engine break in
July 11, 2006 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Do modern auto engines still require a break in period?

Haven't had a new car in over 20 years. Wonder if it's safe to take a new engine on a 800 mile highway trip.
posted by larry_darrell to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
When I bought a brand-new (at the time) 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse, I was told there was a break-in period on the engine for a certain amount of miles, where I was advised not to exceed the speed limit. But that's a Japanese car.

I've heard German-made autos recommend (and are designed for) pretty "harsh" break-in periods.

This is super-laymen's answer, I'm sure the auto experts here will chime in in force.
posted by robbie01 at 10:41 PM on July 11, 2006

Read the Book of Words that came with the car. Do what it says, do not do what it says not to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:56 PM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, although there's much debate about the proper way to break in a new engine. Many new cars have a break-in procedure specified in the owner's manual, Generally an 800 mile highway trip would be inappropriate -- some manufacturers will recommend varying engine speeds, and not exceeding 55 or so mph for the first few hundred miles.
posted by knave at 10:58 PM on July 11, 2006

posted by kindall at 11:01 PM on July 11, 2006

New cars will benefit in several ways from being "broken in" according to manufacturers recommendations. Generally, these involve periods of from 1,000 to 3,000 miles, in which you are advised to drive the car over varying speeds and terrain, and avoid extended high speeds. This helps "seat" moving parts in the engine, by wearing in metal to metal contact surfaces, but the same processes also occur in the transmission, differential, brakes, tires and other running gear systems. At the end of the recommended "break in" period, you are urged to return the vehicle to the dealership for a fluid change (especially important if the engine was initially delivered with "break in" oil) and inspection/adjustment of belts and such other early wear items.

You could arrange to do the break-in on a road trip, by driving state highways, varying your speed (and keeping it down) and breaking up the drive into shorter segments of a couple hundred miles at a time, interspersed with rest stops of an hour or two to allow the car to go through several warm up/cool down cycles. Pay attention to wearing in the brakes gradually, and if you have drum rear brakes, back up and stop enough to let the automatic brake adjusters trim the brakes a few times. Then, arrange to have your post break-in service and inspection, if any is recommended, at a dealership on the road.

But if anything major breaks, not even necessarily due to your driving, you'll be at a disadvantage negotiating warranty repairs on a new car, far from the dealership that sold you the car. Generally, I want at least 5,000 to 7,000 miles on a car, before I get more than a $200 tow bill away from home, but that's just me...
posted by paulsc at 11:07 PM on July 11, 2006

posted by flabdablet at 11:40 PM on July 11, 2006

Obligatory car talk link
posted by TedW at 6:56 AM on July 12, 2006

More recent Car Talk link
posted by TedW at 6:58 AM on July 12, 2006

When I bought my 2002 VW GTI 1.8T, I was told by everyone (dealerships, people more knowledgable about such things, etc) that I absolutely had to obey the break-in recommendations. I was told to baby the car for the first 1000kms. I wasn't nececessarily supposed to keep it within the speed limit, but I was supposed to keep it under 3000 rpm (which effectively meant the speed limit anyway). It was torture because it's a zippy little car that just wants to go faster, but I did it... and over 116,000 kms later I haven't had any (engine) problems yet.

But of course (reading the first comment) that's probably a German car for you...
posted by cgg at 8:04 AM on July 12, 2006

cgg...i had the same sort of thing when i got my 2004 Yamaha FZ6 (motorcycle) for the 1st 500 miles i couldnt exceed 5k RPMs. it was horrible....going down the highway, doing 55 in 3 gear. it just wanted to go...but now i am happy
posted by ShawnString at 9:40 AM on July 12, 2006

Interestingly, BMW has been advertising, on Salon and elsewhere, its European delivery program, which encourages new buyers to come pick up the car in Germany. The adverts explicitly suggest the driver should have a speed-limit-free Autobahn experience before he or she is forced to tame their driving for America's highways.

posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:42 AM on July 12, 2006

I specifically asked about a break in period on my Saturn Vue I bought a while back, and wasn't advised of any, from sales all the way on down to the several mechanics in their shop. Granted, I didn't go out and mash the gas to the floor, but according to one of the mechanics, they now "bench test" their engines before hand. Not a car guy though, so I don't know how plausible that might be.
posted by richter_x at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2006

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