Break me in gently…

Part III of the Auto Saving Series. If you missed a segment, start at the beginning.

Shiny. Clean. And new car smell. Your new car is a massive investment. Want to save money by not having to repair it next year? Treat it right.

Is your truck your best friend? Already been a quarter million miles together? Did you just put in a replacement engine? Protect it.

Break the engine in gently.

Most drivers need their cars to last more than two years. Over the first 1,000 miles, break the engine in gently. These simple tips are from professional drivers and manufacturers.

Piston rings

Image via Wikipedia

Seal it up.

Except the piston rings, most engine parts operate on a thin cushion of oil. The piston rings scrape oil in the cylinders. While you break in your new engine, the final seal of the rings is occurring.

No jackrabbits.

The best methods of sealing the piston rings are gentle acceleration and moderate speeds (under 65 mph). Auto manufacturers warn of engine danger when new owners tow a trailer during the first 600 miles and use full-throttle starts and hard-braking stops.

Wanna race?

Professional race engine builders are even more cautious (They are not selling new cars.). They suggest varied speeds during your break-in period and not letting your engine idle for more than 2 minutes.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Do not rev the engine when you start it. Instead, drive gently until the engine reaches operating temperature. Check your owner’s manual. Avoid trips too short to bring your engine to the correct operating temperature.

Gear shift stick of my Mazda Protege SE 1999.

Ready, shift!

No “lugging”. Lugging is driving in too high a gear for your speed. It is even harder on a cold engine.

When all else fails,…

Read your owner’s manual for additional instructions. If you find more, follow those as well.

Change the Oil

Engines are precision constructed to within thousandths of an inch. The final machining occurs during the break-in period. Tiny metal shavings and particles are left suspended in the oil.

Oil filter

Image via Wikipedia

Do not forget the filter.

The oil filter traps these particles, so changing the filter is mandatory. The first oil change is the most important one for a new engine.  Change the oil in your new engine at 1,000 miles.

Replacement Engines 

Do not overlook the delicacy of a replacement engine. Your replacement engine in your faithful truck needs a break-in period just like when you got it new. Even rebuilt engines fare better after a gentle break-in period.

Bottom Line

Your vehicle is the sum of its parts. Take care of the individual parts during the break-in is crucial to years of money-saving performance before you need a mechanic.


NEXT: Arm & a Leg

Which one of your “Old Faithful”s got a new engine?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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  1. None of them, Red. You know when I use a vehicle, It’s ready for a permanent vacation after several years. This one is probably the one that I’ve cared the most about. It’s had the tranny and rear-end rebuilt! Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Happy Thanksgiving to you, Grant! I tend to drive them like they are made of glass a lot of the time, but I have to admit dogging them every once in a while. If I can drive one with a cracked head for 40K miles, I think I am pretty gentle on them.

  2. James Parsons

     /  November 23, 2011

    These are great tips for new and used car owners. These tips were told to me back in 1981 when I bought my first new car and they do work . Thanks Red good job.

  3. bear

     /  November 24, 2011

    Proper maintenance is the key to keeping it on the road good job on this one .

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