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Running-in a new car

A little extra care for longer reliability

It used to be absolutely essential to follow rigorous running-in procedures to get the best life and performance out of a new vehicle. You may even remember the sight of a new car moving slowly in the nearside lane of a motorway with a 'running-in, please pass' sign in the rear window.

Improvements in engineering, manufacturing and oil quality mean that modern cars are much less dependent on this careful treatment for the first few thousand miles.

It's still a good idea to take a little extra care though, particularly if it's a car you plan to keep for a long time – reliability, and oil and fuel consumption can all benefit.

Ask the dealer for advice when you pick the car up, and check the handbook – many still include some running-in advice.

The first 1,000 miles
  • Start with gentle town driving so all the major components, including brakes can bed-in.
  • New tyres have a thin oily coating – a mixture of oils from the rubber and a release agent to prevent the tyre sticking to the manufacturing mould. Until this wears off the handling will feel different, especially in the wet. In practice this will wear off within 3–5 miles so most new car buyer's are unlikely to experience it.
  • Try to avoid harsh acceleration and heavy braking
  • For diesel engines, keep the engine speed below 3,000 rpm, but make sure the revs regularly reach this limit.
  • For petrol engines stick to a 3,000 rpm limit for the first 500–600 miles and then increase the limit to around 4,000 rpm. Again, revs should regularly reach this limit.
  • Avoid labouring the engine – by changing up too early for example.
  • Check oil and coolant levels at least once a week – this is a new car so you don't know how much oil it will use. Oil consumption can be high for the first 6,000 miles or so but should slow, particularly if the car has been treated gently in the early days.

After the first 1,000 miles gradually use more of the car's performance.

(Page updated 31 March 2015)