Maintaining Your EV: Low Upkeep Doesn’t Mean No Upkeep – CNET

With fewer moving parts, reduced fluids and much more conservative thermal demands, electric vehicles quite often require less maintenance and less frequent service than their combustion powered counterparts. “Low maintenance” isn’t the same as “no maintenance,” however, and EVs still require periodic care to ensure peak efficiency and safety.

Here’s what you need to know about EV maintenance to keep your electric car or SUV in tip top shape.

Take care of your tires

One of the simplest things you can do to maximize the safety and range of your electric car is to check your tire pressure often. An underinflated tire requires more energy to roll along, reducing efficiency and increasing wear. On the other hand, overinflation can adversely affect grip by reducing the EV’s contact patch — those precious few square inches where the rubber literally meets the road. 

To stay in the sweet spot, check and top off your tire pressure regularly. I pay particularly close attention to my air pressure around the changing of the seasons, when rapidly dropping temperatures can cause a big swing in air density. You can find the manufacturer’s suggested tire pressure in your EV’s owner’s manual and printed on a placard found in the driver’s door jamb.

Volkswagen ID 4 front tire and wheel

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Volkswagen ID 4 front tire and wheel

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="29"></p> <p>Regularly checking your tire pressure reaps benefits to range, wear, safety and ride quality.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Volkswagen</span>

While you’re checking the pressure is a good time to inspect the tire treads for wear or punctures. All tires wear down over time and as they wear, their treads — the pattern molded into the surface — lose depth, reducing their ability to grip the road or evacuate water in the rain, which could be dangerous. Extremely worn tires may even run the risk of a catastrophic blow-out. Most modern tires have some sort of wear indicator: rubber bars spaced evenly through the main grooves in the tire tread. If they’re flush with the level of the tread, then it’s time to replace that tire.

One way to help prolong the life of your tires is to ensure that they wear evenly. Front tires, responsible for all of the steering and most of the braking, usually wear faster than rears. Periodically rotating the tires’ position helps share the wear across all four tires over the lifetime of the set. 

The way you rotate your tires depends on your vehicle and the size and type of rubber fitted to it, but most commonly — if all four tires are the same size — you’ll be swapping the front tires to the rear axle (and vice versa) every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. (For performance EVs with staggered fit tires that are larger or wider on the rear axle, rotation may not be possible or necessary.) Once again, consult your vehicle’s manual for guidance.

2022 Rivian R1T electric pickup on a rough trail

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2022 Rivian R1T electric pickup on a rough trail

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="29"></p> <p>Your owner&#8217;s manual will have detailed service intervals for normal and, in some cases, hard use.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Rivian</span>

Cabin air filters

Many EVs feature cabin air filters that require replacing periodically. This may be a simple paper dust filter, but some luxury EVs may feature multiple filters or powerful HEPA filters. A good rule of thumb is to check and replace your car’s cabin air filters annually, but vehicles that operate in particularly dusty, sandy or high-pollen environments may need more frequent changes.

Coolant

EVs typically have more compact radiators and more modest cooling systems when compared to combustion vehicles, but most still use liquid coolant which will eventually need changing. However, the lower operating temperatures for batteries and electric motors contributes to longer service intervals with some EV manufacturers recommending inspection every two to three years (or 36,000 miles) and replacement every 10 years.

Meanwhile, your EV’s air conditioning system — which helps keep you maintain your chill during warmer months — may require a touch more attention. Have its refrigerant levels inspected every one to two years to keep it blowing cool. 

Audi E-Tron GT thermal system

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="28"></p> <p>EVs like this Audi E-Tron GT use liquid coolant to stabilize the temperature of their battery and high-voltage electronics.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Audi</span>

Brakes

Every EV you can buy today features regenerative braking to recapture electricity and boost range, which means they can rely less on the traditional friction brakes for routine stops. This means that brake rotors and pads tend to last much longer on electric cars. On some lightly driven EVs (and even hybrids), it’s possible to go as long as 100,000 miles between hardware changes, though factors like weather and driving habits will likely result in a much shorter interval.

You’ll more likely need to check, top off or change your brake fluid more regularly. Brake fluid’s tendency to absorb water from the atmosphere reduces its thermal capacity over time, resulting in squishy feeling brakes and fade. Most EV manuals I’ve checked recommend a fluid change every two years or 24,000 miles. Hard use — maybe you live on a mountain or a racetrack — may necessitate more frequent changes.

Yes, oil changes

EV owners don’t have to worry about regular oil changes. Electric motors have fewer moving parts than gasoline engines and require less liberal lubrication.

However, all EVs have transmissions — albeit, single-speed gearboxes in most cases — that use gear oil, which may or may not require attention and eventual replacement. The service intervals for transmission oil are, thankfully, much longer than your standard oil change. Kia, for example, recommends the gear oil in the EV6’s single-speed gearbox be inspected every four years or 32,000 miles, but does not require a fluid change for the first 12 years or more.

2023 Kia EV6 GT

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2023 Kia EV6 GT

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="29"></p> <p>EV brakes tend to last longer thank to regenerative stops, but aggressive or spirited driving can wear out pads and fluid prematurely.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Kia</span>

Keep it clean

Washing your EV regularly keeps the car looking great, but keeping your windows (and any rear or surround view cameras) clean also helps ensure optimal visibility, which is a big aid in not crashing into things. I’m a big fan of hand washing my car whenever possible as this is also a great time to inspect the car for damage, since you’ll already be up close and personal with it.

Wash day is also a good time to top off the washer fluid and inspect your windshield wipers for damage. Replace your blades annually to keep them working efficiently and quietly.

Your particular EV may require other maintenance that’s not listed here. You’ll want to consult your owner’s manual for specifics. You can usually find a handy breakdown of all information regarding what service and intervals to expect at or near the back of the manual.

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