When a Car Is Parked for Days (or Weeks), Here Are Five Things You Can Do Today to Help Keep It Primed for Driving

7/9/2020

Staying home — and off the roads — is a boon to air quality and traffic. But what does it mean for a car left idle for days or weeks because Covid-19 is keeping us inside? Automotive expert Lauren Fix, the race-car-driver-turned-media-star known as the “Car Coach,” weighs in.

Staying home — and off the roads — is a boon to air quality and traffic. But what does it mean for a car left idle for days or weeks because Covid-19 is keeping us inside? Automotive expert Lauren Fix, the race-car-driver-turned-media-star known as the “Car Coach,” weighs in.

There’s generally no harm in letting a vehicle sit for a few weeks. So long as there were no mechanical issues when you parked it, your car should start up and run fine when you need it again. But here are a few things to consider. 

 

How to Keep a Car Battery Charged When Not in Use

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If a car is parked during the shelter-in-place order, some drivers might think they should start a parked car regularly and let it run for a few minutes to keep the battery charged. That’s simply not necessary — if your charging system is good to begin with. I have a 1960s Mustang in my garage, and it starts right up after sitting for weeks at a time. 

Unplug cords and devices connected to your car’s USB ports or outlets. These draw a charge from the battery even when the car isn’t running.

What you want to do is unplug the charging cords, as well as any phone, tablet or other device connected to your car’s USB ports and power outlets. These draw a charge from the battery even when the car isn’t running.

Some elaborate aftermarket audio systems — the kind with amps and subwoofers — can also deplete the battery. If you have one of these systems installed in your car, the easiest solution is to use a “trickle” charger to maintain the battery. It plugs into an electrical outlet and attaches to the battery, providing a charge only as needed. I prefer this to disconnecting the cables that attach the battery to the car, which can erase your stored settings (think: radio, seats) and require reprogramming of computer modules that control functions like air conditioning and transmission performance. In some cars, disconnecting the battery will lock [think: brick] the audio system, requiring a trip to the dealer to get an unlock code.

 

How to Store an Electric Vehicle

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Electric vehicles need a little more diligence. After being parked two weeks, a fully charged battery pack in an electric car can lose half its charge. The car will still start, but your driving range will be cut in half. In another two weeks, the battery could be totally depleted. To be safe, an electric car should be plugged into a charger or outlet when it is parked during the shelter-in-place order. It will be ready to go when you are.

 

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