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The Best Way to Maintain Your Car While it's Parked for Long Periods

Even if you’re not driving much these days, your car still needs a little TLC

A man checks inside the engine of a car

If you’re like most Canadians, your car is probably gathering dust in the driveway as you stay home as much as possible. But auto experts say you shouldn’t just park your car and forget about it. Vehicles that sit too long can experience a laundry list of problems, from dead batteries to seized parking brakes. So, before you put your car sits for too much longer, do these five things.

Buy a battery charger

Even though your car is turned off, some electronics, like your satellite navigation system, will switch on intermittently. While the power draw is small, over time, it can kill a battery, says Ryan Peterson, the manager of automotive services with CAA South Central Ontario. He recommends hooking your battery up to a quality automatic trickle charger, also known as a battery tender, which will keep it in tip-top shape.

Release your parking brake

When a car sits for a long time, rust can build up on the metal cable that connects your parking brake lever with the rear wheels. If that happens when the parking brake is engaged, it can seize, says Rick Ripley, the owner of Ripley’s Auto Service, one of CAA’s Approved Auto Repair Services, in Alliston, Ontario. “All of sudden you’re driving with the brakes partially on and you’re going to wear out the brakes and damage the calipers,” he says. He recommends leaving the parking brake off as long as your car is on level ground.

Change your fluids

If your car is due for an oil, coolant or brake fluid change, Peterson says to do the work as soon as possible. Acidic contaminants have a nasty habit of building up in your car’s fluids. Left untreated, they can eat away at vital components, like your engine and cooling system. “You don't want oil with any kinds of contaminants or acids sitting,” Peterson says.

Treat your gas

After about 30 days, gasoline begins to break down, gumming up the inside of your gas tank and fuel injection system, Peterson says. That can lead to a host of problems, from stalling to wonky fuel gauge readings. To prevent that, Peterson recommends adding fuel stabilizer to your tank. Ideally, add the stabilizer just before you fill up from empty then drive around for about 10 kilometres. That will help ensure the stabilizer is mixed properly with your fuel and will burn off any untreated gas that was already in your fuel line.

Inflate your tires

If an under-inflated tire sits for too long, it can develop a permanent flat spot, causing it to vibrate when you drive, Ripley says. You can head off that problem by fully inflating your tires, he says. Just check your owner’s manual for your car’s recommended tire pressure.

Get more with CAA

Need a new battery? CAA Members save $25 on the purchase of a new CAA Premium Battery.

If your car needs a little work, you can get Member-exclusive savings with Krown and NAPA Auto Parts Canada. Plus, find out about special benefits you get when you bring your vehicle to one of CAA’s Approved Auto Repair Services.

And, if you’ve got a car question, get in touch with CAA’s Auto Advice team. A free service for CAA Members, you can get realiable advice on a wide range of automotive topics.

Image Credit: iStock.com/rclassenlayouts