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  1. #1
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    Will my car battery die from not driving!?

    I've been bike commuting so often now that I drive my car like once a week, and less than 15 miles total in stop & go traffic if I do drive. I'm totally loving the bike commute - getting better in navigating traffic, choosing the best roads to ride, and getting stronger.

    Now I'm wondering if my dang car battery will die if I don't "charge" it by driving it! Who would have ever though! (Why are cars SO much maintenance....!!) Anyone out there ever ride so much that they tried starting their car and found the battery weak or out?

  2. #2
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    The battery will die, but not after a week. More likely a few months. You can either start the car and run it about 10 minutes once a week or get a float charger.
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    Disgruntled grad student beingtxstate's Avatar
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    Two things:

    -You can prevent the car from having problems by just starting it and running the car in park for 30 seconds once a week. Since you say you are driving once a week or so, then don't worry.

    -The best thing to do if you plan on not driving for a month or more is to dissconnect the negative battery cable and tuck it away such that it can't accidentally touch the batt. post. Buy a can of fuel stabilizer ($7 at autozone) and put it in your tank. This should fix the car right up, and all you'll have to do is hook the batt. back up and check tire pressure.

    I would actually recommend the first method though...much easier on the car.
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  4. #4
    Super Moderator Allen's Avatar
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    It usually takes several months for a car battery, sitting idol, to die. And if it does it can be forever dead. 15 miles a week should keep it alive. One option is to buy a trickle charger, they come in plug-in (less expensive) and solar (more $ but can be had for under $50) verities. Google "car trickle charger" and you will find pages and pages of them for sale. They are commonly used by boaters.

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  5. #5
    Sensible shoes. CastIron's Avatar
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    The battery is the least of your worries. If you own a motor vehicle, you need to maintain it. Every two or three weeks take it out and drive it at highway speed for about half an hour, top off the fuel and then garage it. This not only charges the battery, but get s all the fluids moving and lubricating all the seals. For the battery, you can get a simple battery tender. If you aren't driving much at all then you might wish to do a cost analysis of cabs/rentals VS. owning.
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  6. #6
    Rat Bastard mcoomer's Avatar
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    I would recommend against simply starting the car and allowing it to idle for a short period of time. Your car engine needs to reach a good operating temperature to allow it to fully burn fuel and clean itself. Repeatedly starting your car and running it for short periods of time without allowing it to come up to temp can result in plugged injectors and fouled spark plugs.

    I think CastIron hit the head on the nail in the previous post. Take the car out of the garage every now and again and drive it. Do this. Go to Starbucks (or whatever floats your boat), order a coffee, and drive until you've finished the drink. When the drink is gone turn around and drive home. You've had a nice relaxing drive with a beverage and your car is "maintained" and ready to go back in storage for awhile.
    It's better to burn out than fade away...or slip out of your pedal and face plant on the side of the road!!!

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    Thanks. Dang cars! That's what I get for getting in shape...

  8. #8
    domestique squeakywheel's Avatar
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    Didn't they used to advertise a car battery by parking it on a frozen north woods lake for the whole winter and then come back months later and start the car?

    If you really don't ever use it, just sell it. You can rent a car for the one weekend a year you want to drive one. Is it really worth paying insurance on something that just sits there?

    Just one data point. I parked my car in a rented space for 2 years 3 months while I was living over seas. When I returned, I just started it and drove home. I was worried about lots of things, but didn't have any trouble. Just got lucky I think.

  9. #9
    Cube-farm Boy dustinvallier's Avatar
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    Don't forget to change the oil every 3-4 months. I know that sounds excessive, given you won't be going anywhere close to the 3,000 mile mark, but my mechanic explained to me in painful detail (That'll be $275, please) how the oil continues to break down even if the car is just sitting.

    I had a seldom-used pickup that got a flattened rod because I didn't change the oil for a year or more. I only put about 100 miles on it, so...

    Cars keep the meter running even when they're parked. At least a bike can wait for you.

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    Will my car battery die from not being driven? One can only hope!!

