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How to Take Care of a Car that is Rarely Driven

Car maintenance technician checking under hood image

If you have a second car you drive for fun, or one that is only used seasonally, the way you store and care for it while you are not driving it can have a big impact on the way it performs. Properly preparing your vehicle for long idle periods and making sure that you protect the exterior, battery, and engine will preserve your vehicle and ensure that it is ready to run when you need to use it.

Use the “Whichever Comes First” Rule for Maintenance

Perform regular maintenance based on timing, not on mileage, so check your owner’s manual to see what is recommended. A car that is not driven often will not accumulate the needed amount of mileage, but the oil and additives are still sitting and aging, even if the car is not on the road.

When in doubt, perform maintenance tasks based on the calendar, not on the mileage you’ve racked up.

Clean the Car

Store your car clean and empty of possessions. Not only will you be less likely to accidentally leave a needed item in the car, but leaving behind food remnants could tempt rodents and other intruders. Take any trash out of your car and add an air freshener or odor repelling product, so the air inside doesn’t smell stale and old when you operate the vehicle. Store the car with all windows up to reduce dust and contaminants and to keep insects out.

Turn the Car On Every Few Days

If possible, start the car up every few days, even if you don’t actually go anywhere. Doing so will keep fluids cycling through your engine and keep everything lubricated. It will also prevent liquids from pooling in certain areas and ensure that your battery stays fresh. This step is particularly beneficial for seniors who only leave home one or two times a week, as it will help the car reliably start every time it is needed.

Prevent Battery Corrosion

If you are storing a seasonal vehicle or know you won’t be using your car at all for a long period of time, disconnect the battery to prevent corrosion.

Protect the Exterior

Clean the exterior of the car and once it is dry, cover it to protect the paint and finish. Store your vehicle in a garage if possible and under a carport or away from the elements if a garage is not available.

Caring for your car the right way can ensure that it is ready to use when you need it and that it will run reliably for years to come, even if you only use it occasionally.