Monday, August 15, 2011

Tips for Infrequent Drivers


Drive as Often as You Can - Parking a car for long periods of time can wreak havoc on accessory belts, engine fluids and more. It's also bad for the battery, which incurs what Tony Molla, a certified technician and spokesman for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, calls "parasitic draws"; things like the car alarm, on-board computer and dashboard clock are still using small amounts of battery power.

Over time the battery loses its charge, and the car will need to be jump-started. Starting a car every two or three weeks and driving 15 to 30 minutes in order for the engine to reach a working temperature.

Check the Tires - Use a tire pressure monitor. A tire may be a little low even if it looks fine.
Over time, the tires on a parked car can deflate. They can also "flat spot," a condition where the section sitting on the ground warps disproportionately.

If you don't have time to drive your car, Molla said simply moving it to a new parking space is an easy way to prevent flat spotting. "Look at one tire," he said. "Note the air valve position, like on a clock. Is it at 9 o'clock? If so, when you back the car up, make sure it's at 3 o'clock or 12 o'clock. As long as it's a quarter-turn, you're fine."

Drive Easy - If your car has been parked for some time, hard acceleration and braking are a recipe for things to go wrong. The engine needs time to circulate all its fluids, and the brake rotors may have accumulated considerable dust since they were last used.

"One should never rev up a cold engine that's been sitting for a while, you should let it idle," Molla said. "Give it a chance to slowly wake up. Don't go slamming on the brakes because, chances are, things won't stop quite as quickly as you're used to."

MacDonald said the length of your drive is equally important. He said starting up and driving just two blocks before turning the car off can do more damage than not driving at all.

"It's a cold start," he said. "Lubrication isn't really functional until fluids and components are at operating temperatures. You usually don't reach that in two blocks; it's more like two miles.

"You want your temperature gauge to come up to normal, and you want it to be there 10 or 15 minutes. Then you've arguably done some good. You have everything covered in oil again."
Change the Oil

Check the owner's manual to find out how often you should change the oil in your car.

Oil changes aren't the only thing to remember. Brake fluid, engine coolant, transmission fluid and other liquids also need regular maintenance. Nielson said service intervals for most fluids are listed in the owner's manual.

When you fill up, consider adding a fuel-injector or fuel-system cleaner that's appropriate for your vehicle, Molla said. Most service stations carry a range of them for less than $5, packaged in pint-sized containers that empty directly into your fuel tank.

If you don't want to spend $100 or more for a quality cover, experts said you should at least consider an inexpensive windshield sun shade. It offers some protection for the dashboard and keeps the interior cooler.By Kelsey Mays, Cars.com

driving education

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