    As others have said disconnect the negative terminal of the battery if you are concerned. You can even remove the battery and lock it up somewhere it won't get too hot or cold, this makes the battery last longer and makes your car a PITA to steal.

  11. #11
    meep! legot73's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CastIron
    The battery is the least of your worries. If you own a motor vehicle, you need to maintain it. Every two or three weeks take it out and drive it at highway speed for about half an hour, top off the fuel and then garage it. This not only charges the battery, but get s all the fluids moving and lubricating all the seals. For the battery, you can get a simple battery tender. If you aren't driving much at all then you might wish to do a cost analysis of cabs/rentals VS. owning.
    +1

    The battery can be damaged by letting it discharge too far, especially in cold temps, but there are lots of other things to worry about:

    • Oil that breaks down builds acid, which etch bearings and other critical engine parts
    • Rubber hoses (i.e. radiator) that normally have fluid running through them weaken and begin to dry rot
    • Corrosion on brake rotors (disk brakes) ususally gets removed from braking, but can build up and pit your rotors, causing unsafe braking.
    • etc.


    Cars are designed to be run, so I vote for the 30 minutes on the highway once in a while. I have a VW camper van that is by no means a daily driver, but need to keep it moving to prevent these issues, most of which I've learned the hard way over time.
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  12. #12
    SeŮior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    30 seconds of run will NOT keep it alive - that won't even replace the juice it took to start it.

    It's not good for lead acid batteries to sit idle for that long, they get sulfur ion poisoning. Float charging will stop that. I bought a solar battery charging panel from harbor Freight for $10 on sale ($15 normally) and it takes care of that. It puts out about 120mA @ 20v during daylight which is plenty to keep the battery topped and healthy.

    Your biggest worry should be water in the crankcase. If you start and then shut down again, you're going to be introducing water to the engine and the exhaust system both from condensation and from combustion by-products. Normally these get burned off when the engine gets hot enough for long enough. You should run it for 30 minutes or so occasionally. If the car just sits there it's OK for a fairly long period, maybe a month at a time. But if you start it up for 5-10 minutes once a day, I'd do the 30 minute thing once a week.
    Personally I just idle the car for 30 minutes if it hasn't been driven long lately, but I'm driving often enough (taking the kids here and there 2-3 times a week) that the brakes and drivetrain are keeping in shape. If it was just sitting, just idling wouldn't be enough, you need to take it out on the road.
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  13. #13
    SeŮior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bike2math
    As others have said disconnect the negative terminal of the battery if you are concerned.
    That won't solve the problem. The battery will self-discharge over time, and a lead-acid battery that has self-discharged forms sulfur ions on the plates, which leads to reduced capacity, and eventually it'll destroy the battery.

    Lead-acid batteries really need to be kept charged. A few days idle at a time won't hurt anything, but leaving them to discharge for weeks at a time on a regular basis with only short charging spurts is going to destroy the battery. You want something that will continually charge them at a low rate. As I recommended above, get a cheap solar charger, they're < $20 and your problems are all solved.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  14. #14
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Yes by all means drive it. It needs to be driven for all the above reasons. The disc rotors can start to rust in a few days. You do need to drive it until it reaches operating temperatrure. I don't think any one mentioned condensation in the exhaust pipes yet. If you don't warm it up enough you will not dry out the pipes and they will rust faster too.

    If you have air conditioning run that too, even in the winter, it helps the seals.

    It is possible that you could leave it for months or longer but if you want to keep the car a long time, running it helps.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member ollo_ollo's Avatar
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    Trickle charger coupled with an oil change at least every 6 months. I do this for one of the family cars that is only used for trips to & from Salem, OR & my Mitsubishi tractor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
    That won't solve the problem. The battery will self-discharge over time, and a lead-acid battery that has self-discharged forms sulfur ions on the plates, which leads to reduced capacity, and eventually it'll destroy the battery.
    Okay Okay, Here is your LONG TERM solution, take out the battery and sell it. When you need to drive the car again buy a new battery at Autozone on your way home from work by bike someday.

