Sitting Idle: Essential Maintenance For Your Unused Car

Sitting Idle: Essential Maintenance For Your Unused Car

We all know a sedentary lifestyle is bad for our health, but did you know the same applies to our cars?

By Shell on Sep. 02, 2021

Just like us, cars are made to move. While it's easy to think a car sitting idle is being preserved, its condition can actually deteriorate faster than if it were getting some regular 'exercise'. If your car is getting less use than it normally would, here's how you can keep it in tip-top shape.

1. Keep it turning over

Without use, a car's battery discharges, lubricants drain away from the mechanical components they're meant to protect, and seals dry out, all of which can spell trouble when it's used again.

The best preventative maintenance is a 15 to 30-minute drive every week or two to properly warm up the engine, keep the battery charged and get the lubricants circulating.

If you can’t get out that far, shorter trips – or, worst-case, starting your car, letting it idle and giving the wheel a twirl and the brake pedal a squeeze – are better than nothing, but might not keep your battery sufficiently charged.

2. Keep it charged

A car's battery needs regular use to stay healthy and is typically the first thing to suffer when it doesn't get it.

If you can't give your car a regular run and it's parked near a power source, a trickle charger can keep the battery charged, healthy and ready to go. At less than the cost of a replacement battery, it's affordable insurance.

3. Pick the right parking spot

Sun, moisture, dirt and other environmental elements all eat away at your car's exterior. Leave it in the wrong spot and you can accelerate this damage.

Obviously a covered, well-ventilated space is the best option, but if you don't have that, avoid parking under trees as sap can rapidly damage paintwork. Avoid parking on soft, permeable surfaces (i.e. grass, dirt) as they allow moisture to travel up into your car's nether regions. And don't let bird droppings and other muck accumulate – keep it clean.

A car cover is another path to better protection but needs to be used carefully – put one on a dirty car, wet car or car parked on a permeable surface and it can be worse than no cover at all.

4. Chock and inflate

If your car sits idle for really long periods, using wheel chocks to restrain it rather than the handbrake will prevent the handbrake from potentially sticking 'on', especially in wetter environments. Remember, too, that tyres naturally lose pressure. Letting them stay flat can create flat spots and other damage, so keep them correctly inflated.

5. Brim your tank

A partly filled fuel tank sitting around for long spells increases the risk of evaporative and oxidative changes to fuel. This increases the risk of rough idling and poor performance, so it’s a good idea to keep your tank filled.

6. Keep up scheduled maintenance

Your car's service schedule is based on time and distance. Even if you're not driving it as much, it still needs regular maintenance to keep it tuned, any issues addressed, and any consumables replaced within a use-by date – so don't skip your services.


Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) has compiled the above article for your general information and to use as a general reference. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken by Viva Energy in compiling this article, Viva Energy does not warrant or represent that the information in the article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use.

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