If you have ever found yourself away from your car for a while, for example if you have gone on vacation, you might be dreading getting back to it in case it doesn’t start up. You may even just be looking to park it for a few days, so how long can you leave your car without starting it?
You can typically leave your car for up to two weeks without starting it. The exact limit will depend on a variety of factors. You can preserve the battery by disconnecting it, which will allow you to leave your car for much longer without being started.
There are lots of reasons that you might need to leave your car parked for an extended period of time, and there are a few ways to safely do this without worrying about whether or not it will start when you get back. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.
Why You Should Regularly Start Your Car
Cars Need Power
Modern cars are quite complex vehicles. They have many different components, both mechanical and electronic, and they all work together to make the driving experience as efficient and as comfortable as possible. But all of these components need power to work, and over time they will degrade, and eventually need replaced.
However, it is not just through use that components can wear out. If you leave your car for a long time without using it, there are several components that may begin to show signs of wear and tear, even if they haven’t been used. The brakes are a good example of this, as they may start to corrode, especially if left in a wet condition or location.
Although this corrosion can be worn off when the car is used again, it can be dangerous if you don’t realize they have lost some stopping power when you try to slow down. There are other parts, especially those made of rubber or other similar materials, that rely on lubrication from the oil or the fuel in the engine to work optimally, and so periods of zero use can cause them to seize up.
If you leave it parked with the handbrake on you may also find that it ceases up and the brake pads fuse to the discs. This can cause problems when you go to move off for the first time and is another reason you should try to start it fairly regularly. But the main problem people face, and the biggest reason for failed starts, is the battery.
Power Hungry Features
The battery in your car works constantly when anything that uses electrical power is connected to it. This means all of the items on your dashboard, any screens you have and things like the clock will all drain down the battery. Your headlights and radio are two other power intensive features, and so your battery is constantly in a state of recharging as you are driving your car to keep these on.
The car does this via a device called an alternator. This converts mechanical energy from the engine into electrical energy, which can recharge the battery. But if you are not driving the car, and the car is still using electricity via the internal clock for example (or worse still if you left a light on) the battery will drain (this is why supercars need trickle chargers).
Starting The Car
In order to start the car, the battery needs to supply a decent kick of energy to the starter motor. If there is not sufficient charge in the battery, the engine might not be able to start, and thus the battery will not be able to recharge either. Starting the car regularly will ensure that you don’t run into this problem.
How Often Should You Start Your Car?
Once Every Two Weeks
There is no single answer to this question. However, many people will attest to the guide that two weeks is about the longest you should leave your car without starting it. Any longer and you risk not being able to start it at all, or simply just some unnecessary damage to other components of the car.
Two weeks is long enough for most vacations, but there are lots of other reasons you might not need to use your car for extended periods of time. In any case, this two-week guideline is not a scientifically proven, one size fits all solution. Older cars might need to be started a bit more often, while some modern cars may be able to go much longer without needing started.
If you are concerned solely with the battery draining, then the time you can leave it will depend a lot on the age of the car, the manufacturer and model, and the conditions in which you are leaving the car. Temperature will play a big role here, with colder temperatures making it difficult to start some cars without leaving them for long at all.
But aside from the battery, the other components and reasons listed above should be enough motivation to start your car on a regular basis. It is not worth paying hefty repair bills just because you can’t be bothered starting the car every two weeks (ideally more often than this).
Ways To Preserve Your Car’s Health
Phone A Friend
If you do need to leave your car for an extended period of time, there are a few ways you can minimize the risk of any damage or not being able to start it when you get back. The most obvious one is to give the keys to someone else and have them start it every few days while you are away. Better yet, if they are insured have them take it for a short drive too.
Starting the car regularly, and then driving it for around 15 minutes(at least), should be enough to ensure the battery is always adequately charged. If you can go for a longer drive then definitely do that, as it will ensure that the engine is running long enough to feed enough energy back into the battery.
If this is not an option for you, then there are other ways to preserve the health of your car. You should try to avoid using the handbrake if you are parking it for a long time. Instead, leave the car in gear and secure it in place with chocks. If you need to leave it on a hill this might not be strong enough, so if possible try to park it somewhere fairly level.
Obviously, you should ensure you don’t leave anything on while you are away, but you could go one step further and disconnect the battery altogether. Although this won’t aid with any of the other mechanical problems you might face, it will prevent the battery from draining. You can coat the terminals with petroleum jelly to prevent them from rusting too.
Oil & Fuel
To ensure the internals of the car don’t erode too much, and to prevent build up of any unwanted particles and solids, you should put clean oil in the car before you leave it. Make sure to go for a short drive once you do this, to let the oil fully circulate through the engine. This should prevent any excess contaminants building up in the vital parts of the car.
Filling the tank with fuel is also a good idea, as it will prevent any corrosion from excess condensation in the tank. It is wise to check tire pressures too, as if there is not enough air in the tires, they may begin to crack or flat spot over time. Doing all of these things will help to preserve the health of your car if you need to leave it for a long time without starting it.
Leaving your car parked for a long time can cause problems when it comes to starting it back up again. You can minimize the risk of having problems by regularly starting your car, usually at least once every two weeks. Giving it a run for about 15 minutes or more will ensure your battery always has enough charge in it to get you going next time you need to use your car.