Should I worry about my car’s gasoline getting stale during the shutdown?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who wonders if his limited driving will affect the gasoline in his car.

Fuel pumps at an Illinois gas station.
–Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker

Q. We were advised by the governor and the president to limit leaving our homes. I filled the tank of my car with gas. Since then I have used only about one gallon of the approximately 15-gallon tank capacity. How do I balance my desire to always have a full tank of gas with the possibility that the gas in the tank will get old if I don’t drive much during this pandemic? 

A. It takes a while for gas to get stale, but I would recommend adding a fuel stabilizer. You can buy fuel stabilizer at hardware or auto parts stores, and you simply add it to the gas tank then take a short ride to have it mix with the fuel. 

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Q. I own a 2011 Infiniti G37X Sport sedan with 150,000 miles on it. For about a year, every time I take it to the dealer, they report the rack and pinion has a fluid leak from both ends. However, the power steering fluid level remains within specifications. I took the car to another mechanic for a second opinion and he says there is no issue that requires replacement. There is no change in the driving or steering quality. The dealer-quoted price for replacement is $2,300. The car is probably only worth $4,000 in value right now. I am not really excited about a repair bill that is more than 50 percent of the car’s remaining value. What is your advice?

A. I’m sure the rack and pinion unit has a slight leak and that leak won’t get any better by itself. That being said, if this was my car, I don’t think I would do anything until you have to routinely add power steering fluid. 

Q. I have a 2019 Prius Prime (plug-in hybrid) vehicle which I have not driven for 2 weeks as I am trying to stay home during these times. How often should I start my vehicle? How many miles should I drive to get the most benefit to my vehicle? Should I use both electric and gas on the short drive? Which strategies are best for my plug-in hybrid vehicle?

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A. Charging the battery periodically even using house current certainly can’t hurt. As for driving the car, I would give it about 20-30 minutes of exercise every three weeks to keep all of the moving parts moving. 

Q. I just got a call from the Subaru dealer about an urgent repair/recall on the catalytic converter for my 2015 Subaru Outback. They will collect the car at the door for the service. I can’t find anything on the internet about this recall and yet the phone number from which the call came seems legit. What do you know about this? 

A. According to the NHTSA website there are currently five recalls on the 2015 Outback none are for the catalytic converter. I did see a few reports of the front exhaust pipe which is part of the catalytic convertor cracking. This would be covered under the emissions warranty. Although not a recall it may be a repair that Subaru is suggesting being investigated during service. Now of course while the dealer has the car, they may suggest other work that will be needed now or in the near future.  

Q. I have a 2010 Toyota Corolla. Over the winter, every once in a while, water would run down near the front window post. Now that it got warmer, and even after recent downpours, there was no water. This was my nana’s car. It only has 40,000 miles on it, and I want it to last a long time. Any ideas what is going on? 

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A. The problem may be nothing more than condensation building up behind the interior trim. In winter, when the defroster is on, condensation builds up behind the trim against the windshield pillar and drips. In warmer weather that doesn’t happen. The repair is to remove the trim and drill a few small holes in the reinforcement vanes in the trim pieces to allow more circulation.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com.

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