Most people drive their cars daily or weekly. However, there might come a time when you are forced to leave your vehicle in storage for a relatively long time. For instance, if you want to go on vacation or switched to working from home, you might not see the need to drive your car often. You must be worried about whether keeping your car unused for a long time can lead to mechanical issues and other problems. If you are in such a situation, you came to the right place.
So, how long can your car sit in storage without being driven? Generally, you shouldn’t leave your car sitting idle for more than two weeks. It is highly recommended that you drive it at least once every two weeks. However, if you are storing it because you will be away for a prolonged time, you should start getting worried if you will be away for more than six months. If your car remains in storage for more than six months, it may develop a wide range of mechanical problems that might cost you a lot of money down the road.
This guide discusses everything you need to know about storing your car for a prolonged time and some of the things you need to do to minimize damage. Read on to find out everything you need to know.
How Long Can a Car Sit in Storage Without Being Driven?
There are many factors you need to consider when it comes to answering this question. For instance, some vehicles could be left outside in a region that snows most of the year while others will be left under direct sunlight, neither of them which are ideal situations.
Generally, you shouldn’t allow your car to sit idle for more than two weeks. Things usually start deteriorating after two weeks of idling.
However, the good thing is that you can store your car for a prolonged time as long as you follow the storage recommendations that we shall highlight in this guide later.
As long as you follow the recommendations to the latter, you will be able to store your vehicle for several months or even years with minimal issues.
A popular myth seemingly passed on from generation to generation is that it is always a good idea to start a car parked and let the engine run for a few minutes to ensure the battery doesn’t go flat and keep the different engine parts moving.
While there is some element of truth here, especially with regards to keeping the critical components moving, idling a stored car isn’t an ideal practice. In fact, doing so can easily lead to condensation build-up within your engine, which will eventually cause long-term damage.
Ideally, you want to take the car out for a 20-minute drive every two weeks achieving speeds of at least 50mph. This will ensure that all the moving components and fluids reach optimal temperature and the battery is also charged.
What Happens If You Leave Your Car in Storage for Too Long?
Many things could go wrong if you leave your car in storage for a prolonged period, especially if you have not taken the right measures to ensure everything remains in good condition.
Here are some common issues that may arise when you leave your automobile idle for prolonged times.
1. Battery Losing Charge
Whenever you drive your car, the battery charges automatically hence preventing damage. But when you keep it idle for extended periods, it causes the battery to lose charge and leads to a more severe battery charge drain.
That is why the first thing that you will most likely notice when you leave your car idle for a prolonged time is difficulty starting. In most cases, you will be required to jump-start it to get it moving.
2. Motor Oil and Fluids Deteriorate
The primary purpose of motor oil is to keep your engine well lubricated since it reduces the friction between moving parts. When the engine oil remains unused for prolonged periods, it loses viscosity and can no longer serve as a lubricant.
Issues with power steering can come up due to lack of use too. Furthermore, when the car is left unused for a prolonged time, contaminants are bound to get into the fluids, causing further trouble.
3. Tires Lose Pressure
Your car tires are not designed to handle the car’s weight from one side. Typically, when you keep your vehicle idle, all of its weight will rest on only one side of the tire.
Therefore, the longer the car remains in storage, the more you will see flat spots on the tire at the side that is in contact with the ground.
The flat spots usually create some premature damage and might be unsafe to drive a car with certain spots.
You will also notice that it is relatively harder to handle the steering, and the car may vibrate continuously for no clear reason.
4. Fuel Quality Deteriorates
When you store your car, you will most probably have plenty of fuel in the fuel tank. Unfortunately, the longer the fuel sits still, the more it deteriorates and becomes useless. This is because the fuel in your car isn’t stored in an airtight chamber, and so it constantly reacts with oxygen, losing its efficiency.
On average, it usually takes 30 days before the fuel begins to deteriorate in quality and approximately six months for it to go bad completely.
5. Pests and Other Living Things Move-In
When you leave your car sitting idle for a prolonged time, it creates a perfect environment for a wide range of insects, pests, and other living things to convert it into their habitat.
While some of the creatures may not be harmful to your vehicle, others can damage some critical components.
For instance, if the car attracts rodents and other creatures with teeth, they can easily damage the electrical wiring, plastic, and other components that they can bite, including your car seats.
As a result, you will end up with relatively higher repair costs. Some of the repairs might involve purchasing new components and working with highly experienced car repair specialists to detect the damage.
What Can You Do to Prepare Your Car for Prolonged Storage?
One of the most important considerations you need to make is where you want to store your car. For instance, some countries have strict laws when it comes to storing a car in a public space.
If you leave the car parked on the street, you could wake up one day and find it gone, and you won’t ask anyone.
So, depending on where you live, it may be good to find a secured place for storing your car. If you want to store it in a public space, make sure you inform your neighbors and the relevant authorities.
Another thing you want to consider is the security of the storage area. Leaving your vehicle out in an open space will make it a potential target for thieves, and overexposure to direct sunlight can cause severe paintwork issues.
If you are storing your car for more than one month, make sure you disconnect the battery from the car so that it is not drained. Keep in mind that the alternator maintains the battery charge only when the car is driven frequently.
Once your car is in storage, the battery you have trusted for many years could drain in weeks or even days, depending on the climatic conditions of the place where you stay.
If you want to maintain the alarm function, consider using a battery trickle charger/maintainer instead of leaving the battery connected.
To save your paintwork, consider spray waxing the body of your car, especially if the storage area is humid. You should also wrap it up with a well-fitting car cover. Keep the windows slightly open while covering the car to counter bad smell and mildew collection.
You can also prevent rusting in your fuel tank by combining a fuel system stabilizer with freshly-filled high-quality fuel.
Before storage, run the car for at least 20 miles to ensure the fuel is mixed well and spread throughout the fuel tank.
Seal the fuel tank appropriately and be sure to use up the fuel quickly after returning. Consume all the fuel you had left in the car before filling up the tank with fresh fuel.
We hope we have covered the essential information you need to know about storing your car for a short or prolonged time. It is always good to know that your car is safe and you can use it whenever you need it.
While storing a car for prolonged periods comes with a wide range of challenges, it is still possible to do it safely and get your car back on the road as soon as you return.
Just make sure you follow all the recommendations mentioned above, and you won’t incur any expensive repair costs in the long run.