Problems With Cars That Sit Too Long (10 Known Issues)

You might feel like it’s a good idea to retire your vehicle for a little while. Maybe you’re rebelling against rising gas prices or attempting to preserve your car’s life.

While those are understandable reasons to leave your car sitting, you should be aware of the problems with cars that sit too long.

Are there problems with cars that sit too long?

Cars that sit too long can fall upon premature component failure. What happens is the opposite of “wear and tear” and seems more like “use it or lose it.” Long-sitting vehicles can develop issues with the wheels, lubricating system, cooling system, suspension, and much more.

While these are the most common for cars that haven’t been used in a while, you should also educate yourself on the 30 most common car problems.

These are 10 common issues

Let’s take the common problems from the top:

1. The tires go flat.

Nothing is more heartbreaking than going outside to find that your tires are flat.

Flat tires are one of the most frequently occurring issues of vehicles that sit in the same spot for too long.

What happens is that these tires sit flat on the same spot and develop hard spots when it’s cold. This problem is more likely to develop in colder areas and with cheaper tires, but it’s still something to consider.

Fortunately, you can fix the issue if you drive the car for a few miles.

2. The gas gets sour.

Unfortunately, gas doesn’t stay fresh forever.

Thus, many drivers who leave their cars parked are surprised when they experience fuel system issues after leaving them sitting for extended periods.

Gasoline has a healthy life span of about three to six months and should not be left in a tank for any longer than that. 

The result can be a clogged fuel filter or a destroyed fuel pump, neither of which is a cheap problem to fix.

It’s crucial to drive your sitting vehicle a little bit to burn out the existing gas.

Perhaps you can take it for a few trips around the neighborhood each week just to get its juices flowing.

3. The battery dies.


Car battery death is another problem that occurs when vehicle owners leave their cars parked for extended periods.

It happens because batteries still drain in small amounts when they are powered off, and unfortunately, they can only recharge once the car turns on and the alternator can run.

Typically, you can leave your car parked for a few weeks to a month unless you have an expensive energy-consuming vehicle or parasitic drain because of another issue.

Your battery itself can also be bad and unable to hold its charge at the same capacity.

You should also check our list of specific problems with older cars.

4. Fluids start to leak.

Oftentimes, drivers leave their cars sitting and then get taken by surprise when fluids such as oil start to leak.

This problem occurs because of the extended period during which the seals did not receive the appropriate lubrication or the time to “exercise.”

Rubber begins to deteriorate and lose its effectiveness when sitting in a car for a long time.

The result is several new oil leaks once the car goes back on the road.

Scheduling time to run the car when it’s not in use is a great way to combat this issue.

You can also consider putting high-mileage oil in your car before you run it. Some high mileage oil brands come with chemicals that swell the seals and strengthen them to prevent wear and tear.

This type of oil is only recommended if you have more than 75,000 miles on your car or notice small oil leaks.

5. Pests create nests.

Pests always look for new places to set up their forever homes, and sitting cars are vulnerable to their home-making efforts.

Don’t be surprised if you find stray cats, mice, wasps, and other lovelies in your engine bay, taking up residence as if they own the place.

This problem is not adorable or cute because these pests can chew and scratch hoses, brush up against components and contaminate the engine by relieving themselves in the bay.

This takeover is less likely to occur if you drive your car regularly.

Your visitors will then know that it’s not okay for them to stay there because your engine will turn unexpectedly.

6. The brakes get rusty.

Your brakes and rotors are most likely made of steel and don’t have many anti-corrosion capabilities.

When you stop using them, you give them the opportunity to develop rust. You can usually rid the car of superficial rust by driving it around for a little while.

Take it for a spin for about 10 miles or so and then brake hard a few times. You should be able to remove rust that isn’t deep in the surface.

This can also cause the car to feel like the handbrake is on.

However, the longer you leave your car sitting, the worse a problem you could develop.

Please avoid spraying lubricants on your rotors, as it can affect your ability to stop the car.

Some situations require a small amount of brake lubricant, but it’s best to leave them to professionals.

7. The fuel pump deteriorates.

This problem is mostly found in petrol cars while you can also experience this issue in Diesel cars.

Fuel filters and pumps tend to deteriorate in long-sitting cars because of the bad gas in the tank.

As the gas deteriorates in the tank, the fuel pump loses effectiveness and can have low pressure.

Signs of a faulty fuel pump include starts, no starts, and hesitation when pressing the accelerator pedal.

You may also see that your “Check Engine” light illuminates, indicating a problem with the fuel delivery system.

You may want to try a fuel injector and system cleaner with brand-new gas and some healthy driving miles.

8. Engine components get dry.

One good thing that happens when you operate your vehicle is that all of its components receive the appropriate amount of lubrication. This does not occur when you leave the car sitting for long periods.

Instead, the oil sits in one spot, and your engine components get dry and get brittle.

Granted, this type of problem usually happens to older cars that sit for years, but you should still do all you can to prevent it.

You can do some amazing things for your car just by giving it a little bit of attention.

9. Other rusting problems occur.

Rust can develop in other parts of the vehicle, such as the gas tank, suspension, and other areas.

Some common areas where rust can develop include brake lines, exhaust systems, shock towers, etc.

You can significantly downsize the amount of rust that develops by keeping your car moving and doing care tactics when it isn’t.

Some of those areas may need to have special lubricants put on them to maintain their functionality and continue to work as they should.

10. Filters get dusty.

A sitting vehicle is also a breeding place for dust mites.

Thus, you might experience difficulty starting your car or a loss of power due to dirty and clogged air filters. You’ll be able to see how affected your air filter is by removing it from its casing.

Typically, bad air filters have obvious dirt coatings on the surface.

The spectacular news is that you can replace an air filter for less than $20, and your car should function normally if no other problems exist.

Your entire engine bay will likely get dusty as well.

Therefore, you may want to take a little time to clean it out with a dry rag at some point.

How long is too long to keep your car sitting?

No two cars were created equally. So a sitting period that’s okay for one car may be unacceptable for another. 

The rule-of-thumb practice is to avoid leaving your car sitting for more than two weeks. 

However, you can protect it a little more effectively by taking it out once every week or even every couple of days.

Use your most advantageous judgment and try to avoid letting the sitting period extend past a few hours.

The more you let your car do some work, the less likely you’ll experience the issues mentioned earlier.

Tips for avoiding problems when your car sits

The most protective thing you can do if you’re going to allow your car to sit is to park it in a garage.

That will keep it from overly cold or hot temperatures while also protecting it from elements such as rain, snow, and sleet.

If no garage is available, you’ll need to give your car a little more TLC than usual.

Consider starting it up at the very least and letting the alternator charge the battery and the oil and coolant run through the engine’s systems for 20 minutes.

Driving the car down the road will be more helpful because you’ll clean your brakes and solve the flat tire spots at the same time.

These issues are the most common, but you can also face other problems if you keep your vehicle sitting for too long.

To prevent having problems when you get ready to drive your car, you should start it and allow it to operate at normal temperature for at least 10 minutes once every two weeks.

For the best results, drive the vehicle around for a few miles.


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