Step-by-step guide to ‘running in’ a new car


running-in-a-new-carDespite what your next door neighbour might tell you, it’s still important that you ‘run in’ your new car if you want it to last, says Practical Motoring’s Isaac Bober.

Back in the old days, it was vital that cars were ‘run in’ very, very, very gently for the first few thousand kilometres, adhering to a strict set of rules. But, thanks to improvements in machining and lubricants modern cars are much less dependent on this strict process – but it’s still important.

You see, a car is, more or less, just a collection of components bolted together and, when anything metallic is connected to anything else metallic, no matter how precisely it’s machined, there’s bound to be a slight mismatch. So, to ensure those parts don’t scratch, scrape and bang against each other, they need to be settled into place, gently, and this is what ‘running in’ is all about.

Most car owner manuals will detail the process for running in your new car, and that typically involves driving around gently for the first, say, 1600km, varying the engine loads. Think of it like letting the battery on your new phone discharge completely, instead of throwing it onto charge when it nudges 25%.

Step 1: Varied Engine Loads

The key to running in your new car is varied engine loads, not just racking up hundreds of kilometres, so don’t just think you can get your new car and go for a run up and down the highway in top gear, or potter around town for a few weeks. What you want to do is try accelerating in higher gears, varying your speed, cruising in one gear down from top gear, and so on. That said, you don’t want to labour the engine either; meaning you don’t to use too high a gear for the conditions, for example fifth at 40km/h.

Step 2: Keeping the revs even

Try and stick to around 3000rpm (you want to stick below that for a diesel engine) for the first 400-500km, or so, gradually revving it beyond that as you rack up more kilometres, introducing about 500rpm at a time. That said, if you need to exceed the RPM recommendation during the run-in period then feel free to do so, preferably when the engine is warm.

Step 3: Don’t carry too much

Try not to overload your car when running it in, actually, try not too overload your car at all, and by that we mean don’t carry around unnecessary items like prams if you’re not taking the kids anywhere. Weight adds extra load on the engine and that, in turn, will have an impact on fuel consumption. And the same goes for towing, try to leave your trailer off your new car until you’ve run it in, means you won’t add unnecessary stress before everything’s properly, and gently bedded in.

Step 4: Keep an eye on oil and brakes

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your oil consumption. Most car makers suggest a first check at around 1000km so they can see how the brake pads are bedding in and how much oil the engine is using. But, don’t rely on your mechanics to keep an eye on this, you should get into the habit of checking all this stuff yourself.

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