Low Mileage Question


I’m a 60-something widow.I drive my 2003 Mazda Tribute very little - less than 1,000 miles a year, and then, seldom more than 5 miles from home at low speeds. Men keep telling me I need to take my car out and “open it up” every so often. Why would this be true? What’s the problem if I don’t? And how fast should I “open it up,” for how long, how often? Sounds like a “man thing” to me!

How about a professional opinion? Thanks


Well, the real problem is that you do not heat up the oil to operating temperature to burn off condensation etc. This leads to a quicker contamination of the oil which is also bad for the engine in terms of building up sludge etc. Usually a trip of 10 + miles is needed to really heat the oil up and burn off the contaminants. Now, if you live in Maine and do so in cold winters this is really bad for the engine. If the case very frequent oil changes are the answer. Whey not just take a longer trip once a week or so to get that engine up to operating temp


You don’t need to “open it up,” but you should take it for a 30 minute drive once a month or so, with some highway driving in the mix, if possible.

The reason is that it takes longer than a few minutes or a few miles for all of the mechanical components to reach normal operating temperature, and never allowing them to “warm up” is not good for the vehicle.


Also, change the oil once a year, regardless of the mileage.


To tell you the truth, you should sell the car and take a taxi if need be.

1K miles or less per year isn’t worth the insurance alone.

Vehicles need to be driven at least a few miles at varying speeds (at minimum twice per month) to lubricate rubber seals, gaskets, wheel bearings, internal engine components, etc.

The moisture left in the engine and exhaust system causes rust and consequentially, damage.
This is the reason to run (drive) the car for a period of time at operating temperature.

Moisture can also form in the fuel tank if not left full.

Tires become cracked from excessive sitting and eventually will rot.
Rubber needs to be used (eg. flexed) in order to stay pliable.

The battery will slowly lose its charge and wiring can deteriorate (especially if rodents start feasting on them).

Electrical connections rust up causing incomplete circuits.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.


“To tell you the truth, you should sell the car and take a taxi if need be.”

Sound advise. Those 1000 miles a year are costing you a LOT of money…


Don’t fret or worry. Your car is there to serve and you not to serve it.

Your driving type is harder on the vehicle but it really does not matter since so few miles are placed so it will serve you for years if driven in this state.

Lsat note, take note of the severe service oil change interval by time in your owners manual.


I once believed it to be true. If you go somewhere once a month that’s fifteen or twenty miles away, it’s probably good for the person too. More miles really won’t hurt you or the car. Maybe you can double it to 2,000 miles a year. It helps to keep your gasoline from forming varnish deposits in the fuel system too. Although you are supposed to be alright if the gasoline doesn’t sit for six months, I say “drive more” and then stop listening to what “men say”. It’s our nature to disagree with what women do. Isn’t it? If we were pleased, we wouldn’t show it anyway.


I’m going to respectfully disagree with those who think you should sell the Mazda and take a taxi. I live in a city of over 70,000 and we have had periods of time where we haven’t had cab service. If you have the resources to afford the car and you find it a convenience, by all means keep it.

Change the oil every year, and, take it out for a little exercise now and then. An automobile is a possession to be used. It gives you mobility and convenience. Maintain it, but don’t become a slave to it. I’m in my mid 60’s and my wife and I buy the things we enjoy.


I pretty much agree with the others. The best thing you can do is take it out and drive it for 30 minutes or so to get it fully warmed up and burn the moisture out. My wife drives about a mile or two then it sits all day and that allows moisture to sit in the tail pipe and muffler. Depending on the car, I’ve had to replace mufflers about every two years because they always rot out.



You do NOT need to worry about driving to lubricate seals, gaskets, wheel bearings, internal engine components and to keep tires from cracking. Stop a car, park it indoors and deterioration stops. That is my experience with stored cars. It would be good to run your air conditioner a little every time you run your car or at least once per month for the benefit of the compressor shaft seal.

As others have mentioned, change your oil according to the severe service requirement in your owner’s manual. I’d consider doing it every 6 months.

