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6 Vital Checks For Cars Left Sitting Too Long

As the summer season approaches, you might be eager to hop into your car and head to all of the places you wanted to visit over the past year. However, cars left sitting for too long raise a few concerns that can put your vehicle and your safety at risk. Before you hit the road, take a moment to consider these 6 vital checks.

Brake Checks for Dormant Cars

When sitting for extended periods, your brakes can begin to rust. This will prevent your calipers from sliding properly. All dormant vehicles are susceptible to brake rusting, especially in areas with high humidity and frequent rain. However, hybrid vehicles are especially vulnerable to this issue. 

Hybrids function using regenerative braking. They use the energy created from slowing and stopping to power your vehicle. In this case, your brakes are used less, get rustier, and stick more commonly. It is best to bring your vehicle in for a brake inspection to ensure that your brakes are functioning properly. 

Charging and Starting System Check

One of the most common issues with a car that has been left sitting is a dead battery. Your alternator recharges your battery as you drive. When left sitting without this ongoing charge, your battery can quickly become depleted. Before driving, you should consider having your charging and starting system checked—including your battery, alternator, starter, and more. 

Oil Checks for Cars Left Sitting

You might be thinking, “I don’t need an oil change, I haven’t put any miles on my car.” Contrary to popular belief, sitting for too long can be worse for your oil composition than driving. Oil rapidly loses its cooling and lubrication property when left dormant. As you might know, fresh oil is essential for protecting your engine. Before getting back on the road, you might want to have an expert check both your oil levels and oil quality. 

Fluid Level Check

Beyond just your oil, all of your vehicle’s fluids can become compromised when left sitting for too long. Your vehicle relies on coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and differential fluid, among others. Any issue with these fluids can present trouble for your vehicle. That being said, you should have all of your vehicle fluid levels checked before hitting the road. 

Engine and Cabin Air Filter Checks

Your vehicle is equipped with two separate air filters: your engine air filter and your cabin air filter (you can read about the difference here). They both work to filter contaminants like dirt and dust, which can be especially high in concentration within vehicles that have been left sitting for too long. 

  • Cabin air filters: Cabin air filters clean the air that is distributed through your vehicle’s air conditioning system. With pollen season rapidly approaching, your cabin air filter is especially important around this time of year. Clogged cabin air filters can also put stress on your vehicle’s HVAC system, creating costly issues. 
  • Engine Air Filters: Your engine’s air filter protects your engine from harmful dirt, dust, and debris. Dirty air filters can put stress on your vehicle and tank your fuel efficiency. You will need a clean air filter to pass both your annual safety inspection and emissions inspections. 

Tire Checks For Dormant Vehicles

Proper tires are essential for keeping you and your vehicle safe on the road. As we explored in a recent post about tire age, rubber can begin to dry rot over time, which leaves your vehicle susceptible to accidents. Leaving your car sitting can accelerate tire dry rotting. Dry rotting is not always visible, as can occur inside of the tire. You might consider having an expert check your tires for dry rot before extended driving. (Bonus tip: dry rotting can also occur on your windshield wipers, engine belts, and hoses. You might consider asking an expert to check these components when visiting for a tire inspection, service, or replacement.)

You should also pay close attention to your tire pressure. Low tire pressure worsens your vehicle handling and fuel efficiency. Your tires can naturally deflate when left sitting for too long. Here is our guide to checking your tire pressure

How Long Can You Leave Your Car Sitting?

So how long is it safe to leave your car sitting before it becomes “too long”? This will depend on a few different factors, including:

  • What kind of car you have
  • How old your car is
  • Where it is left sitting (garage or outdoors)
  • The climate in your area
  • Whether or not you prepared it for dormancy
  • How well you keep up with routine maintenance

Generally speaking, your car should be taken for a 20-minute drive at least once every two weeks. If you are out of town for an extended period of time, consider asking a friend or neighbor to take your car for a spin.

Chapel Hill Tire: Local Mechanic Service

When you are ready to get your car back on the road, Chapel Hill Tire is here for you! Our nine Triangle-area mechanic locations make it easy to get industry-leading car care in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, or Apex. View our promotions page for a deal on these services. You can make your appointment here online, or give us a call to get started today!

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