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A snowbird’s guide to leaving a car in Florida

April 10, 2013
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

If you are one who abandons a vehicle, leaving it behind when you migrate north in the spring, we want you to know there are consequences.

Like any other pet left behind when you leave to have fun, your car will pout and possibly leave liquid puddles in various places to show its' displeasure. Each autumn when you return, your vehicles get together and come to us and tell us their true feelings, and they have asked us to pass their complaints on to you, the abusive owners of said vehicles. We have covered this problem many times, but some things have changed recently, so we want to update our advice.

Here are some of the complaints:

- Batteries can die if left connected but not recharged for several months. The best solution is to have someone start the car and let it run for 20 minutes, about once a month. The next best is to leave a smart charger connected full time. It must be a smart charger, or the battery will be ruined. A competent person should check this at least monthly to be sure it is working. If none of the above is feasible, the last option is to remove the negative cable from the battery and hope for the best. A newer battery should last for four to six months this way, but if it dies it should be recharged before it is reconnected to the car. Jump-starting a car that has a dead battery is murder on the alternator and the computers. There is no need to remove the battery from the car.

- The interior may get moldy from the damp, stuffy air trapped inside. The best solution is to have someone start the car and run the air conditioner for 20 minutes, about once a month. Note the correlation with the solution to the battery problem. The next best solution is to put a container of mildewcide, or a dehumidifier inside the car. Set it in a glass bowl, as they sometimes foam over. If the car is left inside a garage, the windows can be opened to keep it ventilated.

- Paint and upholstery may fade and crack if exposed to sunlight. A cardboard or cloth sunshield can be put under the windshield to protect the dashboard and another one put under the rear window can help protect that area. Complete car covers are not recommended because they can scratch the paint and trap moldy air inside.

- Although northern cars rust underneath because of salt on the roads, Florida cars rust first on the upper bodies. This is because salt spray from the Gulf will settle on any car not enclosed in a garage, causing corrosion and rust on the body. The best solution is to have the car washed. Ideally, the person who starts it monthly could drive it to a car wash for you. Failing that, having someone wash it in place on occasion would help. If you brought a northern car down to be left here, and you don't keep it washed, someday the upper rust will meet the lower rust, and, well, may it rust in peace.

- Finally, gasoline now contains 10-percent alcohol and should not be left sitting for more than a few months without a stabilizing additive. All parts stores sell the stabilizers. Add it to the tank before filling it and leave the tank full for the summer. Then just turn your back on the car and walk away, leaving it behind. Alone. Abandoned. Dejected. Bored. Fending for itself. Faithfully waiting for your return, or for that neighbor to come and fire it up once a month. Really looking forward to getting washed by that girl in the bikini. Woo hoo. What a life.



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