Do New Cars Still Require a Break-In Period?

Modern engineering is more robust, but there are still important factors to consider during the early miles of most new cars

By Devin Pratt

It used to be that a a new car requires a detailed break-in period to protect itself engine and extend its longevity. But has modern technology made cars more robust and have break-in periods become obsolete?

“I contacted a manufacturer, in this case Volvo, and they said there is no prescribed or required break-in procedure with their newer cars,” says Mike Monticello, Consumer Reports road test manager. “They said that the powertrain constantly adapts to the driver’s style and therefore a break-in period isn’t really necessary.”

But many car manufacturers still provide instructions for new car owners. For example, Consumer Reports’ 2022 Ford Maverick small pickup owner’s manual says “your vehicle requires a development period.” Ford recommends that for the first 1,000 miles, owners avoid driving at high speeds, braking hard, shifting gears aggressively or using your vehicle for towing.

The owner’s manual for the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe that CR tested was more specific about the dos and don’ts of the first 600 miles. And for the most part, the reasonable suggestions given are generally a good idea for any new vehicle. That’s why Hyundai says that by following these few simple precautions, “you can increase your vehicle’s performance, economy and life.” Hyundai suggests that you don’t race the engine (meaning don’t push it hard, such as a full-throttle start off the line). Keep the engine speed between 2000 and 4000 rpm; don’t maintain one constant speed for long periods of time (meaning even if you’re on the highway, be sure to change your speed frequently during the first 600 miles – this allows the piston rings to seal properly, reducing premature wear to the engine). And avoid unnecessary sudden stops so that the brakes “seat” properly. Overheating your brake pads and rotors with sudden braking can glaze the rotors and reduce braking effectiveness. Hyundai also says owners should not tow a trailer during the Santa Fe’s first 1,200 miles.

And what about electric vehicles? We couldn’t find a word anywhere in our 2022 Kia EV6 owner’s manual about breaking into a new car. That’s because “they’re ready to go right out of the box,” a Kia representative told us. “Another perk of owning an EV.”

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Editor’s note: This article is adapted from an episode of “Talking cars.”

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