5 Things To Check On Your Car If You Haven’t Driven in a While

The coronavirus pandemic resulted in a shift toward more remote working. For many, this has meant less driving. While this is great for your gas bill, it isn’t good for your car.

When cars remain parked and unused for weeks or months, things start to happen that you are unaware of. If you haven’t driven your car in a long time, check these five things before you get back on the road.

1. Battery

Batteries are notorious for running flat when cars are undriven for long periods. Even a new battery will run down. All the electronic gadgets and gizmos in modern cars draw current from the battery even when the car is switched off.

To avoid a dead battery, start the car once a week and let it run for a few minutes to charge the battery. If you have a forgetful nature, then disconnect the battery or buy a trickle charger. Trickle chargers release a small amount of current to keep the battery charged.

2. Brakes

Braking systems are made of steel, and steel rusts. If your car is exposed to rain or snow over a long period, rust will build up on the brake rotors.

A thin layer of rust is usually not a problem. When driving and using the brakes, the brake pads make contact with the rotors, and the friction will remove surface rust. The longer a car isn’t driven, the more likely rust will spread to the brake pad backing plate. Once that happens, your braking ability is compromised.

If you hear a grinding noise on the brakes, the brake pads are scraping against rust on the rotors. Best to get it checked rather than risk brake failure.

3. Tires

When a car stands for long periods, the tires start to deflate. Low tire pressure affects fuel usage, performance, and safety. 

With the weight bearing down on wheels for prolonged periods, it also causes flat spots at the bottom of the tire. One trick is to add an additional 10 psi of pressure to each tire to prevent flat spots.

4. Fluids

Fuel and oil can deteriorate if a car isn’t driven regularly. If your car is standing unused for up to 45 days, the American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends the following:

  • Have your oil changed before leaving your car sitting to remove any acids and contaminants. 

  • Top off your gas tank to reduce condensation and add a fuel stabilizer such as STA-BIL. To circulate this through the system drive the car for five to ten miles before parking it.

5. Critters

An unused vehicle quickly becomes a place for critters to take up residence. In winter, a car’s engine makes a perfect shelter for mice, rats, or squirrels to build nests. Snakes may also find their way in. Check under the hood for small animals and inspect wires, cords, and the fuel line for possible damage from chewing.

What to Remember When You Get Back on the Roads

If you’ve taken a long hiatus from driving, bear the following in mind when you get back on the roads:

  1. Take your car for a tune-up. Knowing your car has undergone a thorough inspection and been given service provides peace of mind.

  2. Watch out for speedsters. During COVID lockdowns, incidents of speeding increased as speed freaks used empty roads as race tracks. So, watch out for reckless drivers. Taking a defensive driving course will teach you how to anticipate other drivers’ behavior and avoid accidents.

  3. Drive safely. Remember the principles of safe driving. Buckle up, stick to the speed limit, keep a safe following distance, and don’t drive with distractions.

  4. Be aware of drunk drivers and stay sober. COVID has canceled many holiday celebrations, but there will be those who ignore the call to avoid holiday gatherings. If celebrations do happen, drunk driving will follow. Be aware of this, especially if you are out at night, and always drive sober yourself.

The benefit of driving fewer miles is that there is less wear-and-tear on your car, and you may even score lower car insurance rates! Just make sure you turn the ignition and take it for a drive once in a while to keep the engine turning, fluids circulating, and the battery charged.