Maintenance Doesn’t Stop for Low Mileage Cars

There are now more vehicles in the United States than drivers. That’s good news and bad news, according to the Women’s Board of the Car Care Council.

Second cars are often kept for specialty needs, such as hunting trips, lawn and garden chores or even to leave at the airport during business trips. But a low mileage vehicle that makes lots of short runs then sits for days can have a set of problems all its own, according to the Women’s Board.

Because these vehicles do not represent the primary mode of transportation, they can be victims of deferred maintenance. Long overdue for an oil change, for example, the engine can contain an accumulation of sludge and contamination, and that’s just for openers.

Other potential problems of secondary vehicles include the following:

  • The exhaust system may be rusted through, as short trips allow condensation in the exhaust gasses to accumulate, rusting out the muffler and other components. This system should have a close examination with the car on a lift.
  • Age, as well as use, deteriorates under-hood rubber parts such as belts and hoses. Check them carefully.
  • Stop-and-go driving is hard on brakes. Check not only the pads and lining but also the hydraulic components and hardware.
  • When gasoline sits for a long period of time, accumulation of a gummy substance in tiny orifices can disable the system. Watch for fuel system problems.
  •  Some components, like the water pump, can deteriorate from lack of use. Pressure-test the cooling system at regular intervals.
  • Tires, like other rubber parts, suffer from exposure to the elements. The tread may look OK, but the sidewalls may show signs of deterioration.
  • Air conditioner seals become brittle from lack of use. The compressor may leak when it’s back in service.
  • Electrical components may be victims of the “use it or lose it” syndrome. It’s not always easy to predict which will fail first, but it’s wise to prepare for replacing of electrical accessories that did not survive the rigors of storage.

The Women's Board is comprised of professional women and men, including motor sports figures, service shop owners, technicians, service writers, association and company executives and consultants, who are dedicated to informing female audiences about proper vehicle maintenance and safety, while encouraging young people to investigate automotive career choices.