    I hate how finicky my car is about maintence. Lately it's not just the car, our garage door has been causing me endless repair hassles. My bike also needs endless maintenance (but with no computer chip I can do it all myself). But if I decided to stop using it today and hung it in the garage, I could take it down a year from now and just ride it. bikes rule and cars drool.

  17. #17
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    I think you need to run the a/c at least a couple times a year too to circulate the coolant.

  18. #18
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CastIron
    The battery is the least of your worries. If you own a motor vehicle, you need to maintain it. Every two or three weeks take it out and drive it at highway speed for about half an hour, top off the fuel and then garage it. This not only charges the battery, but get s all the fluids moving and lubricating all the seals. For the battery, you can get a simple battery tender. If you aren't driving much at all then you might wish to do a cost analysis of cabs/rentals VS. owning.
    THIS is the only correct advice on how to go "car-lite".

    As a retired diesel engineer I can tell you it's best to "use it or lose it" when it comes to cars as they
    are NOT designed for long periods of inactivity without proper storage. Failure to follow this advice
    can cost you $$$$$$ in the end to repair improper storage damage.

    So ride your bike as you wish but take that car out at least once a month for a long run (and don't
    for get to change the oil at least twice a year NO MATTER HOW MANY MILES ARE ON THE OIL)

    Oh yes, ALL new cars have a low amp draw on the battery for the computer & clock etc. so NO
    car is ever "completely shut off" which means that your battery WILL eventually go dead from the
    "phantom" draw.
    Last edited by Nightshade; 08-30-06 at 11:31 AM.
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  19. #19
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agarose2000
    Will my car battery die from not driving!?
    Sounds like a worthy goal--see if you can achieve it!
    No worries

  20. #20
    Got Bent? themickeyd's Avatar
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    I have this problem with my motorcycle, it has a much smaller battery than a car and the memory from the 2 stereos can drain it in a couple of weeks (And, no, I don't have a car). To keep get it going when I need it I keep it plugged in with a battery tender. Never been a problem with a dead battery since.
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  21. #21
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    Don't know about the battery but I've got some decent sized depressions in my driveway from the truck sitting in the same spot.
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    I commuted to Manhattan by train for ten years, which resulted in a similar automobile situation to what youíve described. It was not uncommon for my car to go unused for three weeks at a time. I never had a problem with the battery but as one of the previous posters has mentioned, brake rotors do not like sitting unused for any length of time, especially if it was raining or snowing, the last time you used the car. A couple of different mechanics suggested (as noted by others) that I drive the car at least once a week whether I needed to or not. While I didnít necessarily do so, I think the suggestion of changing the oil every three months when 3000 miles hasnít been attained is a good one. During the ten years, I only had two different cars (the first for seven years and the second for the final three) and rusting brake rotors was the only problem that I would attribute to lack of use.

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  23. #23
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    When I started commuting every day, my battery died. Over the next 6 months, my starter died, my clutch stopped working well (would resume working well if I drove it for a few consecutive days), and my A/C died.

    I resented paying $600 a year for insurance on a car that I never needed to drive. These additional costs made me decide to sell it. That car worked fine when I drove it daily. As soon as it sat idle, it imploded. That may be coincidence, but it sure was irritating.

  24. #24
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    On of my cars has a blinking light on the computer under the dash that always blinks. It'd drain the battery after a little over a month.

    It'll take much longer than 30 sec. to recharge the battery fully(healthier; it making it last longer).

    Just disconnect when your finished & reconnect when you want to use it.

  25. #25
    Senior Membre doraemonkey's Avatar
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    Hah, that's funny. It happened to me last spring. Since I am bike commuting, I leave my car in a barn just out of town. I didn't use it for six weeks, and of course the battery was totally dead. It took a couple of hours of charging before I could start it.

    Of course modern cars have blinky lights on the inside to say, "I have security" and sensors for the remote key, memory for the radio...etc... so they do trickle down.

    So basically when I go on a weekend road trip with friends, I always offer to go fetch the car. And with the price of gas here (more than $6 a gal) they are usally pleased.

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