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Old 07-16-08, 03:50 PM   #1
cranky old dude
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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.
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Old 07-16-08, 06:04 PM   #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
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Old 07-16-08, 06:30 PM   #3
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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.
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Old 07-16-08, 09:04 PM   #4
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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.
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Old 07-16-08, 09:09 PM   #5
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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?
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Old 07-16-08, 10:05 PM   #6
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My Subaru sits idle for 6 months of the year.... I guess I'll talk to my mechanic. thanks.
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Old 07-16-08, 10:21 PM   #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.
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Old 07-16-08, 11:17 PM   #8
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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?
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Old 07-16-08, 11:31 PM   #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.
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Old 07-16-08, 11:49 PM   #10
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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...
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Old 07-17-08, 01:12 AM   #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.
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Old 07-17-08, 05:10 AM   #12
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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.
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Old 07-17-08, 06:17 AM   #13
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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....
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Old 07-17-08, 08:33 AM   #14
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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.
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Old 07-17-08, 08:39 AM   #15
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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.
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Old 07-17-08, 03:42 PM   #16
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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.
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Old 07-17-08, 03:42 PM   #17
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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....
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 03:46 PM.
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Old 07-18-08, 05:42 AM   #18
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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.
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Old 07-18-08, 05:47 AM   #19
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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.
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Old 07-18-08, 07:52 AM   #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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