How long can your car stay idle?


    Sometimes life can be unpredictable. And you may find yourself in a situation where your car, which used to get you back and forth to work every day, remains in the garage.

    Whether you’re working from home, following social distancing guidelines, or storing your convertible for the winter, parking your car for long periods of time can seriously damage your vehicle.

    The result? You may have trouble starting your car when it’s time for your next trip.

    But with proper preparation, your car can sit for months (or even years) without a problem. Here’s everything you need to know to prepare your car for long-term storage.


    The amount of time it takes for your vehicle to be damaged from long-term storage will vary depending on several factors, including where the vehicle is parked and how well you have prepared it. However, the negative effects of time on a non-driving car can be seen sooner than you might think:

    • Fuel: Did you know that gasoline can go bad? If the fuel is not in a sealed container, it reacts with oxygen, causing it to deteriorate. This process starts in about 30 days. And it only takes three to six months for a gas tank to go bad. Old gasoline loses its ability to start the engine and forms sticky deposits and varnish that can damage other components in your vehicle’s fuel system.
    • battery: If you drive a lot, the battery should last three to five years. But if your car is parked, your car battery will likely die in just two to three months. why? Because when you’re driving your car, the alternator is constantly charging the battery to replenish the energy you’re using. No driving means no charging — and a dead battery.
    • Rust: Rust is another by-product of oxidation – and it depends a lot on the environment where your car is parked. Because rust requires water to form, wet conditions often cause metal to rust. And chemicals, like salt used on winter roads, accelerate this process. You can expect bare metal to start developing surface rust in less than a week. The longer your car is left unprotected, the deeper the rust can develop.
    • tires: If your car sits still for a long time, the tires may start to stain. In essence, tires develop a type of memory that prevents them from being perfectly round. This phenomenon causes vibration when driving the car after storage. Flat spots can form after a month of a car sitting in a parking lot – and they are made worse by low tire pressure. In many cases, driving the car for a while after storage can remove flat spots. But often the damage can be irreversible, requiring a new set of rubber.
    • Belts and hoses: As rubber components age, they can begin to dry out and crack. Because drivers are used to replacing most car parts based on mileage, they may neglect to check their belts and hoses. But if the vehicle is in storage, these parts may need to be replaced in as little as three to five years.
    • Pests: For this mouse, a car parked in your garage can become a ready-made home. And when they move in, mice can do a lot of damage to a vehicle – gnawing at wires, plastic and insulation to build their nest. Rodents can move overnight. And the longer they are left undisturbed, the more damage they can do. See for yourself in our “Rats in the Hood” video.


    We’ve looked at the damage that can be done if you leave your car unprepared. But luckily, a little prevention is all it takes to protect your car and keep it running smoothly—long after it’s been parked.

    • Add fuel stabilizer. To keep your gasoline from going bad, add a chemical fuel stabilizer to your gas tank. Products like STA-BIL® can be purchased at any auto parts store and will keep your fuel fresh for up to two years. Just follow the instructions on the container. Measure the required amount of stabilizer, pour it into the gas tank, then fill the tank with gasoline.
    • Charge the battery. Preventing your battery from draining is as easy as connecting it to the right charger. Keep in mind that there are two types of chargers – one is designed to quickly charge a dead battery; the other is designed to keep the battery charged. You will want to purchase a battery maintenance charger or a “precision” charger. Available at any auto parts or hardware store, these chargers are designed to stay on and connected to your vehicle the entire time it’s parked. They send a slow, steady stream of electricity to keep your battery charged.
    • Wash the car. Wash your car well before parking it. Removing all dirt and other contaminants such as road salt will help prevent rust and paint damage. If you are in an environment where rust is common, you may also want to consider applying a vehicle primer or other rust protection.
    • Keep it covered. If you are going to park your car for an extended period of time, it is best to leave it in a controlled environment, such as a garage. If you don’t have a garage, buy a car cover to keep dirt and moisture out. And avoid parking on grass – excess moisture under the car can accelerate rust.
    • Place it on the blocks. To prevent spots from appearing on your tires, you may want to consider putting your car on blocks. You can do this by jacking up the vehicle and supporting it securely with stands. By removing the weight from the tires, you will avoid their deformation.
    • Add fresh liquids. If you plan to park your car for more than a few months, consider changing the fluid. Used engine oil, brake fluid, and power steering fluid contain contaminants that can damage your vehicle over time. Adding brand new fluids will give your car a better chance of avoiding problems in the future.
    • Do not engage the parking brake. Under normal circumstances, it is wise to use the car’s parking brake. But when the car is stored for a long period of time, rust can cause the parking brake pad to bond with the drum or rotor, leaving you stuck. If you want to keep your car from rolling, use chocks or chocks behind the tire instead.
    • Mouse protection for your car. To keep rodents out, consider adding mouse repellants to the interior and under the car. Mousetraps, scent repellents, and even electronic sound repellents are all good options.


    One of the myths about car storage is that regularly starting the engine can protect your car when it is not being driven. The truth is, if you’ve taken the precautions outlined above, simply idling your car can do more harm than good.

    If you start your car without driving it or just take a short trip around the block, your car will not reach its full operating temperature. This leaves condensation in the exhaust and oil that won’t burn — and can be harmful in the long run.

    Of course, it is better to drive the car than to leave it sitting. If you want to ride a few times a month, make sure you ride at least 10-15 miles and go above 50 mph.


    If you won’t be driving your car, it might be tempting to save money by ditching it car insurance. However, removing your car insurance can leave your car vulnerable in the event of a fire, theft or other damage to be covered Casco.

    Fortunately, your ERIE auto policy comes with your own local insurance agent who can help you understand your options and choose the amount of coverage that’s right for you.

    Also, losing coverage can make your insurance more expensive if you decide to re-insure your car. Looking for ways to save? Learn more about which affects the price of your auto insurance or available auto insurance discounts.


    At ERIE, our local agents live and work in the same communities you call home. When it comes to your auto coverage, your local agent is ready to help you make the best choice for your situation. Contact us today or get a free online car quote.

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