If you have a car in a walkable area, you may not see many reasons to drive regularly and even think avoiding driving saves on maintenance. But even the most reliable SUV will sputter out over time if it’s not used consistently. Save yourself a frustrated call to your roadside assistance company and visit your local mechanic for car maintenance. Check out seven reasons why you need to use your car regularly.
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1. It Charges the Battery
When your car’s engine is running, it also recharges your car battery. But turning off the engine does not also turn off the battery; the battery needs to keep running to power the computer systems in your car. If the engine isn’t turned on for a long time, the battery will eventually run out of power, and you’ll have to jump start your car to get it running again.
In severe enough cases, underuse can cause the battery terminals to corrode. Corrosion risks killing off the battery entirely, forcing you to replace it. Even a quick drive should ensure your car will power up the next time you turn the key in the ignition.
2. Your Tires Stay in Good Condition
When you don’t drive your car, it is forced to place all its weight on a specific part of the tires, eventually leading to a flat spot. The lack of movement also slowly depletes your tire pressure, something you may not realize until you notice your vehicle’s flat tires.
Luckily, an easy way to avoid this is to go on a short drive. The spinning tires prevent a flat spot from occurring and slow any deflation.
3. It Circulates Fluids
While the engine is primarily designed to get your SUV on the move, it’s also designed to move various fluids through your vehicle to keep things running smoothly. If your car or SUV falls into disuse, its fluid levels can drop, and the remaining fluid can settle.
This might not sound like a problem, but even low engine oil can cause serious issues. If your engine’s parts can’t run smoothly, the friction can bring your engine far above its normal operating temperature and even cause it to overheat.
Vehicle fluids can also go bad. For instance, if your power steering fluid sits for too long, it will thicken and interfere with your attempts to turn the steering wheel. A more serious example is transmission fluid, which becomes acidic as it ages and can damage your transmission.
Of course, vehicle fluid eventually needs to be replaced even if you’re driving regularly, but if you’re driving regularly, you’ll probably know when your SUV next needs maintenance!
4. You’ll Refresh the Gas
Gas won’t last if it’s not being used. Over time, gas that’s been sitting in your tank will go bad, causing damage to your engine when you next try to drive. The tank risks overflowing as the gas expands when the outside temperatures fluctuate.
Think that letting the tank run empty will solve the problem? Think again. When your gas tank is empty, water molecules can easily accumulate inside the tank. The water eventually causes the metal interior of your gas tank to rust and potentially damage parts of your engine.
If you don’t have a choice but to store your car for a while, add a fuel stabilizer to the tank beforehand. Driving, however, ensures you use the gas before it goes bad.
5. It Keeps the Brakes in Shape
Your brakes rely on fluid to run properly, but it isn’t just a matter of brake fluid. Your brake system also contains exposed metal, which can collect water and lead to rust on your brake rotors and brake pads. Rust can cause significant damage to your brake system, putting you and others on the road at risk.
Driving regularly means using your brakes, breaking down the risk of rust.
6. It Keeps the Critters Out
You probably don’t think of your car as something that needs a pest control service (and for the most part, if you drive it regularly, it doesn’t). But if you let your car sit in the same spot for an extended period, creatures might see it as a good place to make their home. The average person doesn’t want to discover their car now houses a wasp nest or find spiders squatting in the glove box.
These creatures aren’t just potentially unsettling; they can damage your car, too. Cars are a common nesting spot for rodents like mice and rats, which chew on the wires and leave droppings. Your subcompact SUV sitting in the garage can easily become a family SUV once a family of mice makes their way inside.
7. The Exterior Stays Cleaner
It might be confusing to think that driving your car will make it cleaner; after all, driving around exposes your vehicle to dirty conditions. But if you park your car outside and then leave it there, it will collect all sorts of dust and debris over time.
Some debris, like tree sap, can break down your car’s protective coating. You might be able to convince others that dried water spots or mud came from treating your vehicle like an off-road SUV, but that won’t explain the worn-down metal or paint job.
Of course, parking your car in a garage reduces the amount of dirt on your unused car, but that won’t prevent your battery from dying or the gas from going bad. Take your vehicle for a short drive to revive it and remove the chance of things falling on it for a little while.
How to Keep an Unused Car in Good Shape
It’s not necessary to drive a car every day to keep it running, but it helps to run it once a week. Simply turning on the engine is enough to recharge the battery. However, taking the car on a short trip for at least 15 minutes is far better.
The fluid will get the chance to cycle through the engine, and you’ll be able to use the brakes, which keep your car’s components from falling apart from disuse.
For some people, it makes more sense to get rid of or exchange their car. Did you move to the city and realize you’re using your car maybe once a month? Consider selling it.
Are you using your spouse’s SUV to carpool and leaving your sedan in the garage? Trade in the sedan for a good SUV instead. You don’t want to pay insurance and maintenance fees on a car you never use.
Pick the Best SUV for Your Needs with SUViews
In much of the U.S., it’s tough to commute without a car. If you think you need a new car and aren’t sure where to start, check out our tips to determine what kind of SUV would best suit your living situation.
Once you have the keys to the right SUV, you won’t need to ask for reasons to drive it regularly; you’ll already want to drive as much as you can.