My pride and joy is a 1992 Mustang with only 12,000 miles. I only use it in nice weather and keep it covered up in the garage during the winter months. I also own a 1994 Ford Escort for all my regular driving. Here is my question. I was told by a friend to start up the car every once in awhile when I'm not using it because this is better for the engine than just sitting there for a long period of time. Is this the right thing to do?
It is the right thing to do, but only if you're running the engine significantly. Once a week is a good time between runs, but don't just go out in the garage and run it for a couple of minutes. That won't produce the benefits we're looking for. The best thing to do is get the vehicle out on the road on a clean, dry day. We want to run her for at least 20 minutes, but preferably a half-hour.
Here is what we're trying to accomplish. First we want to get that oil circulating to lubricate and protect all the now dripped dry surfaces. Second, we want the engine to reach normal operating temperature long enough to burn off all the moisture that has accumulated during your Mustang's dormant period. Third, this will help keep the battery charged and prevent oxidation that will end its life prematurely.
If it's not run, the big danger will be at the engine's cylinder walls. After a long period of time, unused, the cylinder walls begin to rust. And you would not want to see what happens inside the engine as you start cranking it over. The piston rings are scraping across the rusted cylinder walls and embedding permanent scratches that can cause unwanted compression loss and oil consumption.
There is another method of storing an engine, but this means you don't run it at all until hibernation is officially over and you're driving on a regular basis. This procedure involves flooding the engine with a lubricant before putting her to bed. The process works well in keeping the cylinder walls free from rust, but make sure it's done by a qualified professional because serious damage is possible if the lubricant is not administered properly.