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  1. #1
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    Don't let bike commuting ruin your car.

    I took my beloved ’98 Toyota Tacoma out on an errand the other day only to discover
    that there was an issue with the brakes. Due to a small leak from the piston on the
    right front caliper I was loosing brake pedal and had to “pump it up” every time I
    needed to stop the truck The repair bill ran me $200. The Caliper was less than
    two years old with about 6,000 miles on it. The cause of the failure….dis-use.
    That’s right, I killed my caliper by letting the truck sit idle for long periods of time.
    I was so proud of myself for becoming non-dependent on my truck and commuting
    back and forth to work by bike regardless of the weather. I saved $600+ in gas costs
    the first six months of the year (8.5 gallons every 10 days @ $4 / gal). Also discovered
    during this repair …my frame is rotting away at an alarmingly rapid rate. There is a
    Toyota “Buy Back” program in effect for my truck, though had I been driving it the
    rust would not have gotten so bad. The frame is not shot yet but I have greatly accelerated it’s demise by allowing it to sit idle for long periods of time. I can’t wait to see what else
    I’ve screwed up on it.

    In retrospect, I shall now take all of my vehicles out for a drive at least every other
    week, preferably every week, just for maintenance purposes. I strongly suggest
    that anyone who has recently turned to bike commuting to save gas money & improve
    your health speak to your mechanic about any potential damages your vehicle may
    incur through sitting idle for long periods.
    Don’t allow yourself to get blindsided like I did.


    NOTE: posted in 50+ forum to elicit mature responses from my peers to a real though often not thought about problem with potentially strong negative financial consequences.

  2. #2
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    Generally speaking, with regard to mechanical stuff, just abou the worst treatment you can give them is to sit idle for long periods.

    Use it or lose it.
    Better to wear out than rust out.

    Jeff, still fat

  3. #3
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I suffered the exact same failure on my Toyota Corolla .. just this week. Must replace the brake calipers. And it has gotten less use in the past year than any previous year ... with one 2 month period of non-use.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

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  4. #4
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    How long did you let it stand without use? Weeks? Months? Years? I think anything less than years is pretty much nonsense as to degrading with disuse. You can harm a battery with months of idleness, but nothing else should be much affected by weeks or even months. I let a car sit idle for nearly two years, and all it needed to get going again was a new battery and air in the tires. I'm still driving that car, nine years later, and nothing has failed.

  5. #5
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    How does disuse aggravate rust (sincere question)? I see unused or abandoned bikes chained to a post for a week or two start to rust. Yet I ride mine every day, and lock it outside 40 hours a week, and I don't take specific steps to avoid rust, and it doesn't seem to get rusty. Why?

  6. #6
    Squirrel solveg's Avatar
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    My Subaru sits idle for 6 months of the year.... I guess I'll talk to my mechanic. thanks.

  7. #7
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    The seal on the caliper piston dried out and/or the cylinder corroded as
    it sat unused. The seals and parts that work together with
    tight tolerances need to see use or they get crudded up with corrosion
    and/or rust and fail. Everything underneath the truck has extensive
    surface rust and the frame is actually peeling off layers of steel.

    Sitting idle out doors allows ground moisture to
    repeatedly accumulate on the underside of the vehicles as condensation
    and unless the vehicle gets driven occasionally it has little or no opportunity
    to evaporate. This happens on concrete and blacktop driveways as well
    as the bare ground. I should have realized this as I have always stored my
    '72 (rust free) MGB on a plastic sheet in my garage to protect it from
    collecting condensation which comes up through the concrete. My downfall
    was assuming that since the truck was actually licensed and insured that it was actually in-service....it was, I just didn't drive it, sometimes for as long as six or seven weeks at a time over a span of about a year and a half.

  8. #8
    Squirrel solveg's Avatar
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    OK... so if my subaru isn't driven for months in the early winter and 2 months in the late winter, but I park it on a plastic sheet in my garage, it should be OK?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by solveg View Post
    OK... so if my subaru isn't driven for months in the early winter and 2 months in the late winter, but I park it on a plastic sheet in my garage, it should be OK?
    It's worked for my MG. You'll notice condensation on the underside of the
    sheet when you pull your car out after storage. You should still talk with
    your mechanic prior to putting up the car. The proper car storage methods
    discusion that I hope does not start here, would fill pages and pages.

