What to do for car that doesn't get used regularly?

I ride my bike to/from work each day, but occasionally I have a need to use my car to visit clients, go to meetings, pick up a sick kid from school, etc. So for the past several years I’ve just kept my car (1997 Saturn SC1) parked near my office downtown. Recently, however, my job has entailed fewer off-site client visits/meetings so my car is needed even less often.

The problem is that lately I guess the car has been sitting there long enough that the battery loses all its charge and by the time I need to use my car, it’s dead. I currently am planning to give it a long trickle charge to bring it back up to full charge now that it is very dead, but is there anything I can do on an ongoing basis or have available in a pinch so I can drive my car when needed?..(besides jumper cables and a very good/patient friend?) I probably only need it once every two weeks or so, and the drive times are typically not very long either, so it doesn’t get a good chance to charge from the alternator. By the way, the battery is practically brand new. It’s probably only seen a couple hours of combined drive time at most.

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. Also, any other input on what I should do to keep the car consistently driveable in a pinch would be much appreciated. I have already (after learning the hard way) begun treating my tanks of gas with stabilizer…anything else I should do?


Well the battery is the main issue… oil over long term and tire pressure. My better half’s saturn is a nice drive… So go for a drive and enjoy the flora with family and keep it charged up.

It takes about 8 hours of driving or charging to thoroughly fill a run-down lead-acid battery.
Get a small (~5 amps) automatic battery charger, Battery Tender or similar.
Charge overnight every 2 months.

Sorry, Drive It Or Get Rid Of It.
It Was Designed To Be Driven, Not To Be Used As An Over-Sized Paper Weight.

Buy a new battery. Get the most powerful (most reserve capacity, highest cranking amps, longest warrany) one that will fit. I know your’s is almost new, but running it down and jumping it to start the car has probably ruined it already. That’s no way to take care of a battery.

Have the charging system checked after the battery is installed. Many (most) national chain auto parts stores will do this free of charge. If it’s weak, fix it. It’s even possible you’ve got a parasitic drain on the battery caused by a problem that will have to be located and fixed, but the auto parts store can’t tell you that.

Take a road trip at least once a week. Take the kids someplace nice. Let somebody borrow the thing and drive it. Drive it enough to heat it up to operating temperature and then drive some more.

Don’t let gas get old in the tank or you’ll have big problems.
Driving the way you’re doing now will literally collect water in the engine and exhaust system and cause other problems.

With a good battery and taken on a road trip at least once every week or every couple of weeks the battery should not be going dead. Figure out a way to use it as it was designed or give it to someone who can.


What you need is a portable starter. See here for example:

Keep it in your office. Whenever you need to use your car, carry the starter out to the parking lot and use it to get going.

You need not ever worry about bringing your battery up to full charge. Even short trips will provide enough charge from the alternator to complete your errands and bring you back. Park, recharge your starter in the office and repeat this method as often as you like.

If you can keep it hooked up all the time, you want a battery tender that’ll just give it enough juice to keep it topped off and will stop giving it juice when it doesn’t need it.

Letting the battery get drained is shortening its life.

I’d consider non-ethanol gas in addition to Stabilizer.

Can you keep the car in a garage so the sun and weather don’t damage it.

If you hunt around you should be able to find a solar power charger. It will not charge a dead battery, but if should keep your battery, if in good condition to start with, charged.

You also will need to follow the suggestions concerning fuel stabilizer.

In the future you will eventually need maintenance. Some things like tyres will age even if not used. They get sun damage etc.

Good Luck

If the car gets direct sunlight, they make solar panel battery maintainers that you place on the dash and plug into the 12V power port (cigar lighter) You want at least 6 or 7 watts output…Or you could simply disconnect the negative battery cable when you are not using the car…

“You need not ever worry about bringing your battery up to full charge.”

That will lead to a short, unhappy life for a lead-acid battery.
They should be kept as full as possible.


If you have access to electricity where the car is parked here’s what I’d recommend. http://www.harborfreight.com/automatic-battery-float-charger-42292.html I use these on my motorcycle and lawn mowers during the winter to keep the batteries charged and in good working order.

I agree with Caddyman…If it’s convenient, disconnect the negative cable from the battery to keep the parasitic drain from the car to a minimum. Though batteries naturally loose their charge, a healthy battery can go months on end with little loss if it were put to bed with a full charge. Remember though, letting a starter battery that is not deep cycle discharge regularly dose shorten it’s life. Disconnecting really helps especially if kept in cool weather. Hot weather ages a battery more rapidly.


How do you get to and from the grocery store? A weekly trip to the grocery store should do the trick.

If you can’t bring yourself to use it for a weekly trip to the grocery store, I would park it at home and use one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Tender-021-0123-Junior-Charger/dp/B000CITK8S/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1318620488&sr=1-2-catcorr