Fuel tanks rust out from salt used on roads like where I am. We throw a pound of salt on an ounce of snow to turn the roads into seriously dangerous slush pots. As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in an '88 Grand Caravan that I had to replace the gas tank last year due to a rust hole. The original tank lasted 26 years of daily driving, including snow and salt, never going through a car wash, and never being in a garage. Unless yours is leaking from rust or something hit it, the tank isn't going to develop a problem from just sitting.
I suspect some people are suggesting to replace the rubber fuel lines due to the ethanol in today's gas that is very corrosive. Fuel system parts for cars are designed to withstand the effects of ethanol. As far as that hose is concerned, it doesn't know or care if the gas has been sitting there for four years or if gas has been running through it for four years. Either way, if ethanol was going to deteriorate the rubber, it would do the same thing if you had been driving the car all these years.
The concern with the belts, along with rubber fuel lines, is dry-rotting over time. You know the belts aren't worn out from use. There hasn't been any use for four years. I put a used belt on my Caravan's engine around 2002 and it's still doing fine. There's two things you can look at. The first is the rule of thumb is the ribbed side of serpentine belts can be allowed to develop one crack across it per inch. Less than that, it's fine. More than that, it's time to think about replacing it due to mileage and the amount of flexing it has gone through, not how long it has been sitting and not doing any work.
As for fluids and filters, how emotionally-involved are you with the money in your wallet? Engine oil is oil, and will always be oil. It's the carbon deposits and blowby that build up in it, and the additives that become depleted that are the reasons we need to change it. Some additives become used up over a period of time from the normal heat of the engine. That didn't happen from sitting for four years. There was no blowby and no carbon deposits. My bigger concern, which is still a tiny one, is four years is a long time to let the oil run down from on top of the engine and from various passages. All of those passages will not become totally empty. When we start a freshly-rebuilt engine for the first time, we used to prime the oil pump with a special tool on the end of an electric drill. That filled those passages so the bearings got lubricated right away when the engine started. We can't do that any more on today's engines due to the pump's design. We just start the engines up and hope the pump catches a prime and starts pumping real quickly. If you see the "Oil" light turn off right away when the engine starts, or the gauge comes up right away, everything in the engine will be getting lubricated soon enough to avoid any damage or excessive wear.
At one point my Dynasty sat untouched for almost seven years. You know what I did to get it going? I threw in a new battery, turned the ignition switch, and drove off into the sunset!
I don't know which bearings you're referring to. Sometimes a wheel bearing will become noisy after the car is trailered for a long distance and it was strapped down very tightly. Pounding on them as the trailer goes over pot holes can dent the races the ball bearings roll on, but the same thing happens when you drive the car over those pot holes. There's no pounding going on when the car is just sitting.
That leaves the fuel. There are different formulations all over the country based on the intelligence of the state's politicians. I'm in the middle of Wisconsin, and I have never had a fuel problem. The only issue I have is with a 1980 Volare with a carburetor. The fuel evaporates out of the float bowl overnight. There was a simple fix for that but I never did it. When that car sits for a year, the battery is still charged, but it takes considerable cranking to get the fuel into the carburetor for the engine to start. Other than that, this car also has gas in it that is over five years old. (I like to add a few gallons of fresh gas every two or three years, but this car also rarely gets driven).
To be fair, there are some places in the country where gas can go stale in as little as a month. I'm not an expert in what happens to it other than engines won't start, or they'll run very poorly. One of the concerns is varnish buildup. That can plug the very fine filter screens in injectors. Most gas today has additives to dissolve that varnish and prevent it from forming. If that has happened on your car, it's there now, and draining the gas isn't going to get rid of it in the injectors. I would install the new battery, then see how the engine runs. I would guesstimate there is perhaps an 90 percent chance the engine will run just fine.
Related to this, there are people who insist the gas tank should be full when a car is put in storage because that leaves no room for air with its humidity that will condense into water. These are the same people who never let the tank get lower than half full in winter for the same reason. That story doesn't hold, ... Uhm, ... Water! If you have a 20 gallon tank and run it almost empty, then fill it, you sucked in 20 gallons of air to replace that gas, along with the moisture in the air. If you run it half empty twice and fill it each time, you sucked in 20 gallons of air and the moisture in it. The difference is if that humidity condenses into water droplets, ethanol mixes with it and helps it to burn in the engine and be gone. When the tank is empty, (of gas), it's also empty of condensed water. If the tank is always at least half full, there will always be condensed water in it. Fuel line freeze-up is no longer a concern since ethanol in the fuel is like adding a dozen bottles of Heet fuel line antifreeze, but corrosion of metal parts is still an issue.
Also, if you DO put the car in storage with a full tank of gas, and it goes stale, how do you fit any new, fresh gas in it later? It makes more sense to park the car with very little gas in the tank so you can add later when you're about to start it again. I'm not sure about your car, but most models around that time used a fuel pressure regulator on the engine, and a return line to the tank. Each time you turn on the ignition switch, the fuel pump usually runs for about one second. It will stay running any time the engine is rotating, (cranking or running). That means the gas is circulating very quickly up to the engine and back into the tank, perhaps as much as a gallon or two per minute. That means any fresh gas you just added will make it up to the engine almost right away. You don't have to wait for the gas in the line to get used up first.
Once the engine is running, take the car to have the oil and filter changed, mainly to replenish the additives that deteriorate over time. Those are detergents, seal conditioners, anti-foaming agents, and things like that. If the oil drained out of the filter and air mixed with the sludge that was left in it, I suppose it's possible the filtering element could become plugged. There is always a bypass valve to allow oil to get through, but it will be unfiltered oil. I don't know if I'd be concerned with the fuel filter unless it's due for regular maintenance. There is always gas and ethanol in the filter. The only difference is it's standing still when the car is in storage and it's moving when you're driving.
Friday, May 29th, 2015 AT 9:17 PM