9 essential tips to maintain a vehicle you don't drive often

April 10, 2020
Maintaining a vehicle that you drive frequently requires a lot of work! You have to check and change the oil, replace the tires, keep it clean - the list goes on. But do you still need to follow a maintenance schedule if you won't be driving it for a while? The answer is yes! Follow these 9 essential tips to maintain a vehicle you don't drive often and keep your car ready for the road!

A man maintaining a vehicle he doesn't drive often

1. Maintain your oil change schedule


When it comes to oil and other essential fluids, it's a good idea to follow the "which ever comes first" rule. That is to say, most oils recommend that you change it every 5k miles, or every 6 months, whichever comes first. Even if you don't drive your vehicle often, oil and the other compounds within can age and potentially degrade over time.

2. Drive your car every once in a while


Cars are designed to run regularly. When you run the engine, fluids are allowed to circulate and your oil is distributed to the parts that need lubrication. When you don't drive your vehicle for a while, fluids can pool and your engine may lose that essential lubrication. Your vehicle's alternator also needs a running engine in order to keep your battery charged. If your vehicle hasn't been started in a while, your battery will eventually die.

You can mitigate this by taking your vehicle for a short drive every few days, or once a week. You can also simply start your vehicle up and let it idle for a few minutes, but it is important to get your tires moving whenever possible to help them maintain flexibility.

3. Keep an eye on tire pressure


Tires can develop small leaks over time and slowly leak air, even if you're not driving regularly. If you're not driving often, they can also develop something called "tire rot" which causes the rubber to become brittle and hard. That's why it's important to check your tire pressure from time to time. If you're uncertain what pressure you need to maintain, consult your owner's manual. When you're ready to hit the road again, you won't have to worry about a flat!

4. Keep a full tank of gas


If possible, fill up your gas tank before you park your vehicle for an extended period of time. Without gasoline, it's possible for the inside of the fuel tank to start rusting, which can lead to serious problems down the road.

5. Cover your car or clean the exterior regularly


Leaves and sticks that eventually collect on your car can be harmful. When plant matter accumulates with moisture, the tannic acid contained within can gradually eat away at your paint and potentially degrade plastic and rubber seals.

If your car is going to be sitting idle for a while, make sure to clean it every once in a while to prevent that slow damage and deterioration. Alternatively, you can find a number of car covers that can keep plant matter off of your car and prevent the sun from damaging it as well. 

6. Clean the interior


We all do our best to keep the inside of our vehicles clean and free of food and wrappers. But it can be difficult to keep it spotless (especially with kids) and sometimes a stray french fry gets lost between the seats. While a few stray crumbs may not cause lingering odors, they can certainly attract pests if it's stationary for too long.

Before you lock your vehicle down for an extended period of time, give the inside a thorough inspection and vacuum all those nooks and crannies.

7. Perform regular checks for pests


Speaking of pests, a vehicle you don't drive for long periods of time can begin to look like a great new home for some rodents and insects. This is especially true if you live in more rural areas where rats and field mice roam.

Periodically check inside the trunk and cabin to make sure that it's free from any rodent or insect squatters who might squeeze their way in and make themselves at home. Look under the seats and look for torn paper or cushion stuffing as these are sure signs of an unwanted visitor.

Additionally, you may want to check under your hood. Insects, such as wasps, can find their way beneath it and start building a hive. When you fire your car up, you want to hear the engine hum, but you probably don't want to hear the buzzing of angry yellow jackets, too!

8. Disconnect the battery


If you're not planning on driving your vehicle for a long period of time, you might consider disconnecting the battery. This can help prevent corrosion from occurring on or near the terminals.

Be very careful if you decide to take this step. Make sure the engine is off and the keys are out of the ignition. Use safety gloves and goggles and always remove the negative terminal first, and then the positive. Remember, disconnecting the battery is only necessary if you don't plan on driving for extended periods of time, so if you don't have the tools to do this safely, it's best to skip this step.

9. Maintain your auto insurance policy


In Texas, you need to have at least a basic level of auto insurance coverage. However, having comprehensive coverage on your auto policy can help protect your vehicle from certain types of damage (like theft or fire) that can occur even if you don't plan on driving often.

By keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape and your auto insurance policy up-to-date, you can be confident your car is ready to hit the road the moment you are!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.