When I look at my car, I sometimes get a little sad. There she sits, obediently parked all week long while I walk, bus, and rideshare past her. She sits through the summer months, collecting pollen and dust, and patiently withstands winter storms. When I do occasionally get behind the wheel, I cross my fingers and silently wish for a successful start of the ignition. My poor, garage-less car is going on 13 years of loyal service, and while I owe her longevity in part to my minimal driving habits, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing everything I can to care for her.
If you also own a car that doesn’t see a ton of road time, you’ll want to know how to take care of your vehicle so that it stays in the best shape possible, even if you’re not driving it on a daily (or even weekly) basis. Here are the must-know tips:
1. Keep the gas tank full. This one was news to me: if you leave your car parked and idle for too long, the inside of the gas tank can actually start to accumulate moisture and rust. Even if you’re not commuting daily, always try to top off the tank with fuel, which will keep rust from forming and also free you up to readily hop in the driver’s seat for those infrequent trips.
2. Keep it clean. As a native San Franciscan, I know first hand how tough it can be to secure a covered space for your vehicle. Garages are something of a hot commodity in my town, and as long as I’ve owned my current car, I haven’t had one. As you can imagine, the elements have been less than kind to her exterior. If you’re also stuck leaving your car outside, consider covering it, or at the very least, make sure to clean debris from the windshield wipers so that leaves and other objects don’t accumulate and potentially damage the drains, leading to an interior flood (trust me — I’ve been there).
3. Drive it a few miles once in a while. No matter how much you pamper the exterior of your car, that internal battery will turn on you if you don’t give it love. That means driving your car at least once every few weeks to keep the battery charged and your car running correctly.
4. Keep up with oil changes. Many of us think our cars require maintenance based on miles driven, but it’s really all about timing — even if your car is parked more often than not, the oil and additives under the hood are aging. Check what your owner’s manual recommends when it comes to oil changes and other types of maintenance, and stick to the schedule, even if you’re not taking any road trips or daily drives.
5. Maintain your tires. Yes, items on the road can definitely harm your tires, but even something as seemingly harmless as the weather can affect your tire pressure. Keep a watchful eye on your tires and if you plan to keep your car in storage for an extended period of time, just make sure to inflate the tires the appropriate amount.
Finally, if you’re a low-mileage driver, you might also consider pay-per-mile car insurance. We’re here to save you money and give you and your ride the best possible care.
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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.