  10. #10
    chicharron
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    I know that if we don't go out and use our bodies, they will tend to rust out from non-use...

  11. #11
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    Several things...

    When I was involved in running a classic car rally, I visited a competitor who had several restored old vehicles zipped up in a plastic dome (one for each car) with nitrogen (I think, it could have been carbon dioxide) recirculating through with a small fan. This was primarily to remove oxygen and moisture from the air the cars "lived" in and thus reduced the chance of corrosion. Oxygen actually is the culprit when it comes to corrosion.

    Oil and stuff like hydraulic fluid have a habit of running downward with gravity. Over time, it will disappear from surfaces unless it has special treatments that make it cling. Grease actually is notorious for running out the oil that is impregnated in the base... as evidenced by the dirty patch around hubs with labyrinth seals like on many bicycles.

    It generally is advisable to start and and run an engine and take a vehicle for a spin to get the lube redistributed. Most of the damage on start-up will occur in the cylinders as the piston rings scrape away against a surface that has lost its oil (which has drained down into the crankcase).

    It's also the reason why a relatively young car with a high mileage (such as that attained in long-distance driving) isn't such a bad deal, because the wear is likely to be less than a vehicle started up frequently and driven short distances. Same with long-haul trucks. Well... that's my belief, based on what various mechanics have told me.

    As to me, my car was a wreck before I sold it and took up cycle commuting over 11 years ago. Haven't owned a motor vehicle since, so.... no vehicle, no worries.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Red Baron's Avatar
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    As indicated before, I live in philippines, visit US every 3-4 months. I worry over this, I have a 2004 tacoma with almost 30K miles on it. Todate i have lost 2 batteries, Tacoma and other auto from non-use. I read to hook up a trickle charger full time. I'll report on that in sep.
    **Fate is a fickle thing, and in the end the true measure of a person is not fate itself, but how they master it**

  13. #13
    Senior Member geofitz13's Avatar
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    About the Toyota buy-back program. If your frame is rusting the way you describe, you should definitely look into the program Toyota is running. I have personally seen instances where Toyota bought back these trucks at up to 150% of current retail value. Given what is happening in the truck market, and that Toyota will not run this program indefinitely, it would make a lot of sense to check it out to see how it would affect you. Might even be an opportunity to get into something smaller, more gas efficient. If nothing else, it might let you avoid a situation a couple years from now when the frame is shot, the truck is basically worthless, and there's no options available to you.
    Just some thoughts....

  14. #14
    Squirrel solveg's Avatar
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    OK, I called the Subaru dealership and asked them. They agreed it was harder on cars to be not driven. I asked him what I should do, FOR MY PARTICULAR CASE, which is an old subaru with 120k on it. It is in a semi-heated garage that hovers above freezing, and sits for a couple months spring and fall.

    He said that keeping it inside, of course, was way better, but said the tarp on the ground may be overkill. I asked if I should get someone over to drive it, and he said he wouldn't bother, that lots of people leave cars sit for a few months.

    BUT he said that I should change the oil before I leave and after I get back, because there will be some condensation there. So even if I just let it sit, the oil goes bad. I guess now that I'm writing this, I wonder why I have to change the oil before* I go, if it's just going to go bad anyway.

    He also said that there's no problem if I'm only putting on 5-6 thousand miles a year on the car.

    I'm going to sell my lawn mower and snowblower, which I never use, because I didn't realize how hard it was on them to let them sit. It's wasteful if they just rot away.

    Y'know, I just found out the same thing when I brought in my video cameras to get them cleaned, too. I hadn't used them in a while, and got quite a lecture from the camera guy.

    All in all, another good reason not to own more than you need.

  15. #15
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Because combustion blowby byproducts make the oil acidic, as well. A small amount of the combustion gas blows by the rings into the crankcase and this affects the chemical composition of the oil.

