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New car break-in

Due to a ton of scheduling problems, delivery dates, etc, I’m picking up a new VW Jetta sportswagen TDI 6 speed just two days before a big road-trip (Maryland to St. Louis to Kansas City to Minneapolis to Scranton PA and back to Maryland, all in 15 days with a 3 day lay-over in Minneapolis. Looking for advice about “breaking-in” a new car in this way–I haven’t had a new car since 2002, and, maybe because I still remember the whole ritual about breaking-in a car (yes, I’m really old), wonder if maybe I should leave it at home and actually rent a car for the trip or take my dodge truck. I don’t change cars very often, so I don’t want to do anything that would compromise this one lasting for a long time. What are your thoughts?

Read your owner’s manual. 'Break in" periods for new cars have not existed for over 20 years.

Nice car.

The owner’s manual may suggest driving at varying speeds for the first few hundred miles.

Setting the cruise control on the interstate is NOT the way to break in a new engine.

I wouldn’t leave the new car at home, but I’d think about which roads I was taking to get where I needed to go. Get off the highway now and then and drive on the surface roads, where you can vary the engine speed more.

Have fun!

Just follow the instructions in the owner’s manual. As mcparadise says, throwing in some non-interstate roads might be a good idea.

If you need to vary speed for the first few hundred miles, don’t take the interstate immediately. Use a US highway instead. For instance, I you leave from Baltimore or Frederick, drive on US-40 instead of I-70 (or even Rockville). You will be forced to vary your speed as you go through cities like Frederick and Hagerstown. After you have maybe 500 miles on the car, then use the interstate.

'Break in" periods for new cars have not existed for over 20 years

Last two new vehicles I bought; 2003 and 2004 both have explicit instructions, in their own section of the owner’s manual, regarding vehicle break in. One is a Chevy, the other a Toyota.

I too had to travel a long distance with a brand new car. As others recommended, as well as the manual, I varied my speed, and did a few full throttle accelerations every now and then.

In all cases, don’t drive at excessive speed, and don’t drive at the same, steady speed for a long time. Eight hundred to 1000 miles is suffient to get through the inital breakin but I would avoid high engine loads and high speeds for the firts 3000 miles or so.

From VW Vortex, based on experience of many owners. I know this is oposite of what old car recommendations were - but it’s all about seating the rings these days. Avoid cruse control - BAD BAD, and find some wiggly roads you can have some fun on instead…

-When the engine is cold (below the first 3 white marks at the base of the temp gage) rev the engine to at least 2,500 rpms.
-When the engine is warmed up (above the first three white marks) Rev the engine to no less than 3,000 rpms.
The reason for this is to keep the turbo on boost, clear the VNT guide vanes and apply firm pressure to the rings for optimal sealing against blow-by gasses. The rings need the boost to seal since its a turbo charged engine, babying the engine is detrimental and will lead to issues with compression if done so for very long.

First 1,000 miles
Keep rpms below 3,800. Avoid steady rpms. Frequent firm application of power is strongly recomended up to 3,800 rpm. Avoid the use of cruise control so that you naturally fluctuate the power with your foot.

1,000-5,000 miles
Use the full 5,100 rpm power range. Avoid steady rpms. Avoid the use of cruise control. Frequent application of full throttle is recomended to help seat the rings. City driving is ideal for breaking in a TDI due to frequent stops and acceleration. Once you get to 5,000 miles change the oil and perform your first service per the manual

5,000-10,000 miles
Use of the cruise control is ok at this point since most of the initial break in has occured. Continue to use occasional full throttle accelerations to continue to seat the rings. You will notice the engine become slightly louder during this phase due to less friction from the engine breaking in (normal for a diesel to become louder under lighter loads). If your going on a long drive and you are using the cruise, every so often step on the peddle to accelerate up about 20 mph then coast back down to your preset speed.

This is when the rest of the break in occurs. The engine from the factory will check out with about 475psi of compression pressure out of the crate. It will take at least 60,000 miles to reach the peak pressure of 550psi. For the most part once you get to 10,000 miles your compression will be around 510psi meaning that most of the break in has occured.

60,000-the life of the motor
The engines I have seen so far using a 5w40 oil are maintaining 550 psi of compression pressure with over 200,000 miles on the odometer. The owners have followed the advice above and do not have any oil consumption issues. This also means that with the higher pressure the engine is more efficient returning optimal fuel economy and reduced smoke output.

On my CRV the manual says minimize rapid take offs and also brake slams. No mention of speed variety FWIW.

Honestly, you have a 6 speed manual transmission.
On your highway trip, just shift from 6th gear to 5th gear for a couple minutes or so every little while that you think of it.

The engine isn’t going to be doomed, but varying the rpms during the first couple hundred miles will give you a nicely sealed engine. Though with it being a diesel engine, it probably won’t be nearly as much of an issue.


Read the owner’s manual and follow the instructions listed. Beyond that don’t worry. While you are at it, make sure you understand the maintenance listed in the owner’s manual.

I bought a new 1974, a new 1996 and lately a new 2009 and proceeded to drive all of them 450 miles mostly on Interstate with no engine problems. It sounds like at least one of the other 10 or so respondents have done something similar.