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What happens if you don't drive your car?

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Lots of us regularly drive our cars, whether it’s to drop the grandkids off at school, make a quick trip to the local supermarket or go to work. But what happens if you don’t, or very rarely, drive your car and can it have a negative impact on the vehicle and its engine? Could leaving it sitting on your drive be bad for it? Avoid a potential breakdown the next time you drive by finding the answers to these questions below. 

lots of cars parked on a street of houses in London

Should a car be driven every day? 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has advised that you can leave the house for necessities, such as food or medicine, to exercise, to meet up to six family or friends in a garden or public space, or to provide supplies for high-risk people. These restrictions mean that it may not be possible to drive your car two or three times a week. Therefore, instead of driving it regularly, you should aim to leave the engine running for at least 15 minutes once a week. This could prevent a flat battery and will ensure that petrol and oil is allowed to flow through the engine, stopping the injectors from potentially becoming blocked too. Always stay with your car while the engine is on to decrease the risk of theft occurring. 

You don’t have to drive your car every day. Under normal circumstances, driving a couple of times a week will be sufficient enough to prevent running into problems further down the line. But if you do leave your car parked for a long period of time, there are some things you should be aware of.

What happens to your car if it isn’t being driven for long periods of time? 

Most commonly, cars that aren’t driven very regularly will run out of battery. As you drive, your vehicle’s battery is able to recharge, which is often why a battery can run for years without depleting its energy. If a vehicle is parked for a long time, the battery isn’t able to recharge and will likely go flat. It’s hard to say how long the vehicle needs to be parked for this to happen, as each car is different, however, The AA states that it could be up to two weeks, or less if the battery is in poor condition or aged. 

It’s likely that the tyre pressure will decrease more quickly than if the car was being driven. Before you go out, you should make sure that the tyres are up to the right pressure (not under or over inflated). The longer the car is kept parked up without moving, the more likely the tyres are to develop flat spots. These occur when the weight of the car is pressing down on the same spot on each tyre day after day. After a time, the tyres may become flatter in this spot, causing a bit of a bumpy drive when you do come to use the car next. This won’t happen after a few days or weeks of non-use - rather it would take months. However, it’s still something to be mindful of. 

Brakes that aren’t being used often become rusty and corroded, particularly if you’ve been driving in wet conditions and then left the car parked for a couple of days. This isn’t anything to worry about, however it’s important that you use the brakes cautiously the next time you drive. You should ensure that the brake pedal doesn’t feel spongy and use the brakes frequently over the first few miles to get most of the corrosion off. 

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How can you prevent issues if your car isn’t being driven? 

If you know that your car isn’t going to be driven for some time, there may be some things that can be done to ensure that, the next time you use it, it’ll still be in excellent condition. 

Firstly, you should fill it up with fuel. Water is less likely to form in a petrol tank that’s full. Over time, too much water can cause further issues with the vehicle, including damaging the injectors and rusting the engine on the inside. A full tank also means that you’re ready for any journey without having to worry about a stop at the petrol station. 

Starting your car once a week and allowing the engine to run for 15 minutes could prevent the battery from losing charge. A quarter of an hour is the minimum recommended time, otherwise the battery may not charge enough. If you choose to do this, you should stay with the vehicle to avoid opportunist thieves from taking it. You should also avoid starting it in your garage, as the fumes from the exhaust can build up. Instead, pull the vehicle onto the drive and then let it run for 15 minutes.riving it will keep the tyres lubricated, which may prevent cracking, and keep the fuel flowing through the injectors. Where possible, try to take it on a fast road, such as dual-carriage or motorway as this will properly heat the engine up.

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