won’t cause you any issue.

Driving a car 10+ miles every two or three weeks for maintenance benefits is also true of tires. Any time the car sits idle, the tires develop flat spots. The longer it sits, the worse they get. If you drive every other week the flat spots will round out no problem with enough driving to heat the engine up to normal. If the car sits for too long they can become permanent.

Brake rotors friction surfaces may become slightly rusted over the long period of time. This should not be anything to worry about. It is basically a surface rust which will be worn off during your first run with the vehicle. You may want to not over tax the brakes (get into a situation where you really need them) until they are cleaned off, but it shouldn’t cause any issues. You will not want to use your parking brake, as brakes can become rusted to the disk/drum and won’t want to release. Park your car on a flat surface and it shouldn’t be an issue.

For all reasons above, it is highly recommended driving the car regularly because it pops out those flat spots, tops off the battery charge, oils up the internal engine seals, and everything else that driving does. This is especially important when in cold weather as the low temperatures take whatever problems cars normally have, and makes them worse (battery drains faster, tire flat spots are harder to undo, etc).

A car is designed to be run like a horse, you cannot get a horse and make it stand all day, you don’t buy a horse to pet it, they are meant to be ridden else they will develop problems (or whatever horses become if not ridden). Find car parts on the Partly marketplace for always keeping your car in a good condition.

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