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Feb 6, 2021

6 min. read

What to do when you’re driving less

If you’re like most Canadians, your car is probably getting used a lot less these days. But that doesn’t mean you can put off maintenance. In fact, even though you’re not adding to daily wear and tear, letting your vehicle sit idle for too long can cause problems—anything from a dead battery to a seized parking brake.

Here’s some good advice to follow before your car sits for too much longer.

Buy a battery charger

Even when your car is turned off, some electronics, like the navigation system, will switch on intermittently. While the power draw is small, over time, it can kill your battery, says CAA’s Ryan Peterson. The auto expert recommends connecting your battery to an automatic trickle charger, also known as a battery tender, which will keep it at full strength.

Change your fluids

If your car is due for an oil, coolant or brake fluid change, don’t delay—have the work done as soon as possible. “You don’t want oil with any kinds of contaminants or acids sitting,” Peterson cautions. Acidic contaminants can build up in your car’s fluids. Left untreated, they can eat away at components like your engine and cooling system.

Treat the gas tank

If your vehicle is going to be idle for more than 30 days, fill it up. This helps prevent moisture build-up in the fuel tank. You can also add a fuel stabilizer to keep the fuel lines and engine from corroding. While you’re at it, check the tires: As temperatures fluctuate, tires can slowly lose pressure. Inflate to the recommended air pressure for your car.

Release 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, there’s a good chance it could seize, which can wear out brakes and damage calipers. You can leave the parking brake off as long as your car is on level ground.

Go for a spin

Drive your vehicle at least once every couple of weeks for 20 minutes at time. A short jaunt will get the fluids circulating, prevent flat spots from forming on tires, and remove rust spots on brake rotors—which can lead to brake pulsations, if not caught early. The fresh air will do your car good and the change of scenery will boost your own mental health!

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