    Quote Originally Posted by solveg View Post
    OK, I called the Subaru dealership and asked them. They agreed it was harder on cars to be not driven. I asked him what I should do, FOR MY PARTICULAR CASE, which is an old subaru with 120k on it. It is in a semi-heated garage that hovers above freezing, and sits for a couple months spring and fall.

    He said that keeping it inside, of course, was way better, but said the tarp on the ground may be overkill. I asked if I should get someone over to drive it, and he said he wouldn't bother, that lots of people leave cars sit for a few months.

    BUT he said that I should change the oil before I leave and after I get back, because there will be some condensation there. So even if I just let it sit, the oil goes bad. I guess now that I'm writing this, I wonder why I have to change the oil before* I go, if it's just going to go bad anyway.

    He also said that there's no problem if I'm only putting on 5-6 thousand miles a year on the car.

    I'm going to sell my lawn mower and snowblower, which I never use, because I didn't realize how hard it was on them to let them sit. It's wasteful if they just rot away.

    Y'know, I just found out the same thing when I brought in my video cameras to get them cleaned, too. I hadn't used them in a while, and got quite a lecture from the camera guy.

    All in all, another good reason not to own more than you need.
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


    . “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”- Fredrick Nietzsche

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  16. #16
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    If you drive a car at least once per week or so, it should be fine. We put less than 4k miles / year, mostly harsh short-trip urban stop-and-go, on our 1988 Dodge Aries K-Car wagon, with many days of nonuse, and my neighbor is now happily driving this almost 21-year-old car with 102k miles from hell on it.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by geofitz13 View Post
    About the Toyota buy-back program. If your frame is rusting the way you describe, you should definitely look into the program Toyota is running. I have personally seen instances where Toyota bought back these trucks at up to 150% of current retail value. Given what is happening in the truck market, and that Toyota will not run this program indefinitely, it would make a lot of sense to check it out to see how it would affect you. Might even be an opportunity to get into something smaller, more gas efficient. If nothing else, it might let you avoid a situation a couple years from now when the frame is shot, the truck is basically worthless, and there's no options available to you.
    Just some thoughts....
    The "Buy Back" program does include my truck until its 15th year of service (2013), the
    problem is that my finances are not, nor will they be, in a position to buy another
    truck (I'll save everyone here the details). I have need of the benefits of a pickup
    truck often for fencing, drywall, hauling lumber, tandems, etc.

    My mechanic says he'll be able to help me get the most out of what's left of the frame
    but doubts it'll last more than 24 more months. Then I'll sell it back to the Toyota Corp.
    and bring to a close my enjoyment of having a small truck as I'll not be able to
    replace it. This will leave a lasting impression on my opinion of what happens when a
    successful company allows American Engineers and Labor the freedom to design and
    build a vehicle. My wife's Japanese built Camry and my daughter's Japanese built Tercel
    are much older and much healthier than my rotting Tacoma. Siiiiigggghhhhh

    I can accept responsibility and blame for allowing mechanical parts to seize
    up due to dis-use etc. ,but there is no excuse for the frame problems that
    these Tacomas are experiencing. My mechanic says the speed with which
    my frame has decayed over the last 10 months is nothing short of unbelievable.
    Last edited by cranky old dude; 07-17-08 at 04:46 PM.

  18. #18
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    In cases where your vehicle usage drops dramatically it's best to exercise
    (drive to full engine operation temp for at least 20 mi) the vehicle once a month.

    The cost of any fuel used will vastly offset avoiding any repair cost generated by dryed out
    seals,gaskets, rubber, or stale gas/oil.

    It's the old "Use it or lose" it all over again.
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
    I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

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  19. #19
    Has opinion, will express
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    I think the point about C-O-D's situation is that it's not mechanical woes cased by non-use, but insipient decay of the chassis that really, no amount of use would seem to be able to prevent.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  20. #20
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    I think that bike commuting/utility cycling is one of the best things one can do for one's cars, as long as they get driven every weekend.

    - you eliminate all the short trips that cause accelerated engine wear
    - avoiding rush hour driving and parking cuts down on expensive dents and dings
    - not driving when the roads are loaded with salty slush prevents body rust

    I've had my car for 23 years now, and it is still a delight to drive, particularly as I use it only on weekends and for longer trips.

    Paul

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