While the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, many of us have traded the commute to an office to work-from-home, leaving our vehicles sitting without use for far longer than prior to the 202 stay-at-home orders. Depending on how long your vehicle has been sitting unused, it may not be as simple as turning the key to get it started again. Even leaving your car unused for only two weeks can cause battery issues.

What happens when a car sits for too long?

Your car may not start.

Your car sucks up power from the battery even when it’s turned off and parked, while driving it helps recharge the battery. That’s why most experts suggest driving your car for at least 15 minutes every two weeks to keep the battery charge healthy. But if your car doesn’t start on your first time back behind the wheel, you may need to give it a jump-start.

The tires may be flat.

Your tires are always slowly losing pressure, but this occurs faster when the vehicle isn’t driven. Your tires may even deform and develop a “flat spot” from the weight of the car pressing down on them when your car sits in place for too long.

Flat spots can usually be “driven off.” As you drive, your tires heat up and the rubber becomes more flexible, essentially molding them back into the proper shape. But depending on how long your car has been sitting, the flat spots may be permanent, and the tires may need to be replaced.

Animals may damage your vehicle.

Rodents like mice and chipmunks may crawl up in the engine compartment or the exhaust outlet to nest. While they’re in there, they tend to chew up wires. Check for visual signs of rodents, strange sounds, or bad smells before getting into the car again for the first time after quarantine.

If you see evidence of rodents in your engine compartment, disconnect your battery to avoid shocking yourself, put on gloves to protect yourself from rodent-carried diseases, and thoroughly clean the engine bay using a diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Make sure to really drench it! Wait to reconnect the battery until the engine bay is dry.

You should also get your vehicle inspected for any other damage these tiny invaders may have caused.

Your gasoline could have gone bad.

Believe it or not, gasoline does go bad. Usually it’s not a problem, since it’s used up before this ever has a chance to happen. But if your vehicle has been sitting for a long time, a number of problems can occur.

For starters, as the fuel degrades, it becomes less effective, reducing engine performance and potentially even causing engine knocking (damage to the piston and cylinder wall of the engine). You’ll lose fuel economy and might experience stalling as well.

More dangerously, as the fuel evaporates, it can also leave behind deposits that clog up gas lines and filters (a process called “oxidation”).

Worse, if your gasoline has a high concentration of ethanol, it will attract condensation (especially if the tank wasn’t full when you parked it) and potentially even corrode your gas tank. 

A smell test will probably be able to give you an idea if your gas has gone “off.” It will smell sour and will also be a darker color. If your gas has gone bad, you may want to drain the tank and refill it with fresh gas.

Your brakes may stick.

Rust develops on brake rotors very quickly when they aren’t in use, especially if they were damp (such as after rain) when the car was parked.

The act of braking will help rub the rust off once you start driving again. Try depressing the brakes a few times before shifting out of park, then lower your window and brake a few times more times while the car is in motion. If you hear scraping, brake only gently for the first few trips, avoiding hard braking until you can no longer hear a scraping noise (indicating the rust has been worn off).

Proper Maintenance Prevents Accidents

Vehicle accidents aren’t always the fault of inattention or reckless driving. They can also happen when a vehicle isn’t maintained properly. This increases the likelihood the driver will lose control of the vehicle or be unable to avoid a collision.

All of us have to do our part to prevent accidents when possible, so before leaving quarantine, it’s important to also make sure your vehicle is working correctly and safely.

But when you’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, we want to help. Call the car accident attorneys at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation when you’ve been injured.

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