How to Maintain a Car You’re Not Driving

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Car in Garage
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What is necessary to maintain a car you’re not driving?

It’s a question you probably didn’t think about until the coronavirus pandemic, but it has caused some of us to abandon our wheels for the foreseeable future.

Money expert Clark Howard says recent experiences got his mental wheels turning about the subject.

“I have two friends who in recent days went to start their cars only to find they had dead batteries,” Clark says. “Why? Neither of them had driven their vehicles in weeks.”

Clark says that in both cases, the vehicles in question were older, the batteries had died, and neither would start with a jump.

So how do you keep something like this from happening to you? Team Clark talked to an expert to get some answers.

Taking Care of Your Car When You’re Not Driving It

Mike Bland is the owner of Motor City South, an auto repair shop in Atlanta, Georgia. He says there are four big things you can do to keep your wheels in the best possible shape if you’re not going to be driving for a while.

1. Take Your Vehicle for a Spin Every Now and Then

The most important thing you can do for a car that you’re not driving regularly is to drive it occasionally.

“Taking your car for a spin around the neighborhood or to the store for some supplies — if it’s safe for you to go — will ensure that your battery stays charged,” Bland says. “Beyond that, most cars have a lot of individual rubber components that will break down over time if they don’t get some motion.”

How often you need to start your car and drive it depends on the age of your vehicle and where you store it.

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“A brand new car that’s kept in a garage will need to be driven maybe once a month,” Bland says. “But if you have an older car with hundreds of thousands of miles on it and you park it on the street, you probably want to drive it at least every week.”

2. Pay Attention to Your Gas Levels

This one is a little bit tricky, but you want to pay attention to the gas that fuels your car (unless, of course, you have an electric vehicle).

“A mostly-empty gas tank that sits for an extended period of time can build up condensate and gasoline vapors,” Bland says. “That’s why the recommendation is to keep your tank full whenever possible.”

On the other hand, it’s not a great idea to let gasoline just sit for too long.

“Conventional wisdom says gas is really only good for three to six months in a vehicle. As you’re driving your car to keep it in shape, make sure you add some fresh fuel every now and then.”

3. Follow Your Maintenance Schedule

Cars come with recommended maintenance schedules that include changing fluids and replacing certain parts.

“Typically, you would follow the manufacturer’s recommendations by, say, changing your oil every 7,500 or 10,000 miles,” Bland says. “But if you’re not driving your vehicle, you want to pay attention to the other milestones that have to do with time. Even if you’re not driving regularly, you want to make sure to change your oil every six to twelve months, depending on the age of your vehicle.”

4. Keep Your Car Clean

Finally, it’s important to remember that taking care of your vehicle’s exterior is just as important as making sure that the parts that make it run are in good shape.

“I’d say the best thing you could do to keep your car looking good is to go ahead and give it a good thorough wash and wax job now,” Bland says. “The wax will help protect your vehicle’s finish. Then you can probably get away with giving it a quick wash once a month or so.”

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