Dear Car Talk: While browsing cartalk.com recently (I had nothing better to do ... I was at work), I came across a user’s comment that a vehicle that is driven less than 10 miles per outing is more likely to develop engine problems. I hate to sound like “the little old lady who only drives to church on Sunday,” but I live less than two miles from my office and tend to loaf around the house most of the weekend. So my 2001 Chevy S-10 extended-cab pickup doesn’t get much of a workout most of the time.
I love my little truck, and hope she lasts forever. I thought that by giving her such an easy life I was being good to her. Am I killing her with kindness? Do I need to take the long way to work once in a while or drive around aimlessly on evenings and weekends? — Pony
No, you’re doing fine, Pony. Your truck is 17 years old. I’d say whatever you’re doing, it’s working.
Cars and trucks wear out, primarily, from being used. When a car is in use, its pistons are scraping the cylinder walls, its suspension is getting banged around and its catalytic converter is slowly disintegrating. So leaving your truck in the driveway is a pretty good plan for longevity.
Sure, there’s rust. There’s drying out of rubber hoses, belts and tires. But that stuff will happen over time whether you drive the vehicle or not. What the visitor’s comment on our website was probably referring to is moisture in the exhaust system. If you drive the car for two miles, the exhaust system might not get hot enough to evaporate the moisture that condenses in there (your car’s exhaust contains water vapor that condenses when it hits the cold exhaust pipe). That condensation, if it doesn’t evaporate, will cause the exhaust system to rust and corrode prematurely. But an exhaust system is small potatoes compared to an engine or a transmission.
You can also get moisture inside the engine on very short trips, but your oil is designed to hold moisture in suspension and protect the engine from corrosion. If that worries you, I’d switch to a synthetic oil, which will do a better job of holding moisture — and everything else. But you can’t drive your way to saving money.
Remember, the more you drive, the more gas you have to buy. The more you drive, the more frequently you have to change the oil and do maintenance and repairs. And worst of all, the more you drive, the more likely you are to pass a Chevy dealership and end up dropping 35 grand on a 2019 Chevy Colorado.
Got a question about cars? Visit the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.