Car has not been driven for years

A friend has offered to give me a 2001 Honda sedan with very low mileage. The issue is that it has been sitting in a garage(in Las Vegas, NV), unused for 2-3 years. What are the potential problems/ maintenance costs to get this car running again?

Maggie, congradulations for getting a basically good car from a dry state (little rust) for nothing!

We have had a number of posts like this, and you need to do some preparation work done to safely reactivate this vehicle. I’m sure others will fill in, but here is a brief starter list:

  1. Check if the battery is still good; if it ran down and froze, it will defintely need replacing.

  2. Drain as much of the gas out of the tank as you can and then top up with premium

  3. If the car does not turn over with a fresh battery, take out the spark plugs and squirt some engine oil in the spark plug holes, then turn the engine over manually to free it up. I assume a mechanic or techhi friend will do this for you.

  4. Check all the belts for cracks, and the hoses as well to make sure there are no leaks.

  5. Check all fluid levels such as oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant, transmision fluid (engine running at idle speed with car in neutral and handbrake on).

  6. Once you get it going, it’s time to check what required maintenance has been done so far. You did not state the mileage, but most Hondas require timing belt (inside the engine) changes at certain mileage or age. Your car will need a new timing belt change, if so equipped, if not done already, based on its age. Not doing this can cause very serious and expensive engine damage should it break.

  7. The engine coolant should also be changed if this has not been done already. If neither timing belt or engine coolant has not been changed yet, you should do both and replace the water pump as well, since it is driven by the timing belt.

  8. Engine oil and filter should be changed as well.

If all this sounds overwhelming, we recommend this so that you will be able to enjoy driving this car for the rest of its normal design life, which is very long. My brother has a 1987 Honda Accord with 0ver 300,000 miles on it and still running great!

I would budget about $1000 total to get the car in like new condition mechanically. You don’t need to do all this in one week, but an oil and filter change, and checking the cooling system and transmission fluid is IMMEDIATELY necessary.

Good luck and please let us know how you made out.

Very informative post from Docnick.

Let me add: inflate the tires to recommended pressure (check thew drivers door jam) Probably 32 lbs).

When inflated, check for cracks in the sidewalls and between the treads. If cracks you’ll have to replace them.

Wiring harnesses MAY have been visited by rodents so check to ensure everything electrical works as designed.

Remove the engine air filter and cabin air filter (in or behind glove box) and check for squatters in the ductwork.

If equipped with A/C, the seals MAY have dried up.

And the list goes on…

Docnick & Roadrunner gave you the Full Monty, but for starters, check all the fluids including the brakes, remove and replace the gas for sure, and try to start it. You will undoubtedly have to jump-start it with another vehicle or battery. If you have a battery charger, you can try charging the battery but if it’s the original battery I would just replace it. Be careful to observe the correct polarity when servicing or replacing batteries…

I’d recommend only one addendum to the excellent advice given so far: squirt a bit of oil into each of the cylinders and rotate the engine by hand a couple times BEFORE attempting to start it. This will reduce/eliminate any excess wear caused by unlubricated cylinders.

It couldn’t hurt.

I would charge that battery or borrow one to try it out. Sniff the gas and if it did not smell too bad, I would check the oil and try starting it up. If the owner does not want you to do that befor buying … I would move on.

Joseph; she’s getting the car for nothing. Still worth puting some money in to get it up to scratch.