Breaking in a new vehicle - A quick guide

You’re in your new car. Your finance has cleared and you're ready to go. All of a sudden the dealer’s mechanic makes the “wind your windows down” signal. Prepare yourself, he or she is about to potentially take all the fun out of your first 1000km. As annoying or overcautious as this advice may seem, the mechanic is doing you a huge favour.  Poor care during the first thousand or so kilometres can have a real knock on effects for the cars future performance.

Why is the break-in period important?

The urge to rev your new car is strong. You’ve just handed over a lot of money for a brand new engine; surely you should be able to rev it within an inch of its life, right? Unfortunately this is wrong. By not exercising restraint you risk causing two of the lesser known vehicle problems.

Unusual wear patterns – Some areas, like the rings on the pistons, will need some time to conform to the parts they operate with. A good break in period will allow this to happen in a uniform way, however a poor break in period can bring mixed wear patterns.
Poor seating of parts – In the first few hours of a new vehicles life a number of engine parts will shift very minute amounts. This is a normal and expected process and a good break in period will allow this to go smoothly.

The top tips

Whilst manufacturers guidelines vary, the following are the most common precautions which are applicable in almost all cases.

Avoid full-throttle starts and rapid acceleration – this is especially important in the first thousand or so kilometres as the parts need to seat and wear together.
Do not change the oil until the scheduled maintenance time - This is especially true where “break-in” agents have been added to the engine.
Avoid hard braking for the 300 km– obviously safety comes first, however hard breaking in the first few hundred kilometres can have an adverse impact on wear patterns.

Specific to fleet managers

As a specific note to fleet managers - it’s important that you manage the process of breaking in new vehicles. Handing it straight to a sales person or fleet driver may not be a great idea, especially as they have no real financial interest in the car. It may be a good idea to conduct the break-ins yourself. Alternatively you could leave it to someone who has a vested interest in breaking in the car in the most suitable way possible.

Final thoughts

Buying a new car is a big decision and a big responsibility. There will be plenty of time to play and have fun with your new car, however it really isn't advisable to bolt from the lights in the initial stages. As tedious and boring as it sounds, the fact is that vehicles vary vastly and reading the manufacturers manual is time well spent. Equally, winding that window and listening to the mechanic and the first service advice can save you a lot of dollars in the long run. At Fleetcare we can manage all your fleet vehicle maintenance. To find out more click here

Have you ever had a new car nightmare?


Do you think more can be done at the break-in stage?


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