New Car Tips for the Break-In Period


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I have a relative, whom I won’t name, who was obsessed with speeding and taxing the limitations of his cars. When he was young and started buying cars, he didn’t even understand that it was important to change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the model. He never changed the oil on his first vehicle.

Important New Car Tips

He took it to a mechanic who laughed in disbelief at his ignorance. The mechanic warned him that he must maintain and take care of his car. Get it inspected and checked-up regularly. The mechanic also warned him about his treatment of new vehicles. This particular car was a used car, and my relative ran it hard.

The mechanic warned him that if he ever got a new car, he would need to treat it gently during the break-in period. The break-in period usually refers to the first 600 to 1,200 miles of running life for a brand-new car. Think about how you break-in a new pair of running shoes. It takes a while before they become less rigid and conditioned to the exacting shape and contours of your feet.

It is not an exact analogy, but a useful one. During the break-in period of a new car, all of the newly integrated and intricate working pieces become conditioned. This process should be gentle and non-arduous, as it will help all of the lubricated parts wearing against each other settle into a working rhythm.

How you treat your car during the break-in period determines how well your vehicle will run throughout its working life. Yes, many vehicles come pre-broken-in from the factory. That fact doesn’t rationalize drag-racing a new car just off the dealer’s lot. Here are some breaking-in tips you should observe with a brand-new car.

Read the Owner’s Manual

The manufacturer of your vehicle built the car. They understand how your vehicle works, how you should maintain it, and how you should treat it. There should be a section in it about the break-in period and how to manage your vehicle for the first 1,000 miles. Don’t wait until problems occur during the break-in period to open it to look for advice.

Try Not To Rev the Engine Over the 3,000 RPM Mark

The piston rings need conditioning time in a new vehicle to seal against the cylinder bores properly. Piston rings are similar to small compartmentalization bands. They prevent oil leaks during the combustion process. In a new vehicle, a little conditioning time is required for the piston bands to settle into the cylinder properly. Revolutions significantly over the 3,000 to 4,500 RPM mark will work against this process.

Don’t Drive Over 55

I hate to contradict the great Sammy Hagar, but you will have to find a way to drive under 55 MPH. Try to drive in urban, stop-and-go traffic for the first few hundred miles. Try not to go over 50MPH for extended periods. Keep it between 30 MPH and 50 MPH. Preferably for intervals of several minutes at the most. This is preferable to driving at consistently high highway speeds,

Change the Oil During the First 100 to 500 Miles

This will keep your car well-lubricated and operating functionally. Also, it is an issue you won’t have to worry about for a while. Get it out of the way now.

Respect the Break-In Period

The average cost to rebuild or replace an engine can cost anywhere between $2,700 to $5,000. Or, the equivalent of 10% to 20% of the overall value of the vehicle. The cost of most new cars is almost $40,000. Also, if you think waiting to surpass 1,000 miles is too long to wait before flooring it, consider: You can drive 1,000 miles at 55 MPH in two to three days with minimal rest and fuel stops.

The break-in period is probably the most critical period you’ll be driving your car. Unless you are a millionaire drag racer with impulse control issues, take it easy during the break-in period.

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