Car Talk: How best to treat a car kept at a vacation home
By RAY MAGLIOZZI
I’m planning on keeping a vehicle at my vacation home in Oregon. I will travel there by public transportation, and then have a vehicle waiting for me in the garage. It may be sitting there for a month or two, not being driven. I know that machines work better when used, but what vehicle would be reliable under those circumstances? Is a hybrid a good choice, or gas or electric? What used car type would you recommend? I’m willing to plug in a battery charger for the first 24 hours to get it charged back up. This climate is cold in winter, with some snow, and warm in summer. Thank you. — Cindy
I think I’d probably stay with something simple, Cindy, rather than a hybrid. But really, anything will do.
Your situation is not a difficult one for a car to handle.
The battery is the only issue. If you’re gone for a month or two, the battery likely would drain down while you’re away. But there are several easy ways to deal with that. One is the way you suggest: You get a battery charger, and put it on the car as soon as you arrive.
Another option would be to buy what’s called a “trickle charger” or “battery tender.” You can get one for well under $100. You hook that up before you leave, and it monitors the battery and adds juice whenever the battery needs it, so it’s fully charged when you get back.
The simplest of all the options is to disconnect the battery while you’re away. You just loosen up the cable to the negative terminal of the battery and remove it, then reconnect it when you get back.
Your mechanic can show you how to do it so you feel confident. Bring him a batch of brownies, and he’ll even tell you what size wrench to buy at the hardware store.
Keep in mind that disconnecting the battery would cause you to lose your radio presets. Of course, out in the woods there, you probably don’t get any radio stations anyway. But mechanically, the car won’t suffer at all for sitting for a month or two.
And any car that’s reliable on an everyday basis will be reliable on a bimonthly basis, once you deal with the battery. Unless the bears decide to hibernate in it, Cindy. So keep the garage door locked.Visit the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.