How to Break In a New Car

Breaking in a new car is a practice that has been recommended by manufacturers for decades. It’s a combination of driving techniques, precautions, and maintenance tasks, which are ultimately supposed to help extend a car’s lifespan.

Do you want the moving parts of the engine to settle in and start working together properly? Of course you do! This is exactly why car manufacturers issue guidelines instructing owners to drive and maintain their new vehicles in a certain way for a given period of time.

Thanks to advances in technology, the need to break in new cars has been greatly reduced in recent years. Automakers nowadays use much more sophisticated oils, stronger materials for the engine parts, and more advanced casting methods, so they don’t need to be run-in like they used to be in the past. However, there are still a lot of automakers recommending car owners to practice caution during what has traditionally been considered the breaking-in period. The reason they continue to issue these guidelines is to prevent any defects that could potentially arise from an aggressive style of driving and improper car maintenance for the first couple hundred miles.

Low Revs, Low Speeds, and Timely Oil Changes

The most common break-in practices recommended by car makers include gentle driving, avoiding extreme speeds, and always accelerating gradually.

Complete first oil change after 50 to 100 miles

You should do the first oil change much sooner than what is instructed in the owner’s manual.  They should do it again after the run-in period ends. Most experts consider the first 500 miles as a reasonable and sufficient break-in period.

Keep revs under the 3,000 rpm mark

The reasoning behind this practice is that keeping revs relatively low helps the piston rings seal against the cylinder bores properly. The piston rings are small bands that prevent oil leaks in the car. However, when a car is new, these bands need time to settle within the cylinders. Revving your engine can disrupt the settling process. Respecting the break-in period and allowing your piston rings to settle will greatly impact your car’s overall health.

Drive at speeds of 30 mph and 50 mph in intervals of about 5 minutes each

You also shouldn’t exceed the posted speed limits. This is why driving in stop-and-go traffic in urban areas is preferable for the first couple hundred miles, where you rarely get to drive with constant and high speeds, unlike driving on the highway.

Some Cars Come Broken-In

Although most new cars nowadays don’t require as much caution during the run-in period like they used to in the past, this practice is still widely recommended by auto manufacturers. There are some cars that are broken-in by automakers at the factory before they roll them out. This refers mainly to high-performance sports cars whose owners would obviously want to step on the gas right from the start, without having to run them in.

That is the case with the Acura NSX, whose engine, as the manufacturer states, is machine-balanced and broken-in so that it is ready for high-speed driving the minute it is taken off a car dealership’s lot. The automaker says that each Acura NSX engine goes through a 150-mile break-in procedure, so customers don’t have to worry about keeping the revs down or being gentle on the accelerator and the brakes.

Tire Maintenance

Proper tire inflation and regular rotation is highly recommended. Car owners are advised to rotate their tires every 3,000 to 6,000 miles. This ensures that the wear on the tires is even. When your tires are worn evenly, it results in improved gas mileage. As far as inflation is concerned, you have to check your owner’s manual to see the correct pressure for the tires your car is equipped with. Once you find out the correct air pressure, make sure the tires are inflated at the recommended pressure at all times. You can use a tire pressure gauge for that, which you can find at most auto parts stores.

Tire pressure is affected by temperature change. As the temperature rises, the air pressure in the tire increases. Conversely, when temperatures drop, tire pressure drops, too. Estimates show that for every change in temperature by 10 degrees, tire pressure changes by 1 psi. For instance, if the temperature rises by 10 degrees, your tire pressure will increase by 1 psi and vice versa. So, if the temperature decreases by 10 degrees, your tire pressure will decrease by 1 psi. The more your tire’s psi drops, the more likely traction and handling will be affected.

This is why drivers need to monitor tire inflation during substantial temperature fluctuations. By making sure your tires are properly inflated, you help extend their longevity by up to 10% and prevent a potentially significant decrease in fuel economy.

Regular and Proper Maintenance to Extend Your Car’s Life

Aside from following the break-in guidelines in your car owner’s manual, there are a few more things you can do to extend the longevity of your car:

Change the air and oil filters as recommended in the owner’s manual.

Clogged and dirty filters make the engine work harder to achieve the desired performance. This can accelerate its wear and tear and affect your car’s fuel economy.

Checking the fluids should be next on your maintenance tasks list.

The level of transmission fluid, antifreeze, oil, brake fluid, and power steering fluid, should be monitored regularly, and topped up as needed. This task is crucial for improving your car’s reliability and extending the life of the car’s engine as well as other key components.

As previously noted, the practice of breaking-in a new car has changed significantly in recent years. But, that doesn’t mean that you should go ahead and push your engine to the limit from the minute you leave the dealer’s lot. No matter how far car engine technology has come, you should still take it easy for the first couple hundred miles. Following the guidelines in your car owner’s manual during the break-in period will help protect the engine and extend its longevity. What’s more, it will improve the car’s gas mileage, boost its performance, and save you a lot of money in unexpected repairs for years to come. Ultimately, just like having good car insurance, taking good care of your car and breaking it in is crucial for protecting your investment.

Breaking in your new car is the first step to living a happy life with your vehicle, but owner responsibility doesn’t end there. 

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