Dear Tom and Ray:
My boyfriend and I disagree on whether to keep the car in the garage. He thinks it cuts down on the life of the car (something about cooling the engine). I think a car lives longer if kept in a garage. I understand that a heated garage is not a good idea — but what about just a regular attached garage? Please advise. — Evelyn
Tom: Your boyfriend is being an oil stain on the garage floor of your life, Evelyn. Garages are great for cars — and for their drivers.
Ray: At the very least, a garage will protect the exterior of your car from the elements, including those acidic pigeon and pterodactyl droppings. And if it spends every night — or half its life — under a roof, it’ll look good for about twice as long.
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Tom: From what we see in real life, that’s about right. Cars we work on that are garaged look a lot better than non-garaged cars their age.
Ray: A heated garage is even better, even though it does create one downside for the car. If you live in the part of the country where it snows and they use salt on the roads, by storing it in a warm garage every night, you may slightly speed up the rusting process.
Tom: How? Well, let’s say you drive on a cold, snowy day, and you get salty ice and slush all over the car. Then you get home at night and pull into your heated garage. What happens? The ice melts. And you’re left with salt, water and warm air — perfect ingredients for oxidation (i.e., rust).
Ray: Whereas if you leave the car outside, and the temperature stays below freezing, oxidation is inhibited by the lower temperatures, and the rusting process slows down a tiny bit.
Tom: On the other hand, if it’s snowy and icy and miserable, who cares? That’s when you really want to have a heated garage. You want that stuff to melt off overnight so you don’t have to kick it out of your wheel wells like Nanook of the North does with his dogsled.
Ray: Plus, there are some very real mechanical advantages to parking your car in a heated garage overnight. Most notably, because the oil remains warmer and less viscous, it does a much better job of lubricating your engine from the moment you start the car. You prevent a lot of long-term damage to the engine that way.
Tom: So, by all means, use your garage, Evelyn. And if you’ve got a heated garage, use that, too, with the caveat that it’s a good idea to get your car washed and get rid of the salt after a week in which the roads have been salted.