6 Things That Can Go Wrong If Your Car Sits Unused (2023)

Automotive>Maintenance & Repair

November 01, 2020

Life happens, and sometimes circumstances lead to us using our vehicle less. Long vacations, new cars, old cars, starting a new work-from-home job, biking to work, going to college, and plenty of other life events could all potentially lead to you not needing to drive your car very often. But a lot can happen to a vehicle when it isn’t driven for an extended period of time. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent any serious damage to your trusty automobile.

What could happen to your car if you leave it undriven for too long?

Issues can stem from not driving your car for a long period of time. Here are some of the issues that could happen if you find your car sitting in the driveway for too long.


Your car battery could die.

Did you know that when you drive your car you are charging the battery through the alternator? Unfortunately, when your car sits idle for weeks or months, the battery has nothing to charge it and it could eventually die as a result.1

Need help jumpstarting your dead car battery? We’ve got you covered.

(Video) How Long Can a Car Sit Without Being Driven?

The tires can go flat.

Tires usually keep their shape through steady use even though they hold the entire weight of a car. But when a car is left to sit, they can become warped, flat and deflated. Definitely check your tires’ air pressure before you resume driving. Bubbles may even appear in the tire and could cause a blowout while driving at high speeds. 2

Need new tires? This article can help prepare you before you buy.


The brakes could rust.

The brakes can rust if left unused for an extended length of time, which could prove to be very problematic and potentially unsafe when you start driving your vehicle again. An easy way to check to see if your brakes have deteriorated is to apply them and listen for any squeaking or grinding noises.2

Squealing breaks? We can help.


The fuel pump might break down.

Modern, unleaded fuel starts to go bad in 3-6 months, and diesel in 6-12. The fuel can become viscous, which is a big problem for a car’s fuel pump 3. If you haven’t driven your car at all for several months, your best bet is to hire a mechanic to remove the old gasoline for you.


Your vehicle’s exterior could be damaged. .

If you are unable to store your car in a garage or under some sort of cover, the sun and the elements can start to wear down the paint on the car. Tree sap, bird droppings, and more can stain or wear down the clear coat that protects the paint. This can lead to exposed paint leading to a lighter hue, or it can seem dulled and less vibrant than when you first purchased it. Worse yet, cracks could start to appear on the bodywork, lowering the value of the car.2

Interested in learning more about auto body paint?

(Video) Here’s Why Being Quarantined Will Destroy Your Car (Don’t Let It Sit Too Long)

Your car can become infested.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about the car enthusiast who left their prized car in storage one winter only to find it destroyed by rats, mice, or insects come spring. Depending on where you store your car, there’s always a chance a pest infestation could happen. It’s always a good idea to keep your vehicle covered and to check it once or twice a week and drive it every month or so to keep pests from making your vehicle their new home. If you cannot drive it frequently, cover up any easy access points into the car like the exhaust pipe and air intake to keep critters from crawling in. 4

So how long can you go without driving your car?

If you have not prepped your vehicle for a long time of not driving it you should not let it sit for more than one month, and even then, you should try to start it up and drive it for 15-30 minutes a few times within the month. 5 If you’ve prepped your vehicle for storage and follow the tips covered below, you can avoid several unfortunate car problems.

Tips to follow if you know you won’t be driving your car for an extended period of time

If you can plan ahead and know that you’re not going to be driving your vehicle very often it’s important to be prepared.

  • The first thing to do is decide where to store it. In a garage or under the cover of an overhang are your best options but covered with a vehicle wrap works well, too 6. Car covers are a great way to keep the sun, rain, hail, bird droppings, and anything else that comes from the sky from damaging your vehicle.

  • The next thing to do is fill up the gas tank and get an oil change, especially if you plan on storing the car for over a month.

  • Getting a car wash before storing it may seem counterintuitive, but getting rid of any preexisting mud, dirt, etc. before storing it is important.

    (Video) How to Start a Car That's Been Sitting for Years

  • The best way to keep your car from any lasting damage is to drive it at least 10 miles every two weeks while hitting higher speeds of 50 mph or more a few times during the drive. Contrary to popular belief, little good comes from starting your vehicle and having it sit idle for a few minutes. For it to be effective, your car needs to be driven in order to get the internal parts moving 7.

  • If you are able to store your car in a garage you could potentially have some pests trying to make your car their new home. Closing up easy access points like the exhaust pipe and air intake with some steel wool is effective, as well as spreading mothballs or cotton swabs covered in peppermint oil around the vehicle, as rodents and other pests are deterred by the smell4.

Once your schedule allows for more drive time, make sure to check your tires and fill them with air, refill or replace the gas in your tank, and give it a good 15-30-minute drive before hitting high speeds.

Things happen. You bought a shiny new car so your old one sits in the garage now, undriven. Maybe you bought a car for your kid and they don’t drive it anymore because they went off to school. Whatever the reason, watch out for the signs that your car is needing some attention and follow the steps to storing your vehicle and you should still be able to hit the road! If you find your car does need attention after a long time spent undriven, learn more about the Synchrony Car CareTM credit card. With acceptance nationwide and promotional financing available on purchases of $199 or more, Synchrony Car Care can help with all your car care needs.

