The problem: your spouse is leaving their car in the driveway during deployment. Keep reading because: You want to learn how to prevent a dead battery and flat tires, and the basics to maintain parked cars!
Do you have to maintain parked cars?
So your spouse deployed, and their car is still sitting unused in the driveway. Well, cars are not designed to sit for long periods of time. Rust, corrosion, and condensation can all be dangerous to a car’s engine. You can prevent them with regular maintenance. It’s a chore you will have to do regularly, not just once.
Because yeah, there was one deployment where I didn’t really know how to drive his manual truck, and I was afraid to move it since our driveway sloped towards the garage door. So I only turned it on now and then. Well, the truck battery was dead by the end of the deployment. And the tires went flat and needed to be replaced. I don’t want that to happen to you! So, what can you do to save yourself a few hundred dollars on a new battery and tires? You will want to develop a maintenance plan and discuss it with your spouse before deployment.
First, consider moving the car into the garage (if you have one). This will keep it dry, out of the sun, and away from the harmful effects of heat and rain. When you start the car to let it idle, be sure to open the garage door to release the fumes. Next, consider the plan below to maintain parked cars. Will you handle this yourself? Or invite a friend to drive it or start it for you? If it will be driven on the street, make sure that you have kept it insured with at least the state minimum auto insurance. Learn more her about saving money on insurance during deployment.
Use this schedule to prevent the death of a long-term parked car:
Once a week:
- Turn it on and let the engine idle for at least 10 minutes, preferably 30. It’s better to drive it around and do some errands, but idling is better than nothing. This prevents the battery from dying, and lets it recharge for a few minutes. If you don’t do this, you will have a dead battery by the end of deployment! Been there, done that, no fun. (and totally preventable, too!)
- Drive it around the block, or re-park it in a different position. This is to get the tires moving, so that they don’t stay in the same position and begin to wear or bulge. If you don’t move the vehicle, you will have a flat tire by the end of deployment! (Been there, done that one, too!)
- Check the gas level. You actually want to keep the tank as full as possible. The gas will last just fine for a deployment, even longer than a year. Keeping the gas tank full limits the amount of rust and corrosion that can happen inside, and it also keeps most of the air out. You CAN use a gas stabilizer added to the gas tank, but that is only necessary for a very long deployment.
Once a week, turn on the car, let it idle, and park it in a new position. This will save your battery and tires.” ~The Seasoned Spouse
At least once a month:
- Drive it on some short-distance errands, or lend it to someone else to drive around for a day. As mentioned above, it would be better to do this weekly, but it is essential to do it at least monthly. When you drive the vehicle, you are letting the engine heat up and burn off some of the dangerous condensation that could be forming inside it. You are also keeping engine parts lubricated with oil.
- Check the tire air pressure. Actually use an instrument to measure the pressure. And then look at them to see if the tires are bulging, have cracks, or seem to be flat. They can be safely re-inflated at most gas stations.
- Check the oil level. It shouldn’t change much, and there is no need to actually replace the oil until the end of deployment. But you want to give a glance at all your fluid meters to see if they are leaking or need to be topped off.
- Run the windshield wipers (with fluid). If your car is stored outside, the sun can dry out and melt the windshield wipers, making them get stuck to the glass! Be sure that you have washer fluid in the car, and then let them run with the fluid for a moment to get them in a fresh position. (Or you could remove them before the deployment, but that isn’t usually necessary).
Once a month, check the oil and fluid levels, and drive the car around the block.” ~The Seasoned Spouse
- Fill up the gas tank. You want to keep it full most of the time anyway, but all that idling and errand-running may have drained a bit. Top it off, and let it idle before driving at any high speeds.
- Get an oil change. This will help keep the engine clean when your spouse starts using the car regularly. You don’t want to spread any corrosion from old oil into the engine parts.
- Inflate tires to correct pressure. Check to see if they are dry-rotted or cracked, which can cause them to leak or go flat. If they appear to bulge, inflate to the correct pressure, then check again the next day to see if the problem was fixed. If you have a slow leak, you may need new tires.
I’m no auto mechanic or expert, but these are some of the tips I have NOT followed in the past, and I have paid the price for a new battery and new tires when he returned. Preparing for Homecoming is stressful enough. You don’t want to add car trouble into the mix! So this is the advice that I am now trying to follow. I know it can be tricky to drive your spouse’s vehicle if you have kids’ carseats in yours, or if you don’t know how to drive a stick-shift vehicle. But don’t just let it sit there! Ask a friend to start up the manual for you. Drive around the block when the kids are asleep. Lend the vehicle to a friend or a visiting family member so it can get regular use. At least move it into different parking positions now and then. This will save you some time and money at the end of deployment, when you have many more important things to do than replace dead batteries!
The Deployment Masterclass will give you the tools you need to prepare for deployment and navigate through it with confidence.