If you need to take a long trip in your new car, it’s best to wait until after it’s been broken in. However, if you must drive it before then, try to vary the speed and avoid hard acceleration or climbing steep hills.
It is a bad idea to drive a new car on a long distance trip because the gears and engine might not be adequately lubricated and could wear out faster. Therefore, it’s best to take shorter drives in a new car before going on long distance trips.
Manufacturers recommend varying the speed and avoiding hard acceleration for the first 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers). Doing this helps moving parts in the engine to not make contact with other parts and avoid premature wear. In the rest of this article, I will discuss this benchmark and how to prepare a new car for a long-distance road trip.
When Can I Take My New Car on a Long Distance Trip?
You’ve likely heard the advice that you should never — or at least not for a long time — drive a new car for any significant distance. The reasoning is that it’s best to break in your car on a short commute rather than subject it to hundreds of miles of wear and tear before its vital components are adequately lubricated.
You can take your new car on a long distance trip whenever you want, but it’s best to allow your car to have a “break-in” period of around 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) beforehand. This period ensures that your new car’s engine is lubricated and ready to travel long distances.
This idea is so commonly accepted that even some automakers recommend against long-distance travel until after the first 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) or so. Automotive engineers tell us there is some validity to this advice, but the truth is more nuanced than most people realize.
After 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers), you can generally start getting on the gas a little bit more aggressively. But even then, you should still be careful not to exceed recommended speeds. You also want to avoid driving in extreme conditions like extremely hot or cold weather whenever possible.
Breaking In an Engine
Breaking in the engine means you should avoid putting constant stress on the engine by maintaining a consistent speed and load – like when driving on the highway.
It’s best to vary your speed and load as much as possible, which will happen naturally during city driving.
For example, Mazda recommends taking it easy for the first 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers), while Acura says you can drive at any speed right away. Most manufacturers also recommend avoiding full-throttle acceleration until after the break-in period.
Modern engines are designed to be durable and built with tight tolerances, so not all experts agree about breaking in a new car. It depends on a few crucial factors:
How Far You Drive the New Car
If your destination is a few hundred miles from home, there’s probably no reason to worry. If it’s thousands of miles away, that’s another matter entirely.
The reason for this is simple: The longer your trip, the more likely it is that something will happen. It could be as simple as a flat tire or as complicated as an engine problem. However, if you’re close to home when something happens, it’ll be easy to get back home — and getting service might not be difficult either.
If you’re on a cross-country road trip, there isn’t such a guarantee of an easy solution to any issue that may arise. Your only option might be to call roadside assistance or even get the vehicle towed somewhere for repairs. This can cost a lot of money and eat up a lot of time.
How Fast You Drive the New Car
A road trip is an excellent way to test the long-distance capabilities of any car, including a new one. However, if you plan to travel at high speeds for long periods, it may be better to wait until your vehicle has a few thousand miles under its belt.
You should avoid driving the car at sustained high speed for long periods during the break-in period. This is because mechanical parts such as the engine’s pistons and valves need to seat themselves properly.
Driving at high speeds during the break-in period can cause these components to wear prematurely and negatively impact performance in the long run.
“During break-in, avoid aggressive driving, such as heavy acceleration and hard braking,” says DJ Auto Doctor. “Also avoid high speeds during that time.”
How Prepped Your New Car Is For the Trip
If you’re buying a new car and want to take it on a long-distance trip, here are some tips:
- Check with your dealership before signing any papers or paying any money. Find out what they will do if there’s a problem with the car while you’re on the trip.
- Call the manufacturer’s roadside assistance line and register your vehicle, even if you didn’t buy an extended warranty or roadside assistance package. If there is an issue, you can have it towed to the nearest dealer and have them look at it under warranty without paying for it yourself.
- Make sure that all fluids are topped off before leaving home and recheck them just before hitting the road while paying close attention to coolant level — the last thing anyone wants is an overheating engine.
“It’s absolutely fine to drive a new car 1,000 miles,” says Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing at Edmunds.com. “But if you’re going to drive it across the country, it’s probably best to stop every four hours or so and give the engine, transmission, and brakes a chance to cool down.”
A car’s break-in period is intended to allow the engine and drivetrain to properly seat themselves in their components and the rings on your pistons to seat themselves properly. These two items have a direct impact on your oil consumption.
New cars no longer require the break-in period because of advances in metallurgy, casting techniques, and machining methods, but it can’t hurt to be conservative about it.
Therefore, you probably shouldn’t make that trip in your new vehicle until a few thousand miles have accumulated on the odometer.