Running-in a new car

A little gentle treatment is still important

After the first 1000 miles gradually use more of the car's performance

After the first 1000 miles gradually use more of the car's performance

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, oil consumption 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.

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Buy a used car

In the first thousand 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
  • Try to avoid harsh acceleration and heavy braking
  • For diesel engines, keep the engine speed below 3000 rpm, but make sure the revs regularly reach this limit
  • For petrol engines stick to a 3000 rpm limit for the first 500-600 miles and then increase the limit to around 4000 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 6000 miles or so but should slow, particularly if the car has been treated gently in the early days

After the first 1000 miles gradually use more of the car's performance.

(3 October 2012)