Us humans tend to be the healthiest when we’re up and about – moving, working, exercising, flexing our various joints and muscles, and doing work that makes our hearts and lungs pump away.

Humans with sedentary lifestyles are at higher risks of health problems, which is why active humans, not couch potatoes, tend to be the fittest, healthiest, and highest performing. Us humans aren’t so different from the cars and trucks we drive. 

Like us, our vehicles can suffer health problems – sometimes serious ones – if they’re allowed to sit unused for extended periods of time.

Below, we’ll look at which parts of your car or truck are the most likely to suffer when they go unused for weeks and months on end, why that is, and what you can do about it. 

The following information can also be considered when buying a used car, many of which may be suffering covid-related health issues from sitting stationary for too long.

1. Revive the car battery

Your car’s battery has a sad and lonely life that’s mostly spent living quietly in the dark until it 

dies. Most drivers pay little attention to their car’s battery, until its eventual death causes some aggravation. 

Of all the components in your car or truck, the battery is probably the greatest potential source of health-related issues when a vehicle is parked and unused for an extended period. Modern cars are harder than ever on their batteries, and modern car electronics are very particular about having a strong and healthy flow of power to do their jobs properly.

Car batteries can become drained over time while parked, whether by low-draw electronics like the alarm system and keyless access system which remain powered while the vehicle is turned off, or, by a buildup of battery terminal crud that can accelerate this discharge over time.

Car batteries are recharged by your car’s engine while you drive. While parking for a few days may be no cause for alarm, as weeks pass, your parked car’s battery will likely become weak and drained, which can result in a no-start situation, as well as sporadic and wonky operation of a multitude of vehicle electronic systems that are negatively affected by a weak or dying battery.

Thankfully, caring for your car’s battery during extended periods of non-use is fairly easy. 

Clean the battery terminals

First, clean the battery terminals of built-up gunk, or have a professional do it for you. A crystalized, salt-like crud naturally builds up on the battery terminals of some cars over time. This battery terminal gunk is semi-conductive– meaning it can be a source of unwanted battery drain.

Consider a trickle charger

Second, consider a trickle charger. Connecting this small and affordable device to your battery and plugging it into a wall outlet conditions your battery and keeps it topped up while your car is unused.This makes for a longer-lasting battery, and negates the need to actually drive your car to recharge it.

Regular use of a trickle charger while your vehicle will be parked for more than a few days makes your battery (and all of the systems drawing power from it) more reliable, too. 

If you’ll be parking your car for weeks on end, using a trickle charger means you’ll return to a car with a battery that’s topped off and healthy.

Note that a trickle charger is best used on a healthy battery, and likely won’t bring a dead or dying battery back to life.

Unplug all on-board accessories

Being sure to unplug all on-board accessories like USB drives, power adapters, and MP3 players can help reduce parasitic battery drain. Being sure to store your vehicle’s smart key fobs at a distance from the vehicle can help here, too. 

If your car has a smart key system, be sure the keys are stored away from where the car is parked, which can prevent battery drain caused when the key and car power up their antennas at close range, to communicate.

Replacing the battery, consider professional help

In a modern car, never attempt to replace a battery yourself without consulting a professional. In some vehicles, special training and equipment is required to change a battery without causing serious electronic trouble. If you don’t know what you’re doing, disconnecting your car’s battery can cause serious headaches, some of which may require a tow-truck ride to the dealership to fix.

2. Bring the tires back to life

The tires on your car or truck lose air pressure slowly over time while your vehicle is parked, which is why regular tire pressure checks are so important. If your car has been parked for weeks or months, chances are that one or more tires will become low on air, or even totally flat. 

Look for tire flat spots

After driving a car that’s been parked for an extended period, drivers may notice a rubbing, roaring or grinding sensation from the vehicle as it’s rolling down the road. This can be a sign of tire ‘flat-spotting’, which is common when tires support the weight of a vehicle for an extended period without moving.

Check tire pressure

Before driving a car that’s been parked for an extended period, check and adjust tire pressures accordingly, noting that driving on underinflated tires invites accelerated tire wear, excessive fuel use, and other dangers.

Generally, the unpleasant sensations and noises caused by flat-spotted tires will dissipate after a good long drive, but have a professional investigate if that’s not the case.

Over inflated tires

When parking a car for an extended period, consider over-inflating the tires slightly to prevent flat-spotting, or parking on something soft, instead of bare concrete. A square of old carpeting placed between each tire and the concrete floor of your garage can help here.

