How often should you start your car, especially when it is in storage and not being used for quite some time? This question is one of the most asked inquiries that I receive as a technician. This is also true with the current push for car-sharing and the somewhat improvement in mass transportation.
It would be very frustrating to experience a shutdown of your car when not in use for some time. True, there is a debate going on as to the exact answer to this question, there are certain factors that need to be taken into consideration to make a good decision.
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The Factor 1 : Battery Life
Now, do you need to drive your vehicle at least every week? Simply put, this is a very reasonable schedule.
In fact, this is one of the best schedules that will ensure that the battery of your car will not die out. Running your car engine and its alternator will further help in recharging the battery. This process will also help in circulating oils, lubricants, as well as other fluids into the different parts where they are required. As such, if you are planning to keep your car in storage for quite some time, it is best to start it at least once a week.
This means allowing the engine to start for a few minutes, making it reach the normal temperature for operation. This increase in temperature will also dry the condensation out, especially if it has already formed in the fuel system and crankcase. Lightly rev the engine just before shutting it down so that any moisture will be removed out of the exhaust components of the vehicle.
If the battery is discharged, thus failing to start the engine, you may want to check on tutorials that explain how you can charge the battery of a car even without the use of a charger. With this said, it is also important to know how dead your car’s battery is. A good and performing battery will give a reading ranging from 12.4V to 12.7V using a voltmeter.
When used in terms of vehicles, a “dead” battery could mean that it has already been discharged, and thus need recharging. However, it is important to note that if the battery has died completely, it only means that it can no longer support all of the electrochemical processes which power up the systems of the car. If this happens, a replacement has to be done.
Keep From Killing Your Car’s Battery During Winter Storage YouTube Video:
The Factor 2 : Fuel Issues
When it comes to the fuel staying in a car that has been in storage, the actual lifespan may differ based on the types of fuel used. This is because the density and composition of fuel may also differ.
Normal gasoline may last from 3 to 5 months inside the gas tank.
On the other hand, diesel may last up to 12 months inside the gas tank.
If the lockdown period of your car is more than 3 months, it would be safer to drain its gas tank. One reason for this is that you also do not know the length of time in which the fuel has already stayed in the gas pump before it was transferred to your car. It is best to drain the vehicle from fuel altogether.
The Factor 3 : Engine Oil Problems
This is particularly applicable if you have a “classic” car. Under normal operating conditions, engine oil may stay healthy and stable for a reasonable period of time. These types of conditions mean that the engine oil has been stored unopened inside its original container and stored in moderate temperatures. If the oil stays in the engine of the car for too long, it may pose some problems.
If you are planning to lock up your car for a period of time, it may also require you to go through an engine oil change to ensure that everything will run smoothly afterward.
Read Next: The Oil Change Process
Other Factors ( tires, paintwork, brake pads, etc.)
If the period of storage is not just because of the season, say, not using it for winter, some precautions need to be taken into consideration. This is particularly true, for example, if you are planning to store your car for about a year. Aside from the problems involving the engine of the car, leaving your car totally unused for this length of time may only result in several annoying issues. One of them is the battery draining, as mentioned earlier, or the flattening of the car tires.
Also, if the condition for storage is poor, the paintwork of your vehicle may also suffer and degrade.
If the hand brake is engaged, you may notice that the brake pads are stuck to the discs or drums.
If left unattended in unsafe storage, rodents and other animals may even chew upon the electrical connections and upholstery. Repairing all of these damages could be costly.
When left dormant, cars could become like humans too, falling into disrepair. Staring the engine occasionally may avoid some failures that are bound to happen among stored cars. If it is not possible to drive your car around, simply starting it up will do wonders for the engine and system of your car. It significantly helps in keeping the parts from crumbling and drying out.
When it comes to knowing how often should you start your car, the factors that are mentioned above will help you make the right choice. There will always be that time when your car will just sit idle in your garage. Still, this does not mean that you also stop performing the needed regular maintenance of your vehicle. By making sure that you regularly start the car and run the engine will make sure that you can return to the road without problems.
James is a certified auto technician specializing in commercial vehicles. With 30 years of experience under his belt, James has encountered almost every type of automotive issue there is! Besides his day job at the repair shop, he is also an amateur race car driver.