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 is a combination of driving techniques, precautions, and maintenance tasks, that are ultimately supposed to help extend a car’s lifespan. Car manufacturers issue guidelines instructing owners to drive and maintain their new vehicles in a certain way for a given period of time, so that the moving parts of the engine can settle in and start working together properly.

Thanks to advances in technology, though, 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 and avoiding extreme speeds and harsh acceleration.

Furthermore, you should do the first oil change much sooner than what is instructed in the owner’s manual. To be on the safe side, car owners are advised to do their first oil change after 50-100 miles, and then again after the run-in period ends. Most experts consider the first 500 miles as a reasonable and sufficient break-in period.

In addition to changing the oil, another common instruction for breaking in a new car’s engine is to 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. If you manage to do this, you will extend your engine’s lifespan significantly.

When it comes to speed, the usual recommendation for the break-in period is to drive at speeds of 30 mph and 50 mph in intervals of about 5 minutes each and not exceed 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, themselves. However, 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.

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. All you need to do is inspect certain parts and perform a couple of maintenance tasks on a regular basis. For starters, you should 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, accelerate its wear and tear, and they 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 and other key components.

Proper tire inflation and regular rotation is highly recommended, as well. In general, car owners are advised to rotate their tires every 3,000 to 6,000 miles, to ensure even wear on all tires. This 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, you should 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.

It is also worth noting that 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. 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.

As has been 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.

READ MORE: Vehicle Maintenance: How to Stay Safe and Save Money

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

  • 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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