Remembering that tire inflation pressure can’t be determined with a visual inspection, approach any car that’s been sitting for an extended period assuming that one or more tires is dangerously underinflated. Always check first.

3. Car brakes need attention

Your car’s brakes can suffer when they go unused for extended periods. Moisture and precipitation can cause rust to form on the vehicle’s brake rotors. This is normal, and after applying the brakes a few times, this rust will disappear in normal conditions. 

Still, extended periods of non use may cause heavy rust buildup on brake rotors, resulting in a grinding or scraping sensation on your next drive while the brakes are applied. In extreme cases, rust may extend to other braking system parts, causing further, pricier damage.

When driving a car that’s been parked for an extended period, be on the lookout for any unwanted feedback or sounds as you apply the brakes, noting that healthy brakes should work smoothly and quietly.

If a few hard stops don’t get things back to normal, have a technician investigate, as your braking system may need some professional help. 

Note that hybrid and electric cars may be at elevated risk of rust-related braking system problems during extended periods of non-use, especially on their rear brakes.

If anything sounds or feels fishy with the braking system on your car or truck after it’s been parked for weeks or months, it probably is. If in doubt, get things checked out professionally.

4. EV battery issues when parked too long

The battery in an Electric Vehicle (EV) can suffer damage and wear during extended periods of non-use if special steps aren’t taken before storage. Many EV models specify an ideal battery charge level for storage, which owners should take seriously. 

The gist? 

Parking an EV for weeks or months with a battery that’s too full or too empty can damage and degrade the battery. In general, you’re best to store your EV with its battery charge closer to 50 percent than to either 0 percent or 100 percent. 

Check the owner’s manual for the EV you drive for the full scoop on its ideal storage charge level, and for instructions on how to set things up via the vehicle’s on-board interface.

5. Keep rodents & mice out of your car

Your car or truck may be an inviting place for rodents to take up residence while it’s parked for an extended period. 

Squirrels, chipmunks, mice and the like are attracted to parked cars for various reasons, including the abundance of fluffy seat padding and carpeting that can be used as nesting material, and a fresh supply of food in the form of crumbs, fries and bits of cheezies scattered throughout the cabin of many family vehicles. 

For many rodents, dirty child seats are a particularly appetizing proposition: they often represent a generous supply of both nesting material and food. 

Rodents can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your vehicle, including extensive damage to its electronic systems. 

So, if you’ll be storing yours for an extended period, be sure to remove all food sources by cleaning the cabin thoroughly, removing dirty child seats, and removing things like garbage, compost, pet food and bird seed from the area where the vehicle is parked.

Mothballs and peppermint oil are used successfully by some owners to help deter rodents from setting up shop in your Camry or F-150 as well.

If you suspect rodents may be squatting in your car, consider parking it outside on a bright sunny day with the doors, hood and trunk open. This eliminates the dark, quiet and secure atmosphere they like.

6. Get out for a spin

Rising fuel costs mean that fewer Canadians are going for casual drives for no reason in particular, though an occasional drive of your otherwise-parked car can be beneficial, especially for vehicles that are driven infrequently, and typically on shorter trips.

Few benefits of driving your car (even when you don’t need to)

Recharges your car battery

First, going for a drive helps recharge your car’s battery, in addition to the use of that tickle charger we mentioned above.

Extends car components’ life

Second, a multitude of rubber components used in your car’s engine, suspension and elsewhere tend to become stiff, dried out and even damaged when they’re left stationary for extended periods. 

Going for a drive helps these components stretch, move, and remain flexible and plump, which can help extend component life and fend off unwanted suspension noises and driveline vibrations. 

Bushings in your car’s suspension work like cushions between its joints. A regular drive can help keep these in good shape, not unlike regular stretching for us humans.

Keep things warmed up and eliminates car moisture

Third? Assuming you’re maintaining your vehicle using factory-specified engine oil and filters, and using a high-quality gasoline at every fill, a regular drive that allows your engine to get nice and hot does have some benefits. Not only does a regular drive help circulate protective additives and dispersants found in your engine’s oil, it also eliminates moisture that can build up in your engine oil over time, inviting the formation of organic acids that can contribute to oil thickening and engine damage.

There’s no need to drive your modern car hard and ‘blow out’ the carbon, but going for a 20-minute drive every week, and getting the engine nice and hot, can contribute to a long and healthy engine life.

We at VIC Top Cash For Cars, Always Ready to Assist You. Anytime. Everywhere. Any Day.

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Narre Warren South VIC 3805

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6 Ways to Revive a Car That Has Been Parked Too Long