How long can you leave a car without starting it?

Often, whether I am in a car service or elsewhere, I am asked what are the risks, what are the consequences, what are the effects of the fact that a car is not driven or started? I have seen a lot of such cars, especially for older car owners, those who have been away for a long time, especially concerning work and do not use it.

If you have a car that you don’t use, don’t leave it like that, you should start the car and drive it at least every two or three weeks.

Just recently I noticed such a car, I had the impression that it was a Honda Accord, the year of manufacture 2009 that only was driven 620 miles a year in 10 years, so this car was standing more than driven. Even I bought a Toyota Avensis for one of my friends some time ago, with 29000 miles, this because the car owner was a sailor and stayed very little at home.

What happens to a car that has not been used for a while?

Usually, it matters a lot if the car has been in the garage for a long time or not. If it was kept in the garage then it is somehow ok because it did not affect your car’s paint, it didn’t stay in the rain, it didn’t stay in the snow. When a car is not started for a long time, the first thing you will notice is that the shock absorbers will be damaged, or in the best case, the shock absorbers will be altered and, especially, the springs, will be tense and they will not do their job well enough.

1. Tires and rubber materials

Regarding the rubber materials present in the engine, the hoses, belts, gaskets, will be worn quite badly. I think you noticed that when you buy tires, they are obviously very good at first, and after 6-7 years, cracks are already starting to appear on them, so this applies to any type of rubber element, not just to tires, and under the hood of the car will be found many rubber elements that will be worn. So be careful when you start the car after a long time and subject the engine to loads, you might be surprised that a hose could burst.

2. Rust

Of course, rust also makes its presence, most often, especially if that car was not inserted in a zinc bath, or had anti-corrosive elements, or has no aluminum, plastic, or fiberglass elements. carbon or that has not been subjected to special treatment, especially if that machine has stayed very long outside in adverse conditions, then it will surely rust faster.

3. Car ECUElectronic Control Unit

Another important element to consider for a car that has not been started for a long time is the car computer or ECU, whose pins, pins can be oxidized, especially those of airbags, to the joints and to those that enter the ECU. A simple solution to this problem is to unmount the wires and apply a contact spray on them, to clean them if they have a problem, as well as to the airbag socket.

The age speaks and everything that means electrical elements, cables, sockets, pins will oxidize, will age and then we must take care in this regard.

4. Bad smell in the cabin

Another effect of a car that has been around for a long time is that it will have a bad odor in the interior, especially if it stays outside with the windows closed and the car has gone through temperature fluctuations, sun rain, etc., with the risk of mold forming inside.

It is more uncomfortable for those who want to use it after so long because they will have to go to a car cosmetic service to clean the upholstery of the car with special solutions, the waiting time for this being even a few days.

Another way to get rid of this is that the car owner should put the car in a garage, with the windows open, there will be fewer temperature fluctuations.

5. Brake discs and brake pads will wear

Another effect of the car has not been driven for a long time is that the brake discs and brake pads will rust a lot, especially if the car has not been started for at least 2 years. In this case, the best and most reliable solution is to change the brake discs and pads. Just by the fact that if the car sat for 2 days still on the brake discs small rust spots appear, you realize what will happen in 2-3 years.

6. Calipers

For the time being, I checked the braking system of a car that was not started for a long time. And when I changed the brake pads I was surprised to see that the calipers were a bit rusty. Nothing new here, because any car with steel calipers will have rust. Inside, however, there are two problems: the pistons that push the pads back after you have pressed the brake will lock in time, from the moisture entering the planetary bell.

The second problem, the most serious one, is that the piston or pistons, if there are two, the ones that push pads, also lock in case the machine stays. So you can expect it from a car that is parked, not to have any brakes at all.

7. Air conditioning

If we do not drive a car for a long time, the air conditioner gives up. The mechanical and electrical side does not break, but the freon in the system has every chance to evaporate. Because many rubber seals require regular lubrication. And this is done when we let go of air.

If we leave the installation unpaved for months or years, the gaskets crack from the temperature changes, and a small crack is enough to let the entire freon come out of the installation. Not for nothing, even in winter, it’s good to start AC from time to time.

8. Water pump

As for the water pump, it can give off very easily if we do not start the car for a long time. Especially in older cars, with a cast-iron block. In the cooling system, some deposits and residues walk with coolant, even rust.

When the car was not started and driven for many months or years, the deposits harden and will clog everything. Often, the sequence of events is this: a gasket fails, the cooling fluid is drained and the deposits left on the route will harden. These deposits can clog a water pump, I have often seen pumps clogged by rust.

9. Relays

Time spoils everything except wine :). Also, the electric part has to suffer in a car that was not started. Due to temperature changes, some contacts oxidize and start to cause problems. The relays are quite numerous electrical parts in a car.

Whether the contacts are oxidized, or the metal parts inside that make contact, it is certain that if they are not heated for a long time, they will risk failing.

In a normal operation, everything that means the electrical part is heated, but this is a beneficial one. Because they are specially made pieces to withstand high temperatures. In vain, often, an imperfect contact can be resolved by leaving the contact longer, until the heat begins to pass through the heat.

10. Injectors

In general, the rule is simple: everything that runs on liquids breaks down. Cooling system, engine, and even fuel system due to poor quality fuels. It is a known fact that diesel cars have problems with the injectors over time, but also with other auto parts that hold fuel.

In a car that we forget to start from time to time, the story is the same as in other cases mentioned above: some deposits solidify and block the diesel route.

Also, there is a risk that, in winter, the old diesel engine will freeze at very low temperatures and even crack the route. It is good to start the engine and even run a little, that the pressure from the pump to clean the injectors.

11. Car battery

One more thing, you can say goodbye to the battery if the car has not been started for more than 1 year and the headlights can be frosted, so you will have to polish them.


If, however, you are interested in buying such a car, it would be ideal for the owner or another person to drive a car at least 60 miles a month. This is an essential aspect, that the car has been driven because it involves using all the elements, starting the engine, steering, springs, shock absorbers, oil lubrication, the battery will be charged a little.

The worst thing about a car is that it has not been started and not been driven for years, because serious problem can arise.

If you want to buy such a car and find one with few miles, be careful to buy it directly from the owner, then that will certainly have a very good purchase price.

Scroll to Top