Electric Vehicle Maintenance Guide

Electric vehicle sales have increased eightfold in the United States since 2016, introducing millions of Americans to the life of EV ownership who may have never considered one otherwise. With electric powertrains being such a stark departure from the fuel-burning mechanical engines of the last century, those who might have never had the responsibility of maintaining an EV are being introduced to the intricacies of caring for these vehicles. 

With EVs having such a dramatic rise to relevancy, we understand the process of properly maintaining an electric car may be daunting to the uninitiated, so we’ve put together a concise list of maintenance services and car care tips to keep yours performing at its best. 

Gasoline Vehicle vs. EV Maintenance

Before we dive fully into batteries and electric motors, it’s probably best to cover the similarities and differences when compared to traditional vehicle maintenance. 

First off, many of the services we consider essential on gas cars are less frequent or just plain non-existent on EVs. 

Oil is the lifeblood of an internal combustion engine, ensuring proper lubrication and helping keep the engine within a safe temperature range. You’d be in big trouble if you neglected this on most vehicles. However, electric motors don’t use oil and, of course, won’t ever require oil changes. 

Beyond just oil, the simplicity of an electric powertrain eliminates the need for many of the systems and components that are standard in internal combustion engines. Emissions equipment, exhaust systems, alternators, spark plugs, and the entire fuel system are just a few of the complex sets of components you won’t have to worry about in your electric car. 

Cooling

Both gasoline engines and EV batteries generate lots of thermal energy that needs to be dispersed to avoid harmful overheating. Not every EV relies on fluid cooling systems like their gas-burning counterparts, but the ones that do require similar services and maintenance schedules. 

EV coolant shares a lot in common with the antifreeze you’re used to seeing, using its thermal conductive properties to draw heat from the motors and battery and disperse it into the air around it through a radiator. Coolant gradually wears down over time and becomes contaminated, leading to decreased thermal performance and eventually irreparable harm to the sensitive electronics in your EV.

The service internal varies considerably from model to model. For instance, the Tesla Model 3 requires a coolant flush every 4 years or 50,000 miles, while the Chevrolet Bolt only needs it every 150,000 miles or so. The best information about battery coolant maintenance is found in your owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. 

Brakes & Fluid

While EVs do most of their braking through the regenerative braking system rather than mechanical brakes, they are still equipped with a similar hydraulic braking system that shouldn’t be forgotten about. 

Due to the nature of brake fluid’s chemical makeup, it’s unfortunately pretty good at accumulating moisture from the air around it. When brake fluid absorbs enough water, it can begin to corrode the fluid lines, hardware, and gaskets of your braking system.

For this reason, EVs require intermittent brake fluid flushes. The recommended interval depends on the make and model, however, you should start keeping an eye on the condition of your fluid and brakes around the 25,000-50,000 mile mark. 

Though not used as frequently, the pads and rotors will also wear and tear over time. The rate at which these components wear down is directly related to how often and how hard the vehicle is driven. Experienced EV drivers will maximize the use of their regenerative braking and minimize the use of the hydraulic system to limit wear, while those who brake later and with heavier loads will be replacing their pads and rotors more frequently. 

Tires

This one’s probably self-explanatory, electric vehicles use the same tires as most vehicles and will need them replaced just the same.

However, you do need to consider the extra tire wear that comes with an electric vehicle. EVs are generally very heavy, mostly due to the heft of the dense battery packs at the bottom of the car. EVs also produce instant torque, which makes them fun to drive, but can wear down tires quickly. The extra weight and instant, high torque are more abusive on tires than traditional vehicles. 

While we can’t give you a hard and fast answer on when you should replace your tires, it’s good to have an understanding of the increased wear that comes with EV ownership so you can be vigilant of your tread life. 

Caring For Your Battery

Now that we’ve covered the differences in traditional maintenance services between internal combustion and electric vehicles, it’s time to go a little deeper into taking care of the most important component in your electric vehicle: the battery. 

Use Fast Charging Sparingly

Fast chargers help mitigate one of the largest downsides of electric vehicles, the charging times. Fast charging stations have begun popping up all over the US, and provide dramatically decreased downtime on long-distance trips.

While this is all good in theory, and very practical for certain situations, two major tradeoffs come with this capability. 

First off, fast charging leads to increased battery degradation compared to 120- and 240-volt charging systems. This may not be too relevant if you primarily use fast chargers for occasional fueling on road trips, but when used frequently and consistently it can result in a significant decrease in battery health. 

Moreover, fast charging isn’t just harmful to your battery but to your wallet as well. The cost of rapid charging is approaching that of a full tank of gasoline, almost three to four times more expensive than charging at home. 

EV chargers

Be Mindful of the Temperature

Like the automotive batteries used to start up internal combustion engine vehicles, the battery packs in EVs aren’t too fond of extreme temperatures. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t drive your EV in hot or cold weather, as the temperature is well-regulated while driving. However, leaving your car parked outside in extreme cold or heat can reduce range and performance. When parking for extended periods, it’s best to keep it in an enclosed area such as a garage. 

Limit Full Charges and Depletions

One major limitation of the lithium-ion battery packs used in EVs is their adverse reaction to being fully charged or fully depleted. 

Allowing your charger to run on a fully charged vehicle overnight does nothing but harm the health of your battery by decreasing the active material in the electrodes, causing electrons to become stuck within the battery. A similar effect occurs when depleting the battery to a critically low level, which should generally be refrained from anyway to avoid being left stranded by a dead battery. 

A good rule of thumb is to give yourself a 10% buffer, so avoid charging above 90% and depleting below 10%. Stopping your charging before full capacity also leaves room for energy produced by your regenerative braking system, saving you money on charging costs in the long run. 

EV Inspections & Maintenance in Carlsbad

If you’re looking for reliable EV service in the North County area, trust the experienced technicians at Carlsbad Auto Service. Our certified technicians have gone through extensive training with Earthling Automotive to equip them for top-notch and efficient electrical vehicle maintenance. 

Give us a call today or schedule online to secure a spot with our friendly team and knowledgeable technicians!

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