Make it a practice to run the car for at least a half hour or 10 miles minimum to warm and dry the exhaust system to minimize corrrosion if you are going to start the car at all. This will also warm the oil to burn off moisture that may have accumulated.

Moisture in fhe fuel should not be a problem as modern fuel systems are sealed but you can give it an occasional inexpensive can of Heet or equivalent to mop up any moisture in the fuel. If you live in an area where alcohol gas is all that you can buy then forget the Heet; no need for it.


I’d like to thank of you very much.It’s difficult when your husband took care of everything - worked for Goodyear for 33 years.I DO have the PA required year inspection + new oil,lube,filters as my brother told me to do.Will also do oil every six months AND take my car for a 15-20 minute ride at about 50mpg.Will that will do???
Now I just have to learn some plumbing & electrical repair."FATCHANCE"I live just outside a fairly small town so need my car. Used Taxis to doctors for a month when sick
and VERY expensive. My insurance is quite cheap. Again, thank you all very,very much.


My thoughts exactly. It may be hard for urbanites to believe, but there are some places that don’t have taxi service at all.


I just answerd my own post expressing my thanks,but for some reason it listed my post by "anonymous."And I don’t see any way on this one to say otherwize.
But it’s me, "sweetwilly."Honest.


15 minutes at 50 mph should be adequate to warm the exhaust and engine if oil is changed every 6 months. I go by 10 miles or 1/2 hour of driving; whichever comes first. I have a 11 year old and a 19 year old car; both with the original exhaust.


Actually, modern compressors do not need to be operated once a month. It’s common for compressors to stay in storage for many months at least in HVAC supply stores, especially during winter when demand is low.

Make a very simple trickle charger to keep the battery charged. Get a cheap 15v, 500mA (or higher) regulated power supply, two 1A rectifier diodes (1N4001 or equivalent), and a cigarette lighter plug. Connect the rectifier diodes in series with the power supply and then to the cigarette lighter plug. Verify proper wiring with a voltmeter and plug it in. The two diodes drop voltage to about 13.7v (about ideal float voltage) and prevent backflow.
You can also use a larger 15v power supply and only one rectifier diode along with a timer to charge to about 14.4v for about an hour every 24 hours.


more suggestions:

  1. take “the scenic route” on some of your short drives. get to enjoy driving just for the sake of driving, rather than merely to get from pt. A to pt. B.

  2. alternatively, DO NOT USE overdrive (or even 4th gear) on your short trips. this will get your engine warmed up quicker, and you wouldn’t HAVE TO put on so many miles.

  3. monitor your temperature gauge. once up to operating temperature, 10 minutes of further operation should suffice. (it may still take 5 minutes to get TO normal op temp. or just 2-3. depends on ambient temperature.)

i myself am the sole driver of 3 vehicles. so one of 'em gets very little mileage put on too.


Thanks again. Sorry to have to ask this, but I don’t know what “overdrive” is, nor what is the “operating temperature.” Is there a not too technical explanation?


The not too technical explanation is to forget “overdrives” and “operating temp.” You car may not have a guage for temperature, and it may not be going into overdrive (that’s a gear change thing). Just put it into “D” on the shifter and drive normally for 15 or 20 minutes and you will have warmed the engine up enough. Changing the oil once or twice a year will be all you need.

By the way, the people saying you need to “open it up” are passing on old, out of date, ideas. Back when cars had carburetors making short trips at low speeds tended to build up carbon and other gunk around the valves and in the cylinders. Running it at high speed helped burn some of that off. Now, with modern fuel injection there isn’t really a problem with carbon buildup like there used to be.


My recommendation is to drive the car as you have been and enjoy it. The Mazda Tribute is a good vehicle. Do the oil change and let a trusted mechanic check it out once a year. Maybe you’ll find more places you would like to go. It would be great if next year you come back with a question that you have put 50,000 miles on the car and is there anything you should do.

As for your plumbing and electrical work, Readers’ Digest publishes the “Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual”. Even if you don’t want to tackle a job yourself, it provides a good understanding of how these systems work, so that you can impress your friends and even the trades personnel. It never ceases to amaze me how little people under 40 know. They need us folks in our 60’s (and older) to keep them in line.