CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

(Another) car sitting for six months

My son is helping elderly neighbors who have not driven their car since August. (Make, year, mileage unknown.) Not surprising that the battery is dead. His concern is about the quality of the gasoline in the tank. Google has given him many sources that suggest the car NOT be started because of potential damage from running it on bad gas. Rather, drain the gas (which will mean towing it to a shop).

He turned to me for advice, but this is beyond my ken. What do you experts recommend? He’s in the DC suburbs – temperatures not too extreme.

Pull the g@s cap and smell the gasoline. If it smells like gas, they are probably OK.

4 Likes

The gas is 6 months old… old for modern gas, but not so old as to harm anything. As @jtsanders says… give it a sniff, but I think it is OK.

…and go top it off immediately with good gas when you get it running.

1 Like

Ah, I told him we’d get fast, good advice here.*

And he will add Stabil (or something like it) after he adds the new gas.

My question: What damage might be done by trying to run on old gas?

(The asterisk, above – This site has just violated the Car Repair Law: “Good, fast, cheap. Pick any two.”)

Thanks, people.

1 Like

I have 4 registered vehicles, it is common for some of them to be parked for 6 months with a car cover on them. I recharge the battery and clean the windows before driving them, no special actions taken. It sometimes takes a year to use up the gasoline in my truck.

1 Like

Just to add to what others said, charge the battery, smell the gas, and start 'er up.

My seldom used car got 7 miles in the last year of its life. It would sit in the garage doing nothing and I’d start it up about once a month. I couldn’t use enough gas to get any more in for at least two years. It was never a problem. The fuel pump was a problem, but not bad gas. Six months is nothing.

1 Like

art1966:
Think of how long cars sit on new and used car lots before being sold. Those dealers don’t drain and refresh the gas every few months.

Six months should cause you no problems.

6 Likes

There are cars sitting in storage that maybe have a battery tender hooked up but otherwise are left alone for 6mo or more. My dad does buy stabilizer in bulk for the boat but that’s 120 gallons that we’ll take a year or more to use on average.

I really do not think that this is a good idea. maybe you should change the gas inside the tank before starting the car

People who summered in Maine or othe places in the Far North in places they owned used to leave a car there to use for only 2 months a year.

1 Like

I would sell the car because it seems like they don’t really need one.They will save on car insurance ,maintenance,etc,etc by doing so. What is the purpose of keeping a car if you don’t use it unless its a classic you want to keep.

I’ve gone 1½ years at a stretch without driving my car. I push-started it and had no problem. Annually I add a bottle of gas line cleaner to dissolve varnish, a bottle of Iso-Heet to scavenge moisture. 6 months is nothing. Selling is probably a good idea, what with all the car-share services.

With respect to differing opinion, since none of us know WHY the OP’s elderly neighbors haven’t driven their car since August it is presumptious, literally, to presume and advise that the car owners sell their car.

We don’t know their physical and mental fitness for driving nor just how old they are. Not everyone’s opinion of “elderly” is the same.

Consider that many people are staying isolated until they get the Covid vaccine and feel safe going into public again. Since in many cities people can get everything they need delivered – food, medications, etc. – the car owners may simply be staying home for now and will resume using their car when they are safe to do so.

And if their reason for not driving in six months is otherwise, which is equally possible, simply being elderly and driving rarely is not necessarily reason to sell off one’s independent transportation.

6 Likes

I suspect that the couple has just been paroled and will soon need a get away car for their next caper.

Or perhaps to conclude that they no longer need a car may be out of line.

1 Like

Frankly, after not having driven for 6 months, I’d be more concerned about the elderly neighbors competence at resuming driving again.

What gas line cleaner do you use, @RandomTroll? Cleaning my snow thrower carb is a PITA.

Speaking of dead batteries, I went to AutoZone this past week for a battery test. The good news is that the battery tested “good”, despite doing less driving than I used to. The young dude who tested the battery for me was amiable, but I really hope that other customers ignore his advice.

He told me to “start the engine every day, and then drive it for 10 minutes in order to keep the battery charged”. :roll_eyes:

I only drive the car two or three times each week, but I make sure that I drive it for at least 20 minutes after each engine start. Today, I am going to take it out on the interstate for ~40 minutes, for the good of the oil, the exhaust system, and the battery.

More important than the gas, the MidAtlantic with its moderate climate is a great area for growing mold and a car stored outside is like a mold greenhouse. Gray mold on the seats, carpet, headliner & hard plastic, black spots on the vinyl and all incredibly difficult to remove w/o destroying the material.

Need to run/idle the car once a month for about half an hour to warm it up and air it out (A/C & Heat) and then you won’t have to worry about the gas.

2 Likes

No fooling. We get our house power washed every 5 years or so to remove the mold. The NE side and the back (NW) get moldy, while the brick front (SE) and SW side stay clear.