How can one alleviate bad effects of frequent short trips?

Hello, all,

My mother uses her car to do frequent short trips. She lives in a suburban area, where everything is too far away for walking, and there’s no public transportation, but to drive there takes less than 10 minutes. So, typically she will do 2-4 such short trips every day during a week, and maybe do one longer trip (15-20 minutes) once a week. The famed scenario well known for quickly ruining one’s car. Is there anything that can be done to alleviate the bad effects of the frequent short trips? For instance, will it help if every time she starts her car 10-15 minutes before she actually starts driving? Or if she drives around the neighborhood for 15 minutes 3 times a week?


Don’t do the early start, what might help would be a once a week half-hour drive on the freeway to warm it up thouroughly. That plus frequent oil changes (3k miles) is what I would do.

“will it help if every time she starts her car 10-15 minutes before she actually starts driving? Or if she drives around the neighborhood for 15 minutes 3 times a week?”

Negative on both counts.
Extended idling is not a solution to short-trip driving, nor is a 15 minute slow drive.
This car needs the following:

At least once every two weeks, the car needs to be taken out on the highway for a high-speed run of at least 40 minutes, in order to fully evaporate the water vapor that is currently diluting her motor oil and is also sitting in the muffler, rotting out the exhaust system from within. If Mom is not able to do this, then this should be your job.

The car needs to be serviced according to the Severe Service maintenance schedule that is contained in the Owner’s Manual, in the maintenance section. This means doing the servicing on the basis of elapsed time. For instance, this will likely mean changing the oil at least every 6 months, even if she only accumulated a few hundred miles in those 6 months. The car is being subjected to the worst type of usage that is possible, so it must be serviced accordingly if it is to last and to run reliably.

Simply follow the “severe service” schedule in the owner’s manual.

The problems that occur in carburated cars that experience only short trips no longer exist with modern cars. They were;

  1. the engine would constantly run very rich, and develop carbon buildup in the cylinders and on the valves. Engines today are so well metered that this is not longer a concern.

  2. exhaust systems would rot out, because condensation would develop in the pipes and the muffler and the exhaust would not get up hot enough to dry the moisture out (carry it out the tailpipe). Frankly, most cars today have stainless steel exhausts. It isn;t as big an issue.

  3. batterys can drain, because short trips don;t always recharge them sufficiently after starting. But your mom’s driving seems sufficient to keep the battery charged.

I think your mom is fine as long as the maintenance is kept up. And I’d recommend that even if she drive 1000 miles a week.

With that type of driving, a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt would be PERFECT…She could be the first one on her block…

Her short-trip driving habits will not ruin the car. The muffler may rust out sooner than one would expect, but mufflers can easily be replaced.

Advise her to get oil changes at shorter intervals. That’s about all. The high-speed runs, done solely to counter short trips, are unnecessary.

Ditto texases and vdcdriver.
The longish drives are needed to remove deposits from the engine and plugs and remove
water from the exhaust and oil (w/o waiting 6 mo)

Take mom and her car for a trip every couple of months that involve about 1-2 hours of driving on the expressway. Go to some vineyards, museums, a trip to a lake or mountains.

If you use her car for such a trip it will help evaporate moisture from the oil, and the exhaust systems. It will also put a nice full charge on her battery.

Just drive on.

My neighbor does that but really worst with a 2000 Honda minivan. It works perfectly fine with the 60k miles on it. Her husband changes the engine oil every 4 months.

My in-laws did the same thing. Good advice from all posters; I would also install a block heater if she lives in a cold area. Just plug it in 1 hour before leaving and the engine will be warm already.

The fast highway trip once a week is the best way to clear the cobwebs and drive off that condensation. Also change oil more frequently.

I would get a small (under 5 amps) automatic battery charger (eg. Battery Tender) and charge the battery overnight every 2 months.

I would suggest she let her car run for a while after she gets home and the car is completely warm. This might keep the battery charged in cold weather. By then, the car is up to heat and the additional running may be of some minimal benefit. The most importan thing mom can do is to consolidate all of her trips at once so the car is kept warm during the entire event. Unfortunately, as with my parents, when you get older, getting out several times during the day is really good mental health activity rather then staying couped up. If this is the choice, I say to heck with the car and pay ing for repair is cheaper then paying for physical ailments associated with inactivity.