How to Break in a New Vehicle

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If you've just purchased a brand new vehicle or you intend to purchase one, you'll thank yourself in the long run if you drive very carefully and deliberately for the first 500 miles or so. Over time, auto engines build up protective layers of oil and lubricant on essential parts. Brand new engines don't have this layer, and they're extremely vulnerable to accelerated wear and tear until they do. It may be tough to abide by these rules, but driving gently and carefully for the first several weeks will pay off in the end. All of the steps outlined below should be followed for the first 500 miles on your new car's odometer; after that, the protective layer of oil and lubricant should be in place.

  • Avoid leaving your car running with the engine idling. It's fine to sit with an idling engine when you're waiting at a stop light or even in the drive-thru lane, but don't leave your car idling for more than a few minutes. If you're stuck in a major traffic jam and don't expect to move an inch for some time, turn your car off while you wait for traffic to start moving again. Hardly any engine oil pumps through the engine at idle speeds, and since the engine components on a new car are very clean, they'll become dry very quickly.

  • Keep the speedometer under 50 mph. This may be the toughest rule to adhere to, but it's worth getting an earlier start on your longer trips. At higher speeds, you'll quickly wear down a new clean engine.

  • Vary your speed as much as possible. Don't do this at the expense of driving at unsafe speeds, but when you have the opportunity to do so, try to travel at a full range of speeds between 15 mph and 50 mph.

  • Avoid sudden braking or acceleration. Again, safety should always come first, and you shouldn't hesitate to slam on the gas or the brakes if necessary to avoid an accident. But the rest of the time, accelerate very slowly and give yourself plenty of braking time.

  • Avoid gravel or dirt roads. Driving on these surfaces kicks up substantial dust and other small particles that can pass through the air filter and into the engine, where they act as harmful abrasives. Also, since your tires can't get a great grip on these surfaces, your engine has to work harder than usual to keep you rolling at lower speeds. This, like any unnecessary engine strain, is essential to avoid during the first 500 miles.

  • Try your best to avoid short trips. It takes several minutes and several miles to get oil well distributed throughout all of the engine parts. When you take a short trip, some of those parts won't get any oil at all, and they'll wear out quickly.

  • Consider planning a road trip as soon as you take ownership of your new car. Those critical 500 miles don't have to be spread out over the course of several weeks, so you can take a trip that is at least 500 miles round-trip and get it all over with at once.

Tips & Warnings

  • This bears repeating: don't let these tips on gentle engine wear change your approach to safe driving. Safety should always come first, even at the occasional expense of rapid wear on a brand new engine.
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