OK, so we all know Clark Howard recommends buying used cars, not new ones. But automakers sold nearly 18 million cars in 2015, which means there are a lot of brand-new wheels out there cruising the roads of America.
So for all you drivers who recently bought new wheels, we offer the following advice. It’s culled from the pages of Road & Track magazine and our own research here at Clark.com.
Read more: 18 tips to save money on car insurance
Don’t put the pedal to the metal right off the starting block
‘Jack rabbit’ starts — the kind people tend to do when the traffic light turns green — can harm your engine, particularly during the break-in period of the first 1,000 miles. Flooring it at full throttle will only wear down your piston rings. Any imperfections that may be there from the manufacturer will be compromised by hot spots, which can lead to additional problems.
Don’t max out your RPMs
Forget about redlining it. When it comes to revolutions per minute (RPMs), think low rather than high on a new car—unless your vehicle is specifically broken in by factory technicians at the production plant. The exact guidelines vary by automaker, but a good general rule is to stay under 3,500-4,500 RPMs for the first 150 to 500 miles.
Don’t use cruise control
Cruise control is a nice feature when you’re on a long road trip. But when you have a new engine, you want to vary the RPMs as you drive. That will ensure that there’s a constantly changing load and speed to properly wear your engine in.
Don’t do a lot of short distance travel
During every trip, you want to be sure your engine has time to fully warm up. Not warming up can compromise engine performance, particularly during the first 1,000 miles. Trips of five miles or less starting from a cold engine should be avoided if at all possible.
The AAA Auto Club notes that using your ride for towing—especially if it’s not designed to do that—will unnecessarily tax you’re vehicle before it’s fully broken in. And it’s doubly worse if you do choose to tow in extreme heat, in very dusty parts of the country or while driving at high altitudes.
Don’t let the gas go below a quarter tank
Waiting until your gas tank is almost empty before a fill-up is a bad idea. For starters, the fuel gauge isn’t always accurate. Experts suggest you should consider it an estimate—rather than an exact measurement—of how far you’ll make it before running out of gas.
Second, you could be damaging your vehicle by running that low on gas. The gas in your car ‘acts like a coolant for the electric fuel-pump motor, so when you run very low, this allows the pump to suck in air, which creates heat and can cause the fuel pump to wear prematurely and potentially fail,’ according to Consumer Reports. The repair could cost well more than what it would have cost you to fill up the tank in the first place.
Don’t fill up with premium gas
Premium gas is, for most people, an unnecessary waste of money. Most cars will run just fine on regular unleaded—even a Porsche! And unless your vehicle specifically requires premium, using higher-octane gas may actually harm it.
Don’t skip the Top Tier gasoline mark when filling up
You want to put gas in your car that will clean the carbon deposits that naturally build up over time. So there’s a designation in the marketplace you should look for: Top Tier gasoline.
This kind of gas contains extra detergents to clean your engine. (But note this well: Top Tier is not synonymous with premium gas. They’re two different things. The latter pertains to the octane rating, while the format indicates the presence of additional detergents.)
You can find Top Tier gas at a variety of off-brand stations like Costco, QT, Valero and more. See our complete list here.
Don’t change the oil too frequently
Most owner’s manuals for newer vehicles will tell you it’s acceptable to go 5,000 miles or even 7,500 miles between oil changes under normal conditions. But you should drop to 3,000 miles if you drive under severe conditions. Here’s how you define ‘severe driving conditions.’
Don’t ignore the owner’s manual
All the routine maintenance that’s necessary on your new vehicle is clearly laid out in the owner’s manual. Follow it closely and you’ll get years of useful life out of your purchase!