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How to Break In a New Car

Jordan Perch

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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20 Responses to "How to Break In a New Car"

  • Kenneth Geelhaar | September 30, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    I think an article correction is needed in regards to new cars: No, not all modern cars need to have tires rotated front to back. Some cars use different tire/wheel sizes front to back. (My 2008 BMW 328 with factory sport wheel setup.) Some cars have the same size tires front and back, but the wheels have different offsets are are specific to front and back (my daughter’s 1991 Camaro) Some cars use directional rotation tires which can go move to back, but not side to side. Some manufacturers (BMW that I know of) do not recommend rotating tires front to back even if they are same size. I’ve never heard a good explanation of why, so I rotate mine front to back to even up tire wear. IF your tires are same size front to back, and IF they are not directional in rotation (it says so on the sidewall if they are) and IF the wheels on your car are designed to go on any corner, then you can rotate them. In other words, ask your tire guys about your car and your tires. Author = Albert Powell, Director, Learning Technologies at Colorado State University (1998-present)

  • Extra Mile Staff | September 30, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks for finding that error, Patricia! All fixed.

  • Piberman | September 28, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    No mention about using brakes gently till the pads seat properly on the rims. No mention of early changing automatic transmission - typically ignored - rather than ignoring it. No mention of having front end checked by dealer at first oil change. Cars are never fully assembled as intended by mfg. specs. So it really does pay to have the dealer do a full inspection at the first oil change.

  • Patricia Krysiak | September 28, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    The tire maintenance paragraph has "wear" spelled as "ware". I realize spell check is probably to blame, but it should have been caught in edit.

  • FREDRIC A CAPLAN | September 28, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Very helpful...Thanks

  • 101 Car Maintenance Tips That Can Make Your Car Last Longer – CarCareHunt | July 2, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    […] However, when a car is brand new straight out of the factory, you should change the oil after 50 or 100 miles. Later, you can change the oil after the recommended break-in period […]

  • Car Trends | June 11, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Thanks for sharing this information with us. This information is really helpful and interesting . Keep sharing these types of articles.

  • Extra Mile Staff | March 22, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks for reading Bree, we are glad you found this helpful!

  • Bree Ward | March 22, 2019 at 6:22 am

    I agree that manufacturers always recommend guidelines for car maintenance to ensure that the car is working at its finest. Thanks for educating me about the car maintenance and tune-up process that needs to be done. My brother will buy a new car next month, and I will remind him of regular maintenance for proper car functionality and longevity. I'm sure he will find an auto service who can assist him further.

  • Do You Have to ‘Break In’ a New Car? – freelancecomli | February 12, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    […] manufacturing practices have shortened the average conditioning period, but can’t yet eliminate it entirely. Engines are stronger, […]

  • Extra Mile Staff | December 20, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for your feedback, we're glad we could help!

  • car trends | December 20, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Thanks, your article on 'How to break in a new car' is impressive & will say your article is one of the best and it solves all my issue regarding car breaks. Good work keep doing.

  • Helen Smith | September 4, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    Very good information. Thank you. Things have changed since I purchased my car in 1997.

  • Shirley freidenberger | August 31, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    I recently had a flat tire on my 2015 enclave Buick. 22,000 miles. The salesman insisted that I had to buy 4 new tires. Did I get ripped off.

  • Thomas W. Zeman | August 31, 2018 at 12:47 am

    Thanks so much, very useful advice

  • joseph watkins | August 30, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    I want to thank you very much this is very interesting and good used to me very helpful

  • Jack Hart | August 29, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    If the oil leaks out of the engine, (from oil filter), after driving 27 miles and there is only 1.5 quarts left in the engine, (4.7 qts. full oil level). Does this cause engine irreversible damage? Loud noise from engine was heard, (rod knock ?), and red engine light came on right before it was turned off.

  • Kenneth Bedell | August 29, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Thank You for this useful information.

  • David Markle | August 29, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    It's generally advised to use conventional motor oil during the break-in period. Synthetic motor oil is better in every way, but should not be used until the engine has been well broken-in.

  • Kenn | July 7, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    While it is helpful to suggest to new car owners that engine break-in should - absolutely - still be performed, the guidelines offered by manufacturers are kept overly simple, not to benefit the engine and its new owner, but to limit the car maker's liability if it were to offer more-accurate and complete break-in "rules." Overly-simplistic guidelines, such as "drive it easy for the first 200 miles" or "keep engine revs below 3,000" will often result in the now fairly common (and lasting) excessive oil consumption issues, brought about by the adoption of new "low-tension" piston rings in direct-injection ("GDI") engines. Without going into further details, I'd simply suggest consulting someone thoroughly experienced in modern engine technology - not a dealer's service advisor - for proper advice regarding break-in procedures for new car engines and the best oil to be used to ensure longevity.

  • Extra Mile Staff | May 2, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Thanks Robert. Glad you found the information helpful!

  • Robert Derby | May 2, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Great article, I like the car and the motive is always my top concern for my car. A good car when it has the perfect engine system and maintaining and maintaining the engine in good working condition is a very enjoyable experience for me. I read your article and learned more about car care for your car better from here. Thank you for sharing it and keep writing

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