A vehicle left stagnant for a long while is like a patient waking up from a coma—you can’t expect it to just get up and running just like you left it inside your garage overnight.
Leaving your car idle for extended periods of time can lead to hiccups. Sometimes they’re minor problems such as damaged aesthetic bits, and in other cases they’re more serious mechanical issues. So whether your ride was left unattended because you went on a month-long vacation or were stuck in quarantine due to the pandemic, here are six issues you may want to watch out for before taking her out for a spin again.
1) Pest infestation
You know how some animals took to the streets because of the lack of cars and people during a pandemic? This is the same thing, except instead of curious livestock and country roads it’s cockroaches, rats, and other pests who have turned your vehicle into a bed and breakfast in your absence. Cars left parked outside near trees or beside gutters are more prone to this problem than others.
You may want to thoroughly examine your car for pests before you hit the road again, lest you feel something hairy crawling up your pant leg while driving. Ugh. Here’s a helpful article on things to keep in mind when dealing with pests inside your car.
2) Stale gasoline
Fuel additives will evaporate and ethanol will take on water over time, making gasoline-ethanol fuels unfit for use. Usually, this will take three to four months, but it may be faster in vehicles that do not regularly refuel—cars left idle by vacationers or those affected by quarantine measures to combat COVID-19.
This is something to take note of, especially in hot environments. How can you tell if your gasoline has gone stale? Well, in some cars it may not be too noticeable, but others may exhibit symptoms like difficulty starting and sluggish acceleration.
3) Flat-spotted tires
First time you’ve heard of the term? A flat-spotted tire is one that has retained its shape after being left parked for an extended period of time—basically, the part planted on the ground flattens. Sometimes this is temporary as a tire may return to its normal form after driving, other times it can be permanent. If you experience handling issues driving a car that hasn’t seen the road for a considerable while, this may be the culprit.
How to prevent it? Do not leave an overloaded car parked for an extended period, and ensure tires aren’t underinflated before you leave it.
4) Dead battery
No, not driving your car doesn't extend its battery's life. Your car’s alternator charges the battery while you’re driving, meaning it doesn’t get juice if it’s sitting idle inside your garage. A car battery will discharge by itself over time, and the process is hastened if your ride remains inactive for longe periods at a time.
To prevent this, be sure to start your car at least once a week and let it idle for 20 minutes. If you’re unable to do so, it may be a good idea to just disconnect your car’s battery completely. Alternatively, you can buy a battery charger to prolong the life of your car battery.
So quarantine is over, and you’re finally allowed to hop inside your ride and drive out. A couple of minutes into your drive, you begin sneezing and coughing. You look up at your headliner and, voila, there are dark spots littered above your noggin—mold.
Molds can grow inside your car over time, especially if you leave it in a dark, damp environment for a long period of time. It can get in the trunk, carpet, storage compartments…just about anywhere if we’re being honest. You can prevent molds by not leaving anything that may accelerate their growth inside your vehicle (leftovers, damp towels), airing out your cabin once in a while, and by leaving a moisture absorber or two inside.
6) Melted components
Don’t leave your car under the sun for an extended period of time, otherwise, you could return to melted vinyl or synthetics, and deformed plastic components. Also, be sure to take out any objects that may melt before leaving a car parked for a long while. This includes plastic water bottles and car perfumes.
This is another good reason to invest in a car cover.