*Subject to credit approval. Minimum monthly payments required. Click here or see merchant for promotional financing details . Valid everywhere Synchrony Car CareTM is accepted in the U.S., including Puerto Rico.

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What problems can happen if your car sits too long? ›

Your car battery could die.

A battery left connected to an undriven car still uses power, and will slowly begin to drain. In as little as one week, you may have a battery that is too weak to start your car. No driving in just two or three months means a totally dead battery.

What happens when a car isn't driven enough? ›

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.

How long can a car sit without being driven? ›

If you're not looking to store your vehicle indefinitely, which involves different procedures and prep work, experts recommend vehicles be driven every two to three weeks.

What happens if a car is not driven for 6 months? ›

Cars are designed to be driven, not to sit idle for months. When left unused, engine fluids start to break down, parts that aren't getting lubricated begin to corrode, and even worse, animals may move in, chewing on anything they can reach.

How long can gas sit in a car without going bad? ›

Regular gasoline has a shelf life of three to six months, while diesel can last up to a year before it begins to degrade. On the other hand, organic-based Ethanol can lose its combustibility in just one to three months due to oxidation and evaporation.

How often does a car need to be driven? ›

Driving Regularly Will Keep Your Vehicle In Good Shape

You'll want to drive your vehicle a couple of times each month and for at least 10 miles, with some speeds over 50 mph if possible. It's always smart to let your engine idle for at least ten minutes, allowing it to warm up before you fully get on the road.

How do I leave my car for 6 months? ›

If you're storing a vehicle for six months, fuel stabilizer should help prevent corrosion in the fuel lines and engine. Add fuel stabilizer to a nearly full gas tank. It's also a good idea to change your car's oil and oil filter as well as check and top up all other fluid levels before storing your car.

Can a car be driven too little? ›

There is no hard-and-fast rule for how many miles is too little. In general, a used car with low mileage is usually a good decision, even when mileage seems unusually low. There are some signs that could indicate the car hasn't been driven enough.

What happens to a car when it sits for 2 years? ›

When sitting for extended periods, your brakes can begin to rust. This will prevent your calipers from sliding properly. All dormant vehicles are susceptible to brake rusting, especially in areas with high humidity and frequent rain. However, hybrid vehicles are especially vulnerable to this issue.

How do you maintain a car that is not driven? ›

But if you still need to keep your car despite not driving it much, here's what Ibbotson recommends:
  1. Drive the car once a week. ...
  2. Check the tire pressure. ...
  3. Check the fluids regularly. ...
  4. Check underhood belts and hoses. ...
  5. Use a battery tender. ...
  6. Guard against insects and rodents.
May 19, 2022

Can a car sit for 6 months and still run? ›

Unfortunately, when your car sits idle for weeks or months, the battery has nothing to charge it and it could eventually die as a result. Need help jumpstarting your dead car battery?

How often should you start a car that is not being driven? ›

Start your car at least once a week and allow the engine to run for 15-30 minutes. This can help prevent the battery from losing its charge. We also suggest to put your battery on a battery tender or disconnect your battery. This will stop the car from drawing power from the battery.

Can you mix old gas with new gas? ›

Old and new gas should not be mixed for a variety of reasons, the major ones are; The old gas degrades over time it should not be added because it has already lost it's combustibility. It can cause sputtering. It might fail to fire it up.

Can I use gas that has been sitting for a year? ›

The good news is that gas may already be a few days or a few weeks old, thanks to transportation time between six months and a year old won't harm your car's engine.

Does gas go bad sitting in tank? ›

Gas can start to go bad in as little as just three months because the lighter, more volatile components of gasoline evaporate over time,” says John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports' chief automotive services manager at the Auto Test Center. Using old fuel in your car can sap engine power, causing hesitation and stalling.

What happens to a car that sits for a year? ›

Sitting cars can suffer from a variety of maladies, including stale gas, bad starter motors, seized engines, dead batteries, and corroded hoses, among a plethora of other things that can be affected by time and the environment.

How long does the average person keep a car? ›

With the average length of car ownership at about 8 years, car owners should be mindful of ways to improve their car's longevity. Using the above tips, you can extend your car's lifespan and enjoy it for more miles on the road.

Is it OK to only drive a car once a week? ›

Not necessarily: We recommend driving every two to three weeks to make it less likely that you wind up with a dead battery or other issues that can be caused by letting a car sit parked for weeks. Related: Which Used Cars Still Have Free Maintenance?

How much gas should I leave in my car for storage? ›

Ideally, store your car in a climate-controlled facility. Fill the gas tank completely full. An empty or low gas tank will lead to internal rust as condensation and moisture builds within the tank.

How much gas should be in car for winter storage? ›

Leave about a quarter to a half tank of gas to prevent air and excess moisture from entering the gas tank. You may also want to add fuel stabilizer.

