Perspective Newsletter
Spring 2015
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Own a rarely used car? It still needs basic maintenance

‚ÄčMaybe you've inherited a vehicle, own a classic set of wheels from back in the day, or have an RV or much-beloved luxury car used only on special occasions. Perhaps you're simply driving less than you used to (hello, Uber). Whatever the case, that often-parked car still needs basic maintenance to keep its tires, battery, fluids, and seals in good shape.

We gleaned these tips from the experts at Goodwrench (General Motors service network):

Tires. Regardless of use, tires typically lose up to 1 pound per square inch (psi) of pressure each month, leading to reduced fuel economy and less-than-optimal safety and performance. Check pressures monthly and adjust them to meet the manufacturer's specifications.

Cars parked in one spot for a long time literally can develop "flat spots" that lead to vibration and a rougher ride. Idle tires also are prone to UV damage and hardening, making them unsafe even if they have lots of tread left.

Batteries. Check batteries for corrosion (which can appear as a white, puffy buildup on the posts). Also, ensure you're driving regularly enough that the alternator is recharging the battery. Even when the car is off, it's constantly drawing on the battery to run digital displays and anti-theft devices. Cold weather further reduces a battery's cranking power.

Fluids. Engine oil, coolant, transmission and power steering fluid, and wiper fluid can leak or deteriorate over time. Check (or ask a mechanic to check) fluid levels periodically.

Short hops and infrequent use also can contribute to moisture condensation and, eventually, engine damage. Check your owner's manual under "Maintenance Schedule for Severe Conditions" if you routinely drive less than five miles per trip.

Seals. Whether you own an RV or a car with a sunroof, leaking seals can lead to rot, damaged wiring, and mold growth. A first line of defense: covered parking that keeps your roof seals out of direct sunlight (UV rays degrade rubber gaskets) and shielded from needle-dropping trees. For RVs, you'll want to recaulk seams twice a year (winterize in late fall and again before summer vacation season), removing old caulk, cleaning the area, and replacing it with new caulk. For sunroofs, you'll want to periodically check alignment, clean and lubricate gaskets and rails, and check for evidence of leaks. If you see a problem, clean roof drains, which can get plugged with dirt or needles. If that doesn't fix the problem, replace the gaskets.