How often should you drive your car?
In this article, you’ll find it out as well as other questions like the negative consequences of driving too little.
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How Often Should You Drive Your Car?
You should drive your car at least once a week. This has never been an issue for most people but since the world pandemic started many people have been working from home or working in some other remote capacity. Due to this change people have gone multiple weeks or even months in between starting and driving their cars.
What Will Happen if You Don’t Drive Enough?
As a technician, I have noticed these cars coming into the bays of my shop showing issues that haven’t been typical historically.
The many issues that I have seen coming into the bays range from dead batteries to severely corroded brake rotors, normally prematurely.
Brake rotors are some of the issues that most people do not realize will become damaged while a vehicle sits if you do not drive your car for a long period of time. This is especially evident if the vehicle is stored outside.
Brake rotors are created out of steel, with the metal to pad contact the slows your vehicle it is impossible for engineers to create a coating that will prevent rust on these surfaces without harming the braking performance of your vehicle.
Because of this reason, as soon as your vehicle starts to sit rust may begin to set in. Rust will occur on these surfaces as soon as moisture is present, rainstorms or even high humidity levels can cause this. Once this moisture builds up on the surface of the brake rotor surface corrosion begins. Normally people would take their cars out for a drive to the store or to work and this corrosion would be worn off of the brake rotor surfaces.
If a vehicle sits for a period of time this corrosion can build up and actually start to penetrate into the metal causing irreversible damage to the rotor. If this happens you begin to notice a brake pulsation or pulsing of the brake rotor as the brakes are applied. The only way to correct this condition is by replacing the brake rotor or turning it on a specialized machine known as a brake lathe.
Another major concern that can take place is batteries failing early in their lifespan. Batteries are used on vehicles to provide the power required to start the vehicle. Once the vehicle is started the alternator takes over to provide electrical power for the vehicle as well as charge the battery.
Modern vehicles have multiple modules present, sometimes 30 or even more. All of these modules are “running” even when the vehicle is shut off. They are completing tests on automotive systems, maintaining contact with GPS satellites, or even updating themselves remotely.
All of these processes that are running in the background will start to drain the battery. The newer the vehicle or more options that are present on the vehicle will drain the battery even faster.
After a few days of sitting the vehicle, the battery will begin to get weak, if it is already a battery that is near the end of its lifespan it may fail at this point. If your vehicle sits for a long period of time the battery will fully drain. If a battery is allowed to stay in this discharged state “sulfation” will begin to occur.
This sulfation will begin to form crystals on the batteries, internal plates. If the sulfation gets bad enough the sulfation is not able to be removed from the plates and cause a reduction in the battery’s performance or even cause it not to hold a charge at all.
Also read: 15 Cars that NEVER Rust (100% Galvanised)
Do Older Cars Need to be Driven More Often?
New or older does not make a difference in how often you drive your vehicle. However, there are a few precautions that should be taken when storing an older car.
When an older car is stored, care needs to be taken with the carburetor. It is especially important to ensure that the carburetor is not leaking externally and the fuel is protected properly. If modern ethanol fuels are stored inside of a carburetor for a long period of time internal damage can occur to the inside of the components.
So always ensure that you use a fuel stabilizer when storing older vehicles with carburetors.
How to Store Your Car if You Don’t Drive a Lot?
If you don’t drive often, you should always tank up the full gas tank with the quality gas, install a battery tender to prevent the battery from dying, and make sure that your tires are infalted.
Taking care and following proper procedures is necessary if your vehicle is not driven often. First let’s take care of one of the most pressing issues, the fuel.
Modern fuels are given a 30-day shelf life. What that means is after 30 days fuel begins to break down and start to become stale. If the fuel degrades badly enough the vehicle cannot burn it as fuel.
Because of these reasons, it is important that you use a quality fuel additive. There are many products made by leading companies that work well, check out your local automotive supplier for their recommendations.
