Q: I am old enough to remember people performing almost religious break-in routines on new vehicles, insisting that all manner of ills would result if it wasn’t done properly. I always took a middle-of-the-road approach (so to speak) where I would take it easy on new cars (and new tires installed on older vehicles) for the first 500 miles or so.
We are about to buy a new car, and my question is this: Is it still necessary or recommended to follow a strict break-in routine or (as I’ve read somewhere) are cars today built already broken in by using modern manufacturing techniques.
A: Cars are not broken in, per se, but there’s much less need for a break-in regimen. Modern manufacturing provides excellent machining and tolerances. Modern motor oil provides superb protection, even to new engines. Still, that being said, your technique of driving moderately for the first 500 or so miles is right on. Don’t rev the engine too high, and be sure not to hold it at one speed too long. A long drive in the country would be ideal.
Don’t fear rain
Q: If an electric car is driven into a deep rain puddle, what will happen to it electrically? Are there any hazards?
A: Pardon my language, but the batteries and entire electrical system are sealed tighter than a frog’s butt.
Bugged by carcasses
Q: Warm weather means bug carcasses on the front end of my car. I loved your window cleaner formula. Do you have a formula for bug remover?
A: I don’t have a formula, but I do have a solution: dryer sheets. Dip the sheet in water, and it will wipe away all traces of bug splats. Used ones work fine. By the way, the sooner you attack the bugs, the better.
Q: I’ve noticed that some automakers — most notably Rolls-Royce — are offering cars with so-called suicide doors. Where did that nomenclature come from?
A: I have heard several theories as to how doors that are hinged at the rear and open in the opposite direction of conventional doors got their name. One is that the door could fly open and the passenger, trying to grab the door, would be blown out of the car and into traffic. (This was before seat belts.) Another is that when exiting the car, the door blocks visibility, and someone could step into traffic. Still another is that the doors had the tendency to pop open during a head-on crash.
Regardless of how the practice started, the term is not used by automakers because of its obvious negative vibe. Rolls-Royce calls them coach doors because they resemble the doors on old horse-drawn carriages. Mazda uses the term freestyle doors, and Opel calls them FlexDoors.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to firstname.lastname@example.org.