Care Care With Low Miles

I am applying for a different job in my company. The biggest perk to this lateral move is that I won’t be driving much any more.

I currently drive approximately 50 miles a day, five days per week. The new gig is about 8 blocks from my home. I can easily walk or bike to work.

I recently bought a 2011 Camry. It has around 32 K miles. My mom always said “It’s not good for a car to not drive it.” Other than regular maintenance stuff, what do I need to do to care for my car that will mostly not be driven? And in the case that I am lazy and drive to work, driven less than 25 miles a week in stop and start conditions?

About once every two weeks go get a cup of coffee or something in a town about 20 miles away. That will allow the engine and transmission to get warmed up enough to evaporate moisture and other contaminates. Plus it will keep the battery charged.

Speaking of charging the battery, you might want to put a trickle charger on it if it’s parked in a garage or driveway where you can get a power cord to it.

Next consider putting something like Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer in the gasoline to keep it from turning to varnish and plugging up things like the injectors.

Consider changing the oil every 6 months even though you don’t have many miles on it. Oil just sitting in the oil pan can go bad especially if only driven for short distances.

Air up the tires at least once a month. Just sitting the tires can lose pressure.

If you are regularly using the car for shopping and recreation then nothing. It is only when the car won’t be used for months at a time than you need to concern yourself.

Consider carefully the costs of keeping it. Maintenance, depreciation, lost investment opportunity et al. Then decide if the driving you actually do is worth the cost of owning a car. Bike to work, bus to see your mum, and hire or get a taxi on the odd occasion you really need to drive.

I have driven my car an average of less than 100 miles a week for 22 years. Sometimes only once a week for 10 or 15 miles. No maintenance problem.

I get about 6500 miles a year or less on my 10-year-old car. I get the oil and other fluids changed according to the schedule in the book and I’ve had no problems. The thing runs like a champ still.

Unless you’re not going anywhere on weekends for weeks in a row you’re fine.

We had some minor electrical problems with our van that we discovered only because I went almost 3 months without driving it but the problem existed already we just were able to figure out what it was because of the long delay in use. Of course that didn’t make me any happier when I went to start it and it wouldn’t but it wasn’t catastrophic and it wasn’t entirely due to sitting for so long.

As long as you’re going somewhere every couple of weeks or so you’re good. My average mileage per year, including a couple of long driving trips a year is about 10k km. It’s a little higher this year because I can’t resist weekly trips to watch the progress on the new house and that’s about 100km round trip.

Do you clean your plate and wear fresh underwear everyday as well? Your mom must be so proud! :smiley:

With the super-short trips, it depends on the climate. If you live somewhere that’s always fairly warm, making short little 8 block trips isn’t the greatest thing for your car, but it shouldn’t cause any serious problems so long as you change your oil and other fluids on the time-based schedule. Making very short trips in cold weather, though, can cause some fairly serious problems with moisture building up in the oil. If you start making a habit of that (and of course cold weather is when you’re most likely to want to drive instead of walk/bike!) you might want to consider letting the car warm up first, or at the very least making sure you’re taking it on a longer drive every few days.

That should be fine. The minimum you need to do is about once every other week or so. You want to get the engine fully hot, which varies a bit from car to car, but roughly 15 minutes of driving is usually enough.

You want to void a lot of 5 minute trips. One of the by-products of gasoline combustion is water vapor, and if the exhaust system doesn’t get hot enough that water can condense inside the exhaust when you stop and will make your exhaust system rust out noticeably faster. Water vapor in the air also naturally condenses into the engine when the car sits. Once the engine gets hot enough this water is just flashed into water vapor and gets expelled. A short 5 minute trip may not be enough to do this, though.

If the car is going to sit for more than a couple of weeks, a battery tender is a good idea. Exactly how long it will take for your battery to go dead depends on the car. Some can go six months or more. Others can only go a month before you run into problems. Most cars are probably in the two to three month range.

When the car sits for six months or longer, then you need to worry about a bunch of other things. A battery tender is a must at this point. Optionally you can disconnect the battery, but some alarm systems and radios will give you a fit as this triggers their anti-theft protection (check their manuals for the proper procedure for disconnecting power to them). You’ll probably want to add some gas stabilizer as well, and maybe jack the car up on blocks so that the wheels don’t get flat spots. After the car has been sitting that long the brakes may stick a bit and you’ll probably have a good layer of rust on the rotors. Driving around the neighborhood and repeatedly slamming on the brakes will abrade the rust off and will get rid of any stickiness in the brake cylinders. You’ll want to use up all of the old gas in the tank as much as you can then fill the car up with fresh gas.

Thanks for your answers.

I have a car and 2 motorcycles. The car doesn’t get used much in summer (yet still more than I’d like to).
If it’s parked outside, you can get a solar cell charger that lays on the dash. But I think they only work on cars who’s lighter works with the key off, unless you wire in an additional lighter. If parked inside, you want a ‘smart’ charger that senses the charge of the battery and only charges as needed.
Don’t fill the tank. Modern gas starts going flat after about a month. It’d be a good idea to keep your last gas receipt to know how old it is.
I like SeaFoam (brand) gas treatment. It’s a fuel stabilizer and a fuel system cleaner. I put it in my motorcycles starting in fall (as I never know which ride will be my last of the year).
Most new cars have stainless steel exhaust, but I don’t know when that became popular, or if they all do now.
Tires should be replaced after 5 yrs if they’re in the sun much. 7-8 yrs regardless.

Since I’ve started riding a motorcycle most of the time when I’m in the city, my truck sometimes sits for two weeks or more at a time. In the past, I’ve paid more for the higher mileage tires. Now, I’m noticing that the tires are beginning to weather-crack and I will probaly need to replace them long before I reach the end of their 80,000 mile tread life. So, the lesson is, buy the cheapest tires that meet my load-rating needs.

I have start using Sta-Bil in all of my small engines and I’m a firm believer. I just did spring maintenance on lawnmower #1 and it fired up on the first pull after sitting all winter. I’ve heard things about SeaFoam, too.

Another thing regarding the age of tires is getting them repaired. I’ve had this problem with trailer tires, but it could bite you with a low-mileage car, too. Tire repair shops will not repair tires over a certain age (5 years? 9 years?). I’ve have to replace good, serviceable tires that I’ve protected from the weather that had simple nail punctures just because they were out of date. I understand the reasoning behind it and it’s a good idea, but it’s annoying when you have an eight-tired trailer at $125 per tire and the tires still have 90% of their tread and no weather cracking.

I wouldn’t worry about using Sta-Bil in your car’s gas tank, but what I would do is add a can of whatever gas treatment you prefer (I am another SeaFoam fan), and then I would park it with a full tank of gas.

Keeping the tank full keeps the air out of the gas tank. The air in the tank may warm up on a hot day, cool on a cold day, etc. and this can cause moisture to condense out of the air and pool in the bottom of the tank. Not much, but over time it can be enough to cause problems. Keeping the tank mostly full of gas prevents this.

If you are the kind of person who checks their own oil you may see a milky residue on your oil filler cap on occasion, this is water/oil emulsified. It is nothing to worry about but short trips do tend to let moisture build up in the engine. A good long, half hour drive once in a while would be a good thing to do.

While the oil in the engine may heat up quickly and flash off the moisture, it takes a lot longer to heat up the entire exhaust system. Even though most exhausts are stainless steel now, some components are not. You may have observed cars on the road with water trickling out of the exhaust. This water that has condensed in the exhaust and the car hasn’t yet got the exhaust up to full operating temperature.