The next fuel-related item on the list is to ensure that the tank is full. If there is not much fuel in the tank there is a large change of moisture that will be created inside of the fuel tank. This happens when there is a large temperature difference between the outside air and the fuel inside. By ensuring that your fuel tank is as full as possible it eliminates as much of the possibility of this moisture build-up occurring.
We earlier discussed what can happen to the battery if your vehicle is not driven often. To prevent this, I would install a battery tender. A battery tender is a sophisticated device that charges your battery slowly when it starts to become discharged. It prevents that battery from discharging completing, therefore preventing the concern of sulfation.
You should ensure that your tires are inflated to the max pressure on the sidewall of the tire. The other item to watch is to ensure that your tires are protected from the effects of UV damage. If the vehicle is stored outside in the elements where the tires are exposed to sunlight care should be taken.
Tire bags should be installed over the tires to prevent UV degradation, if not the rubber will begin to dry out if exposed to the sunlight and the vehicle is not driven. These are not the tire bags that you would use to store your winter tires but specialized bags that can be installed with the wheels on the vehicle.
Another thing to add to the worry list is your engine. If your vehicle is not driven regularly, you should start the engine routinely and let it warm up to normal operating temperature. Very similar to the fuel tank an engine will also begin to create excessive amounts of moisture in the crankcase of the engine.
Normally this moisture is removed from the oil as the engine is running at operating temperatures during normal driving. However, if the vehicle sits for a long period of time this moisture can build up on the inside surfaces of the engine and accumulate in the oil.
The best case is it contaminates the oil and weakens its ability to properly protect our engine. Worst case, it attacks the surfaces of internal engine components and damages them beyond repair.
This is why it is important that you routinely start the engine and allow it to warm up or drive your vehicle on at least a weekly basis.
How to Drive Your Car if You Don’t Drive a Lot?
You should do three things if you don’t drive a lot: warm the vehicle up, drive slowly at first and ensure the brakes work before coming to a stop sign.
Warming a vehicle up before leaving after your vehicle has sat for a long time is very important. As your vehicle sits the various fluids that are in your vehicle will begin to settle to the bottom of their pans, sumps, etc. When this happens the upper portion of these components will lose the oil film that is protecting them.
When initially starting the vehicle, it is important to warm up the engine to ensure that the lubricant has coated all the components and traveled to all the important areas of the engine.
This is also important for all the other moving components. Driving the vehicle slowly at first is important. Think of your differential, for example, all the oil will have settled from your differential components. If you speed away right away the lubricant may not have coated the entire gear which could result in premature wear to the pinion gear.
Braking before the first stop sign is important as well. If you are not sure of the condition of the brakes before leaving, ensure that you come to a stop shortly after you begin moving. This will give you a chance to see if the brakes are working and are not seized. It will also give you an opportunity to see if the brakes are severely corroded and pulsating.
If you have any question about the brakes not functioning properly, you will need to remove the wheels and inspect. If any further doubt does not drive the vehicle and tow, it to a repair facility to ensure that the brakes are safe before traveling further.
Should You Drive More Often in the Winter?
Yes, you should drive your vehicle more often in the winter. Due to extreme temperature fluctuations in the winter, the effects that regarding moisture in the fuel tank will be more extreme. More moisture will build up in the fuel tank because of this.
The battery system of a vehicle can also become damaged if a battery is left to sit for a long time while discharged. As a battery becomes discharged the freezing point of the electrolyte inside of the battery rises. If the battery is exposed to extremely low temperatures the battery can freeze causing internal damage to the battery which will lead to replacement.
By ensuring that you drive more often in the winter it will mean that the battery is charged up properly.
As you can see not driving your vehicle can almost cause more damage to your vehicle than driving it. After all, we need to remember that an automobile is a highly engineered piece of machinery that is meant to do one thing. Drive us around as needed. However, if you follow the tips above you can ensure that your vehicle has the best defense against sitting idle for long periods of time.