Do you have to break in a new car?

Last updated March 01, 2021

You might think that your new car is ready to handle anything you throw at it from the word go but many manufacturers still recommend breaking in new cars in the vehicle manual.

Even though car design and manufacturing have come a long way over the years, many of the parts used are still similar. More sophisticated oils, stronger materials and more rigorous processes don’t change the fact that engines work in pretty much the same way as they did decades ago.

Without a gentle breaking in period, any tiny defects in the pistons or cylinder walls can wear more quickly and potentially cause problems down the line. An effective breaking in period makes sure that the piston rings sit properly on the cylinder wall, making the engine run smoothly and decreasing the chance of a serious fault in the future

There are many ways to break in a car and you should use a combination of driving techniques, maintenance and most importantly taking note of any recommendations from your manufacturer. By doing this, you can give your car the best possible start to life.

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How many miles does it take to break in a new car?

Breaking in a car isn’t as simple as saying ‘drive X number of miles’, because the amount of time it takes depends on factors like the manufacturer and the vehicle itself. It could take anywhere from running the car on low power for a few hours to 1,500 miles of driving to complete a full break in cycle.

That’s why it’s important to check your vehicle’s manual and follow it to the letter where possible. If the manual isn’t clear enough, get in touch with the manufacturer about your car’s specific break in process.

The benefits of breaking in a car

The main reason for breaking in a car isn’t to spoil your fun – it’s to make sure you give the engine a smooth start to its operational life by avoiding stressing the parts with extreme revs. Therefore, the potential benefits are mostly engine related. By avoiding putting your engine under extreme stress at the beginning of its life, you can increase the chance of:

  • Better fuel economy

    Your engine should reach peak efficiency after a few thousand miles, when it’s fully lubricated and the piston rings have fully settled into position.

  • Better performance

    Because breaking in a new car gives parts a chance to balance and work together efficiently, the engine’s performance should improve over time.

  • Improved long term engine health

    Cars are a sizeable investment so breaking them in is a smart move to avoid any small faults being exacerbated, potentially extending their lifespan.

How to break in a new car

  • Speed

    A common break in practice is simply to drive responsibly. Speed limits should never be exceeded anyway but pushing engine revs toward the red line should be avoided, particularly during the break in period.

    Gradual acceleration and keeping revs to a minimum can help to avoid uneven wear on the new engine parts. Manufacturers might advise you to keep revs under the 3000-rpm mark, as this helps the piston rings to seal against the cylinder walls properly. This is important to keep in mind – piston rings help to prevent oil leaks in your vehicle and they need time to settle.

  • Maintenance

    There are many things you can do to extend the lifespan of your car and for the best results you should start doing them as early in the car’s life as possible.

    Changing the air and oil filters regularly will prevent clogs that will force your engine to work harder. Be sure to also regularly check and change transmission fluid, antifreeze oil, brake fluid and power steering fluid.

  • Driving

    You can also consider how changing your driving style can help break in your vehicle. Avoiding towing heavy loads, for example, can reduce strain on your engine. Take a cautious approach to maximise your safety as you get used to handling the car and allow the brakes time to adjust, as the pads and discs begin to work together.