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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Occasional driving is a good idea for car in storage

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Dear Tom and Ray:

What’s the minimum a car should be driven to keep the battery charged and the fluids doing what they are supposed to do?

My daughter has taken a job 1,500 miles away and left behind her 2000 Nissan Maxima with more than 267,000 miles on it.

It’s in pretty good shape, other than a small but persistent valve-cover oil leak and a power-steering-fluid leak and maybe a mystery leak contributing a few drops a day.

I drive it to work one day a week, 12 miles each way, and maybe a mile or two at lunchtime.

Is 25 to 26 miles, one day a week, enough to keep the car in shape if my daughter ever wants it again? Thanks! — Dave

RAY: That’s perfect, Dave. Actually, you probably can get away with half of that.

TOM: What you DON’T want to do is just start the car, run it for a few minutes and shut it off. You’d be better off not starting it at all rather than doing that.

RAY: Once you use some battery power to start the car, you want to give the alternator a chance to charge the battery back up.

TOM: And, more importantly, you want to give the exhaust system time to heat up and evaporate the moisture that condenses out of the exhaust when the exhaust system is cold. Water vapor is a natural byproduct of the internal combustion process, and if it’s allowed to condense and remain in the exhaust pipes, the exhaust system will rust prematurely.

RAY: The easiest and best way to maintain the battery and the exhaust system is simply to drive the car a little bit. So what you’re doing – an occasional short drive – is perfect.

TOM: The one additional suggestion we’d make is to change the oil every six months or so. Even though you won’t be anywhere near the oil-change interval in terms of mileage, it’s not a bad idea.

RAY: So keep doing all that until something serious goes wrong with the car, Dave. And then call your daughter and tell her you suddenly don’t have room in the garage anymore, and she needs to come pick it up.

To buy or not to buy – options, that is. Are options worth what you pay for them, or are you better off just going with the basics? Order Tom and Ray’s pamphlet “Should I Buy, Lease, or Steal My Next Car?” to find out. Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Next Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

You can listen to Tom and Ray Magliozzi’s “Car Talk” program at 10 a.m. Saturdays on National Public Radio station WUSF, 89.7 FM.

Got a question about cars? E-mail Click and Clack by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com. They can’t answer your letter personally but will run the best letters in the column.

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