Your car was meant to be driven. When driven, the moving parts move, and the fluids lubricate and cool like they’re supposed to. When you let your car sit for long periods of time (as in weeks, or worse, months), your car is vulnerable to a number of maintenance issues that affect drivability, resale value and your budget.
A battery left connected to an undriven car still uses power. And if your car stays off, the alternator cannot work to restore the charge. So, your battery just gets drained. In as little as one week, you may have a battery that is too weak to start your car. Left longer, your battery may be nothing more than a paperweight because even a jump can’t bring it back to life.
Flat, Warped or Rotted Tires
Tires are always exposed to climactic elements, but usually no one surface bears all the heat, UV exposure or moisture for too long because the tires are moving. When left sitting, one area of your tires is bearing the force of your vehicle’s weight at the same time the rubber is baking in the sun and sitting in moisture. These conditions quickly deteriorate the integrity of the tires, resulting in leaks, bulges and/or rot. All of which may not be visible but are nonetheless extremely dangerous on the road because they diminish grip and control.
When lubricating fluids are not pumping through your car, all kinds of surfaces are left exposed to air, moisture and heat/cold, “priming” them for oxidation—i.e., rust and corrosion. While nearly every part of your car is vulnerable, some of the biggest maintenance and safety issues occur when rust affects:
Gas tank. Gas tanks are not exactly repairable. If there’s rust, it needs to be replaced, and, wow! that’s an involved task—getting the old tank out and putting a new one in. And “involved” translates to “expensive.” Your gas tank may be less susceptible to rust when full, but gasoline does not age well. The gas and liquid components separate, leading to problems starting.
Brakes. Brake fluid and friction created by the braking action keep rust from forming on the rotors and other metal components of the braking system. When left sitting, everything is susceptible to rust, and heavy rust buildup can severely impair braking performance…and that’s just not safe.
Frame. Every metal component in your vehicle can rust, and that includes the parts that are covered by panels and paint. Rust is brittle, so if the frame has started to rust, the integrity of the entire vehicle is compromised because the metal can no longer, expand, contract or transfer energy the way it was designed, and that can result in serious injuries in the event on an accident.
Fluid Deterioration. Fluids are meant to be changed because they will deteriorate because of temperature changes and the accumulation of contaminants. This deterioration is likely to happen faster when a car is not driven regularly because the fluids are not being pumped through any filter. And, some volatile fluids may separate, compromising performance once the car is started up again.
Pest Infestation. One of the most overlooked maintenance issues with an undriven vehicle is the likelihood that some other critter (or family or colony of critters) will call it home. But that’s a big problem. Some rodents bring in nesting materials that can insulate heat-generating components and/or chew through lines and hoses, causing leaks. Some creatures are just undesirable yet hard to get rid of, like spiders nested in the dash or roaches.
Because most people need their vehicles on a daily basis, these issues are just not issues. However, these are common with some used cars (especially those for sale by owner) that may have sat unused while on the market. We’re not saying you should not consider a used car from a private party. Just make sure to have a pre-buy inspection done by an ASE-certified technician at Quanz Auto Body to make sure everything’s in working order.