“Break-in mo muna yan.”
You may have heard this line the moment you get a brand new vehicle. It might have come from an elder, colleague, a friend, or even a relative. Chances are, you'll hear it from someone who, let's just say, been around longer than you have.
If it’s your first time hearing the term “breaking in a car”, it doesn't mean real-life Grand Theft Auto. Instead, it's a set of precautionary steps to help the moving parts of your engine settle in and make it last in the long run.
Now, some of you reading this may argue that break-in is just a myth for service centers to earn money or that it is no longer applicable to newer modern vehicles. To a certain degree, you’re not wrong with the latter. Unlike older cars, modern vehicles have engines that are built using stronger materials, more advanced methods, and run better fluids. As a result, they are quite ready to be used out of the box.
However, there’s a reason why manufacturers still recommend new vehicle owners to practice caution during the first thousand kilometers or the “break-in period”. So how does one properly break-in a new car? Read on.
Keep your revs low
When you get your first car, odds are you’d want to go drive spiritedly rev it up high, and even shift at the red line. Now, this would be okay if the car isn’t brand new. But if it is fresh from the dealership, it will be bad for the engine. As mentioned above, there’s a good chance that parts of the engine haven’t settled in yet. As a result, it’s best to avoid revving your engine sky high. It's recommended to keep engine revs to 3,000-3,500 RPM mark max, per your vehicle's owner's manual.
Along with maintaining low RPMs, you shouldn’t be going flat out on the accelerator either. Remember, it’s not an on and off switch. Be gentle with your foot to prevent sudden spikes in revs. That being said, manufacturers often recommend keeping below a certain speed as well. The speed is often dependent per vehicle, so we suggest checking out the owner’s manual for more accurate details.
As a side note, you should also properly warm up your engine to operating temperature before going out on a drive. You wouldn’t want to put too much stress on a cold engine especially one that isn’t broken in. Think of it this way: You don't want to be working out without stretching first.
Don’t overload your car
The goal of keeping the RPMs low and driving at lower speed is to reduce stress on the engine during the break-in period. Because of that, you shouldn’t be overloading your vehicle. By overloading, we mean exceeding the vehicle's passenger capacity or payload limit. More load equals more weight, which forces your vehicle to work much harder and rev higher to get moving in the first place.
It’s is the same case for towing. For SUVs and pickup owners, you might be compelled to use that factory tow hitch that comes with the vehicle. However, it’s highly recommended you wait after the break-in period is complete before doing so. Towing adds extra weight that your vehicle needs to pull and not to mention get up to speed.
Not just the engine
Aside from your engine being new, the tires and brakes, are also new as well. As a result, your tires might not provide optimum grip when driving on the road. This is due to a lubricant that manufacturers often apply to the tire’s surface. It will often take a few kilometers of driving before this lubricant is worn away from the tires. Once it does though, you can be assured that your tires are working to their full potential.
Similarly, your brake will also have to be bed-in first. The rotors, pads, and calipers will need to be used before they become fully effective. This can be done so by repeatedly accelerating up to a certain speed and gently braking then repeating the process 2-3 times to get the brakes up to operating temperature. Afterward, make a near-stop by firmly pressing on the brakes. Once you’ve slowed down, immediately accelerate and apply the brakes again. Repeat this cycle a few times, but remember not to come to a complete stop.
Go for a long drive
Depending on the vehicle, manufacturers often recommend driving a certain number of kilometers for the break-in period to be completed. For some vehicles, it might be just around 1,000-2,000km only. Others might take a bit more than that. Now if you happen to live in Metro Manila, it’s hard to drive far with all the traffic. Instead, we suggest going for a road trip to nearby provinces and make use of the expressway.
It doesn’t matter where you end up driving. What’s important is that you rack up the kilometers and ensure that the fluids inside your vehicles are circulating properly. Just don’t forget the first two tips we mentioned above when you’re on that long drive. Otherwise, you might end up doing more damage than good. This would also be a good time to bed in your brakes and tires. While you're on that break-in road trip, don't cane the engine and don't turn the expressway into a race track.
Change your oil regularly
After putting in the necessary kilometers, you should remember to change the oil in your vehicle. There’s a reason why most manufacturers often give a free oil change/PMS during the first few km of ownership. No, this is not a way for the dealerships to earn extra cash. Instead, this is to help get the metal fillings, dust, and other debris out of your engine.
Once you’ve completed the first oil change, it is recommended to follow up with regular oil changes scheduled in your owner’s manual until the break-in period has been completed. This will help ensure that your vehicle’s engine will last, and prevent any long-term damage that may happen in the future.
Yes, we understand the excitement of having a brand-new car, especially if it is your first. But if you follow the break-in guidelines, it will allow your vehicle to go the distance. As a result, properly breaking-in a vehicle could help save you more money in the long run as your engine will be healthy from the get-go. As they say, good things will come to those who wait and in the case of your car, it will reward you reliable service and uncompromised performance.