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I've just bough a new 2011 plate car. I've heard stories of people 'burning in' engines for the first few hundred or couple thousand miles using methods such as:

  • Not driving above 50 mph.
  • Varying the revs more than usual throughout the entire range.
  • Keeping the revs below 3.5k.

I've also heard that modern car engines are broken in at the factory, and the above is complete rubbish.

Is 'burn-in' necessary on modern cars? If so, how should I 'burn-in' a new engine?

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I've just had a terrible experience with my Toyota GT86 (2012) - the engine (shortblock) had to be changed. I blame a bit myself, because I followed the stupid suggestion from my car dealer, that I can drive it like a sport car from day one without any restrains. And I did it. To full 7.500 rpm and 220 km/h. And even though I changed the oil after 3000 km the engine just broke down at 18.000 km. Now I have carefully read all the instructions and found out that I should drive at max 4000 rpm for the first 1000 miles. So guys, my advice is that you should really follow the manual from the manufa –  Rappash Feb 27 at 23:11
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8 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

You should perform a new car break-in per the manufacturer's instructions. That way, if any warranty issues come up, you've done what they said to do.

Generally speaking though (according to the engine builders I've talked to), you do want to vary the RPMs a lot, don't cruise at a steady speed for too long. None of them hold to the drive slow theory, nor the low RPM only idea (some of them do the initial break-in on the dyno with a series of WOT runs through the first few gears). More frequent oil changes are a good idea as a new engine will shed a little bit of metal at first. Usually it's something like initial break-in dyno runs, change oil, drive for 500 miles, change oil, drive for 1000 more miles, change oil, drive for 1500 miles this time, change oil, then onto your normal schedule.

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Modern new cars should only need one early oil change and it's often part of the first (warranty) service at 1000kms or so. It'll be part of the service regime they give you from the manufacturer. –  staticsan Sep 7 '11 at 2:58
    
You don't need to replace the engine oil so quickly. Modern engines don't have nearly the amount of flash from break-in that engines did even 10 years ago. Oil filters will prevent any particulates from causing any engine issues. Manufactures first service should be fine. The only place I differ on engine break in is given a manual transmission I like to find a long hill, and engine break down it to seat the rings. I've built 1 engine and rebuilt 3 for reference of experience. –  Chris Jan 23 '13 at 5:04
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I found an excellent article on breaking in a new car at Popular Mechanics.

The ritual of breaking in a new car is part of the body of knowledge we refer to as conventional wisdom. It’s not necessarily wise, and the technology of building a modern automobile has evolved to the point where a lot of “wisdom” is obsolete. Few cars specify a break-in procedure anymore, simply cautioning you to avoid extreme acceleration or extended idling for the first thousand miles or so, and there’s little in the way of extra service up front. Some don’t even mandate an oil change until 6000 miles. We think your new ride deserves better. Here are a few tips.

Some highlights, at least, what the seemingly reputable author specifically recommends as a new car owner:

  • For the first 1000 miles, avoid constant speeds and throttle settings. If you commute in normal stop-and-go traffic, you’ll be fine.

  • Avoid top-speed testing, drag racing or towing heavy trailers for the first 1000 miles.

  • Change oil very early (20 miles and 1000 miles) to remove any lingering metal particles from new engine wear. After that, follow the recommended oil change intervals in the manual.

  • Refrain from high-speed stops or dragging the brakes for a few hundred miles.

  • If your car has a lot of cloth or carpet exposed, consider applying Scotchgard so dirt, mold, pollens etc can't adhere.

  • Feel free to wax the car to protect the paint, the factory paint is fully cured, etc. Consider applying 3M protective clear film to leading edges of the car to further protect the finish, if you like.

I find the early oil change advice the most compelling and I'll be doing that with our new car at 1k miles for sure. In general, as the accepted answer states, always defer to your car's manual and the manufacturer's recommendations for your specific vehicle.

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The early oil change is sometimes poorly explained. It's a bit more obvious to normal people when you explain that the engine parts were manufactured to some accuracy tolerances, not perfection. After X miles, all of those parts have had a chance to work on each other and polish away any slight non-perfections that remained. This process is by design. –  Bob Cross Dec 2 '11 at 14:06
    
Interesting note: The brake pads I use require a series of high speed stops to build temperature to bed them in. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Apr 23 '12 at 13:11
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Well, I read that Consumer Reports (Nov 2011, p. 71) breaks in cars for 2000 miles before they perform their analyses. I guess that means that the car isn't really at a 'steady state' until after that point, at least in their opinion.

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Older cars did needed proper care for the first 5000 miles are so but I believe new cars do not need this at all. If they did needed it, manufacturer would have told their customers know about it. I do believer personally one should hand it with care, naturally.

A car maintained properly in one hand drives excellent. Maintain a steady driving style and your car will perform great in that particular style.

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I bought a new VW Golf in March and was instructed by VW that there was no run-in period required and no 1000kms service either. The first service is almost due now at the standard 15000kms.

Don't know if that helps any, it's just my most recent experience and not something I'd come across before either.

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My 4Runner came with Synthetic. The manufacturer (Toyota) recommends 10,000 for first oil change, and 10k between after if still using full syn. I still did it at 5k and plan to do 7500 from now on.. I don't think it matters so much as it used to.

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It does depend a lot on the type of car - a lot of specialist sports cars specify an initial 1000 miles on a particular grade of oil at <5000rpm (for example) then a change to normal running oils.

This is often the case with tight tolerance, high compression engines. My Forester STi had very strict rules for first 500 miles, and even the normal maintenance schedule is much more onerous than the standard version.

Mid range cars these days are much more forgiving, and manufacturers like Kia try to make sure the customer doesn't need to worry about any of this so they do whatever is required to break in their cars before sale.

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I would like to add that while some engines do go through the 'burn in' process at the factory, none of the other components of the engine do, for example, transmission components (clutch, gearbox, etc).

As such, you should be aware that these parts need to be 'broken in' and they will not perform at their peak for the first ~1000 miles. Careful usage of the clutch is also essential to prevent further problems down the road (for manual transmission cars).

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