How to safely drive your car in the running-in period

Most new cars need to be treated well in the first 2,500 km of its life, so that they give you a longer life span. Manufacturers will recommend a running-in period usually of about 1000 km, but it will serve you well to extend this period before driving the car at its full potential.

This is called the Running-in Period, and what you do in these 2,500 kms will define how long the car will last you and how it will perform through its lifespan.

ertiga engine

Why do you need to run-in an engine?

When engines are manufactured, there are minor imperfections in the machining that need to even out. The pistons especially need to smoothly move up and down in the cylinders, and form an effective oil seal between the piston rings and the cylinder wall to prevent wear and tear on the engine, excessive oil consumption and poor performance and mileage.

Therefore you need to be gentle with the engine in the first 2,500 km of driving a new car to allow for all the parts to “bed-in” or form a sort of harmony with each other. It’s not just the engine, even the gearbox, brakes, bearings and tyres need time to settle down for optimum performance. There’s a reason many cars begin to give better mileage after their first service.

Here are some pointers on how to successfully run-in your engine to extend the life of your car. Follow this for the first 2,500 km of driving (and beyond if you can):

Warm up the engine

When you start a cold engine, let the car idle for at least two minutes before you move off, allowing for oil to circulate through the engine effectively. Don’t switch on the AC immediately as it puts unnecessary load on the engine, instead wait till the car engine has warmed up. After two minutes, drive away gently, shifting gears at about 2000-2500 rpm depending on the car, not putting strain on the engine. Do this till you see the temperature gauge settle at the optimum running temperature or for the first 10 minutes of driving (if your car does not have a temperature gauge).

Shift gears at optimum rpm

Don’t over-rev the car in each gear. Shift at optimum shift points at between 2000-2500 rpm. In a car without a tachometer, follow the 10-20-30-40-50 rule – shifting at 10kmph from first to second, second to third at 20kmph and so on. Downshift to a lower gear at 1,500 rpm to prevent lugging the engine and keeping the car in the “power band” especially for diesel engines – as you’ll otherwise lose some boost from the turbocharger.

Constantly vary the rpm

Constantly varying the rpm is easy to achieve in city conditions, where vehicle speeds are constantly changing. But on the highway, one tends to settle down to a steady speed. Don’t do this for a new engine, as it needs to bed in effectively at various rpm levels.

Don’t exceed maximum recommended speed

Stay within the speed limit and you should be fine. Don’t exceed 100 kmph and/or 2,500 rpm for the first 1000km or more of driving the car. After that you can start slowly increasing the speed for short bursts at a time, and then slowing down to get the engine “used to” handling higher rpm ranges. Even after 2,500 km, don’t indulge in flat-out driving for extended periods of time.

Don’t be hard on the brakes

The brakes also need time to settle down. For the first 1000 km, try not to do any hard braking. Anticipate when you need to stop and gently apply the brakes instead of speeding up and braking hard. This will allow your brake pads to wear evenly against the brake discs. This will also ensure even tyre wear.

Let the engine cool before shutdown

When you park the car, don’t switch off the engine immediately. Let it idle for about 30 seconds before you turn it off – allowing for oil circulation to normalize. This is especially recommended throughout the life of a diesel engine as the turbocharger needs to spool down, and suddenly turning off the engine starves it of oil, which could lead to failure.

Change engine oil

Some cars recommend a first service at 1000 km, where the engine oil is changed. This is good practice, as the engine oil would have collected sludge, metal filings and impurities from the new engine and needs to be cleaned out. Even in cars that recommend a first service at 5,000km or 15,000km it is advisable to do a first oil change early and then stick to recommended intervals or slightly earlier (since Indian driving conditions are less than ideal). So if a car maker suggests changing engine oil and oil filter every 15,000km, it is good practice to change at every 10,000km instead. The same applies for the gearbox oil and engine coolant – change both every 20,000km.

 

Follow these points in the running-in period and your car will serve you well for a long time. Not only will the performance of the engine be good, you will also get good fuel economy from the car. Do share any more points you have about effectively running-in a car.