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Breaking in a VW Golf TDI

Can someone give me some tips on how to break. In my new VW Golf TDI? The manual is very brief and vague on this topic. Thank you!

The most important thing is to avoid running the engine at the same RPMs for more than a few minutes at a time. In other words, vary your speed. This is why you shouldn’t use Cruise Control on your new car–at least for awhile.

It is also important to NOT “baby” the engine too much. While you want to avoid high revs (nothing over 3,500 if possible, definitely nothing over 4,000) for a few weeks, you do need to do some “brisk” acceleration runs in order to seat the piston rings properly. People who drive like the proverbial little old lady during break-in can wind up with high oil consumption, due to failure to seat the piston rings properly.

So–while driving at a steady speed, periodically, “goose” the accelerator so that you gain speed fairly rapidly. However, you should try to keep an eye on the tachometer, so that you don’t go over the RPMs listed above. Since keeping an eye on the tach will necessitate a little less attention to traffic, I suggest that you do this only on the open road when there are no cars near you.

If you do a few brisk acceleration runs during the first 750 miles, you will essentially have broken the engine in properly. Also–check the dipstick every few days. During break-in, it is not unusual for the engine to consume a bit of oil. If you observe that the oil level has dropped by 1/2 qt, add oil at that point. Do NOT wait for it to drop by a full qt before replenishing it.

And–be sure to check your manual for the correct oil type, viscosity, and specification. VWs cannot use garden-variety oil. You must use an oil that meets the technical specification listed in the Owner’s Manual!

Thanks. Do I need to keep my highway speed below a certain limit?

My Toyota manual says not to drive at a high speed for the first 1000 miles but it doesn’t say how high. I stayed below 55 mph for the first 1000 miles of all my cars. I may have been overly cautious, but I’ve never owned a car that gave me problems.

Thanks, Joe. What about driving too slowly and idling? I was told that can be bad for a diesel, too?

Idling for long periods is not good for any car and is a waste of gas. I don’t think you can drive too slowly unless you’re driving at one speed for a long period. The best thing, as VDC wrote above, is to drive a varying speeds during the break-in period.

You may also get opinions from some people who might say ‘break-in’ is completely unnecessary for cars nowadays. I prefer to be easy on the car for the first 1000 miles anyway. Also, don’t forget to be easy on the brakes. You should avoid quick stops and riding the brakes. Of course, you should do that regardless of whether or not your car is new.

Step #1   Open the glove box
Step #2   Remove Owner's Manual
Step #3   Read the manual
Step #4   Follow the instructions found there

The exception to the above would include possible changes made by the manufacturer, or some special usage conditions like Northern Alaska.

Note if you don’t find that manual, order one. There are many many different right ways depending on your car.

Thanks, Joe, but the manual is very vague, saying not to drive “too slow” nor at full throttle and to gradually increase speed to max permissible. I was looking for a bit more specificity. Can I go 50mph, or 60mph, or 65 mph? I know that the speed should be varied and not to use the cruise control.

By “max permissible” they’re talking about legal limits. They just want you to work your way up to that RPM. Once you do, follow VDC’s advice. That applies to pretty much all motors…I even used that on my boats.

The owner’s manual is brief because with modern machine tools and cutting tools, break in is no longer as critical as before. As was said by others, heed the owner’s manual and you will do ok with your new car. You can be sure that German engineers would not let the car and the owner’s manual out of the door with less than adequate break in instructions.

You can safely drive at 65 MPH with no problems.
What you should really concern yourself with is changing the oil on a very regular basis and inspecting the engine oil level and other fluids about every other week.

Irregular oil changes and running an engine out of or very low on oil is the cause of most engine problems and that’s true of any car out there.
This problem is also becoming epidemic in nature judging from the number of posts on this board about this very issue.

" . . . the manual is very vague, saying not to drive “too slow” nor at full throttle and to gradually increase speed to max permissible. I was looking for a bit more specificity. "

Can I go 50mph, or 60mph, or 65 mph?
Using the statement from the manual and your question, can you accelerate to and drive at these speeds without using pedal to the metal full-throttle ? I think you can quite easily. That seems specific.

Don’t drive too slowly ? As has been pointed out, extended idling (several miutes at a time) wouldn’t be a good idea. Also, you don’t say if it’s automatic or manual, but usually an admonition about driving too slowly would mean not to “lug” the engine or in other words drive in too high a gear for the speed of travel.

That can be done easily with a manual transmission, but an automatic transmission should select a gear that keeps the engine from lugging. It’s best to let the engine run freely without straining against a too high gear.

Automatic or Manual transmission ?


Thanks to everyone. I think I can put the issue to rest and sleep at night!

Drive normally and don’t worry about it.

It does not matter…Maybe on a 1980’s and before, but not in the last 20 years or so.

The manual is correct, don’t go racing and don’t “lug” the motor by going too slow. Just drive normally and avoid extremes in the 1st few hundred miles. You can increase rpm’s and speed as you add on miles and after 1,000 anything goes.

Only additional tips; don’t use cruise control for a long period, more than 10 min. and don’t idle the motor for extended periods, again more than 10 min. You want to vary your speed and rpm as the motor’s internal parts seat together.

Thanks for your help!

TDi, diesel right? Breaking in is not quite the same as with a gas engine. Avoid a constant speed for a little while. Lugging should not be a problem. Really just drive it like you plan on driving it. It should be broken in within a hundred miles or so.

Thanks, Keith. I already put 400 miles on it. I have varied the speed and tried to keep the rpms up a bit when driving under 30mph. The oil light came on briefly when driving home today, but went off again. I will check the oil level in the morning. I love the way this car handles and the smooth shifting. It’s an automatic with manual options. Never had a car that had this much power and was so much fun to drive!

“The oil light came on briefly when driving home today, but went off again.”

Low oil level indicator (not all cars have this) or low oil pressure indicator (all cars have this)?

" I will check the oil level in the morning. " Check the oil, but keep in mind that low oil pressure can occur even if the oil level is full.

Read what your Owner’s Manual says about this, in fact read your Owner’s Manual. A low oil pressure indication is usually reason to shut the engine off immediately until the problem can be found. Low oil level needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

Any way to get to your dealer right away and have this checked ? I don’t want to spoil your fun, but driving with low oil pressure can damage the engine and driving it in this condition (with a low pressure warning) and doing damage may not be covered by the warranty.

It’s possibly a fault in the warning light system and not actually an oil problem, but you reallly should find out ASAP. Should a low oil pressure warning present itself, the dealer may prefer having the vehicle towed to their location. I’m not sure who pays. You could ask them. Be sure and mention that the light went out immediately, before you needed to stop the engine.

Was the vehicle idling or cruising when the light illuminated ?