Should you disconnect car battery if not in use? ›

If a vehicle and its battery are left unattended for a long period, probably a month, then it might result in the damage of the battery and could even introduce the need for a replacement. Therefore, it is recommended to disconnect the battery if in case you intend to go on a vacation or such.

Do cars go bad if you don't drive them? ›

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.

What happens if you don't drive your car for 3 months? ›

But when your vehicle is sitting, your car's battery will likely go dead in just two or three months. Why? Because when you drive your car, the vehicle's alternator continually recharges the battery to replenish the power you're using. No driving means no charging — and a dead battery.

What is the average mileage for a 10-year-old car? ›

The average mileage a car accrues per year is 12,000 miles. Given that number, the average 10-year-old car should have roughly 120,000 miles on the odometer. You can use these numbers to determine if the car you're looking to buy is considered to have high mileage or low mileage for the age of the vehicle.

How do you prepare a car that has been sitting? ›

Properly starting a car after it's been sitting for years or decades requires:
  1. Making sure that the engine is free to rotate.
  2. Clean oil.
  3. Lubricating the cylinder walls.
  4. Clean air.
  5. Clean fuel.
  6. Clean coolant.
  7. Intact fan belt.
Apr 8, 2019

How do I prepare my car for a long drive? ›

How to get your car ready for a road trip
  1. quality auto coverage starts here. When you drive with quality coverage, you drive with peace of mind. ...
  2. Check your car's battery. ...
  3. Inspect belts and hoses. ...
  4. Top off fluids and replace filters. ...
  5. Verify lights and electrical equipment are working. ...
  6. Check the brakes. ...
  7. Inspect tires.

How do I condition my car for a long drive? ›

  7. WASH YOUR CAR. ...

Why does my car struggle to start after sitting? ›

A difficult start could be due to a number of things, from a dying battery to a faulty starter. But if your vehicle has a hard time starting after sitting for just a few hours, it can cause an extra layer of confusion. When this happens, one of the most common causes is low fuel pressure.

How long can a car sit and idle? ›

How Long Can You Let Your Car Idle? Idling your car for 30 seconds to a minute is acceptable, and it will not cause any harm to your vehicle. With advanced technology, even if you let your car idle for a slight longer duration, it will not damage it.

How long can an engine sit without oil? ›

The presence of oil and its distribution is absolutely crucial to an engines continued operation. Engines can work without oil, but the effect is so damaging they are only capable of running for less than 30 minutes until failing - and in most cases, it's a lot quicker than that.

What happens when a car sits for 1 year? ›

Sitting cars can suffer from a variety of maladies, including stale gas, bad starter motors, seized engines, dead batteries, and corroded hoses, among a plethora of other things that can be affected by time and the environment.

What happens when a car sits for 5 years? ›

I will say that sometimes, 5-6 years of sitting (especially in a covered garage) is not that bad. Rust will form on any car that sits long enough, but sometimes you get lucky and it's just surface rust or exterior rust that doesn't affect safety.

What to do before starting a car that has been sitting for years? ›

Properly starting a car after it's been sitting for years or decades requires:
  1. Making sure that the engine is free to rotate.
  2. Clean oil.
  3. Lubricating the cylinder walls.
  4. Clean air.
  5. Clean fuel.
  6. Clean coolant.
  7. Intact fan belt.
Apr 8, 2019

How often should you start a car that's been sitting? ›

A car sitting idle starts to have issues after a few weeks if it remains untouched, with a few contributing factors considered. Ideally, you want to start up your car at least once a week and drive it around for a good 20 minutes to help recharge the battery and get the fluids running.

How do you store a car for 5 years? ›

How to Store a Car Long Term
  1. Fill Up the Tank. When a gas tank is left empty, it can rust due to moisture. ...
  2. Change the Oil. ...
  3. Protect the Engine Cylinders. ...
  4. Maintain the Battery. ...
  5. Wrap the Wiper Blades. ...
  6. Plug the Exhaust Outlet. ...
  7. Elevate the Vehicle. ...
  8. Clean the Interior.
Dec 2, 2020

Do car batteries go bad if not used? ›

The battery in your car can die within as little as two weeks when unused.

Does engine oil go bad from sitting? ›

Motor oil can only last for a certain period of time. That's why it comes with an expiry date. For this reason, oil goes bad with time just by sitting in the engine. Over time, it becomes less viscous thus less efficient in maintaining proper lubrication between moving components.

How do I bring my car back to life? ›

Steps To Bring An Old Car Back To Life
  1. PURGE. If it has been awhile since you saw your floor or even your back seats, it's time to liberate yourself – and your car – from all the excess stuff you have been carrying around. ...
Jun 19, 2018


1. So your car been parked for over 6 months and now it will not start. YOU MAY HAVE TO DO THIS.
(Online Mechanic Tips)
2. Do this before starting your car after it sat for a while
3. Vehicle battery keeps going dead after sitting a day? Here's Why!
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5. Car Battery Drains Overnight Or After Days Of No Use! PARASITIC DRAIN
6. How to start a car that's been sitting for years - 5 must do steps
(Katie's Garage)
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