6 easy tips for maintaining your idle car

If your car’s been sitting unused for weeks, take a few minutes to learn how to maintain its health

Unless you’re in an essential industry, you’re probably not driving as much as usual. You might even come to realize that you’ve gone a week or longer since you last started your car! Less driving means fewer carbon emissions being released into the environment. However, after minimal use, your vehicle might not drive the way you’re expecting when you need it — if it starts at all.

We asked Dick Glanzer, veteran mechanic of 40+ years and owner of Dick’s Garage in Carpenter, South Dakota, for some tips that car owners should follow to ensure their vehicles are in tip-top shape when the time comes to drive.

Maintain your battery

If your vehicle is going to sit for a few weeks, you should invest in a battery maintainer — not a charger but a maintainer. “With all the different electrical systems on today’s vehicles, there is always a small draw on the battery,” Glanzer said. “A maintainer will prevent the battery from going dead.”

car battery cables
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  • Monitors and charges car battery
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Check the fluids

Simply put, fluids can go bad and wreak havoc on your car. Glanzer stated, “Check all the fluids, oil, antifreeze, brake fluid and power steering fluid.” Your owner’s manual should explain how to check each type of fluid, and exactly what is needed for refilling if you feel you can do it yourself. If you find one of the fluid levels is exceptionally low, the car might also have a leak. Check under the car for a stain that could have been caused by a persistent drip.

Check the tire pressure

A tire pressure gauge is an inexpensive yet valuable tool in ensuring the lifespan of your tires. Driving on an underinflated tire can cause the tires to wear and put you at risk of an accident. It’s also terrible for gas mileage. “Tire sizes and models are different, so be sure to triple-check before you re-inflate,” Glanzer said. “Tire specifications are generally found right on the tire.” Additionally, a portable compressor is a smart idea in these shelter-in-place times.

tire gauge
Photo (c) Amazon
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DeWalt compressor
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  • Digital gauge
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Take a peek under the hood

Don’t worry; you don’t need to be a mechanic for this step. You are inspecting under the hood to ensure an animal hasn’t decided to make its home in your stationary vehicle! Glanzer explained, “Animals that think they’ve made a new home could include cats, birds and rodents.” Products that could repel animals include various scents and ultrasound lights. Take things a step further with the proper pest poison (in a childproof location, of course).

animal repeller
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Keep the gas tank full

In the current situation, a good thing to do is keep your gas tank full. “Lots of bad stuff happens to vehicles when they sit for long periods of time. Condensation occurs in the fuel tank, so it’s best to have your tank full,” Glanzer said, then also explained, “Gas gets stale, too. Adding a stabilizer to the fuel helps before you park it.”

fuel stabalizer
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  • Up to 2 years of fuel stabilization
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  • Cleans valves & injectors

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Move it around

Driving your car a short distance every few days ensures it’s functioning as expected. Glanzer stated, “It would absolutely be helpful to just get in and drive around the block. If something is wrong, you’re better off finding out now instead of when you need to drive in an emergency.”

Additionally, car thieves like to target vehicles they noticed haven’t moved in a while. A stationary car collecting dirt, leaves and pollen tells thieves you aren’t paying attention and is an easy target for stealing or, at the very least, rummaging through for valuables.

window door alarm
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Protect your car with an extended auto warranty

Additionally, one can save on unexpected breakdowns and wear and tear to their vehicle with an extended warranty. Take our quiz to find an authorized brand to match your needs.

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