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

How long can a car sit covered in snow and unstarted?

My 87 year old mother recently moved into a facility where her car sits out with no shelter here in northern Indiana. This is worrying the daylights out of her. She wants to go out, brush it off and drive it around the parking lot frequently. So my questions are: Is it better to leave it covered in snow or brush it off? AND how long can it sit unstarted? When it is started up how long should it run? I’m thinking starting it up and not letting it run for long will just kill the battery sooner. (It’s a 10-year old BMW but I don’t know the model.) We’re afraid she’ll break a hip taking care of her car and that will be worse than the ruined finish or dead battery that’s she’s risking.

I think you’re right. The only thing that might happen if she leaves it alone is the battery will need to be recharged. She’s actually doing more harm than good with short drives around the lot, not so much for the battery, rather, she’s not really warming it up, so water and gas are getting added to the oil, making it less able to lubricate the engine. While I might be concerned about stale gas in the gas tank in a warm climate, I bet that gas doesn’t age much when temps are low. Any way to establish a date when she needs the car, then go over, jump it, and take it out for a nice long drive?

The car will do fine under the snow…Just disconnect the battery until spring. A sound battery will be OK for 3 months in a cold climate. Heat is what kills batteries, not cold…At this point, maintaining a car is foolish…A Taxi makes much more sense…

It might be time to discuss selling or relocating the car. At 87, she is probably too old to drive. That may not be so, but it likely is. If she is not willing to sell, maybe you or one of your siblings could take care of it over the winter. You could drive it to your place, park it in a safe location, and drive it once in a while.

Snow won’t hurt the car or its finish. Snow is, after all, just water.

Starting the engine and driving the car around the parking lot is a BAD idea, and will do more harm than good.

The only reason to start the engine is to drive the car somewhere, and if it’s started it should be driven at least 15-20 minutes in order to fully warm up not just the engine but the transmission and drive train.

You are correct: Starting the engine once every few days, and not driving the car, would be very hard on the battery.

I suggest driving the car once every three to four weeks, on the highway if possible, to keep everything working. Assuming the battery is in good condition that’s all you should need to do.

Probably till Spring? It remindes me of a submarine movie I just watched, the question was “how deep will this sub go”? and the response was “She will go all the way to the bottom if we let her”

Isn’t this why everyone has a “pole barn” out there in the Mid-West?

More to the point - $80 battery vs. life-threatening fall. Easy choice, pull the battery.

I agree with the others, it’s better to leave it sit than start it and drive it around the parking lot. Anything less than a 20 or 30 minute drive on the roads is not enough to warm everything up to full operating temps.

And, just to top it off, it is better to leave the snow on it. The snow will act as an insulating blanket of sorts and keep the car closer to 32 degrees F rather than the 10 or 0 or minus whatever the air temperatures probably get to in her area.

Does she actually drive it in winter? If so, how often and how far?

As for leaving it covered in snow, that could be a problem if it freezes and thaws a few times and turns into a hard shell covering the car. That would probably happen where I live, although I don’t know the exact weather you’re discussing here. Could you turn up a nearby teenager (maybe from a church youth group) who would stop over to brush it off after it snows for a few dollars each time?

If the snow’s really bugging her, you could get a car cover for it.

I have a similar question …I have a 2000 Grandam before it was garage kept but now it is parked in my driveway with a car cover on it (its a good quality from …) .It is really cold now in our area …so I have been searching to see how much I should start my vehicle ( it is now a second car for me ) so its not used as much as it was before …I am wondering if i am ok to start it up and run it every 2 wks …Like i said It is running about 20 degrees every day here so I dont want the battery or anything to go wrong with my vehicle —Thanks for the info …

I agree with the others about the snow, Now my mom gave up driving at 89, not saying it should have been sooner. If it is a facility that provides transportation for grocery stores and doctors etc. encourage her to use those, and wean her off the car. I do not know when or if, but my mom realized I Am no longer capable of driving a car, so it was donated to NPR last year. Let the snow go, If you can do a battery maintainer great, but for the few trips a week she might need, repair, expense, maintenance and risk could well justfy getting rid of the car and using Uber, My wife hates cabs and loves uber, try a don’t brush the snow do an uber or lyft or whatever.


1 Like

LOL, I think we’ve all been struggling with the “long-dead thread” issue since the forum software was changed. No harm done.

Either pull the battery or get a trickle charger to keep the battery up, Important as various car electronics can pull power and run a battery dead. This can occur anytime within 7-14 days depending on make and model. BMW has one and after selling my last Beemer I now use it on my Porsche Cayenne and Honda Sedan so I don’t think where you get the charger from makes a difference. Make sure it matches car voltage 6 or 12 volt.

Levacovy, tthe thread is almost eight years old. I suspect the OP has long ago solved the problem. :yum:

8 year old thread and it has been decades since cars had 6 volt systems. Why is it so hard to see the dates?

I was just going to suggest putting a car cover on it but then saw it was 8 years old. I did that with my dad’s car and pulled the battery and that satisfied him that it was ok.