Electric cars are cheap to run but are they cheaper to maintain than your regular gas car?
Are electric cars cheaper to maintain? EV’s are much cheaper to maintain that a regular gas car because there are hundreds of parts that make up a internal combustion engine that electric vehicle don’t have.
Servicing a car is a ritual of car ownership that you probably hate. For most people servicing your car either means, spending a weekend lying in strange positions under your car, or handing over your hard-earned cash to a local dealership who will have a laundry list of things to change that you didn’t even know your car had.
That’s of course if you still own an internal-combustion engine vehicle.
A vehicle with oil filters and air filters and spark plugs and valve clearances and all those hundreds of other tiny moving pieces that make up the engine that propels your car down the road.
Electric cars meanwhile have very few moving parts and in exchange, very few of the items that you’d find on a regular service sheet.
This leads to the standard EV advocate line that EVs require less servicing than an internal combustion engine vehicle.
That is technically true, but it also leads for some people to argue that you don’t even need to service an electric car at all.
Yet every electric automaker publishes a regular service schedule for their vehicles, and some even send you reminders if your car hasn’t come back to the dealership recently.
So whose rights? Can electric cars survive not being serviced? Do they even need servicing and what happens if you don’t bother?
First up, it’s true that electric cars have fewer components that need to be regularly replaced than an internal combustion-engined car.
There are some things that both cars have, like tires and brakes and they need regular attention if they are to continue operating correctly.
But because all modern electric cars have regenerative braking, where the car recaptures kinetic energy from movement turning it back into electrical energy, this slows the car down making brake wear on a modern EV far lower than it would be on a conventional vehicle.
And that again backs up the statement that electric vehicles don’t need as much servicing as ice vehicles.
So far then it looks as if garages and dealerships are just after your money when it comes to getting your electric car serviced regularly, but hold on there a moment.
while electric cars do have far fewer parts that need regularly replacing, and often wear away components more slowly, there are some pretty big reasons that you should still visit your dealership regularly and have your electric car serviced.
Aside from helping spot problems before they become major headaches, automakers often include visual checks in their maintenance schedules as a way of ensuring that your car stays healthy.
Having your car regularly checked and/or serviced by an authorized repair does make it far easier to make warranty claims. After all, if you followed regular service schedules it’s harder for the dealership OR automaker to argue negligence has caused the problem.
In addition to this, however, there are some systems in a modern electric car that do need regular attention, such as the cooling system for the motor and inverter, air conditioning and the reduction gearbox.
Yes, electric cars mostly don’t have a traditional gearbox but they do have a reduction gearbox and a differential, Items which do require oil or lubricant changes every now and then.
It’s true, that all these items require less regular service attention than an oil change on an ice vehicle, but these are all things you shouldn’t ignore because they will eventually come back and bite you in the butt if you don’t look after them.
Regular battery checks are also a good thing, both for the main traction battery and any 12-volt starter batteries that are required to turn on your car and engage the main power contactors.
And while Tesla and some other automakers now offer over-the-air diagnostics, it’s always good to make sure that things that can’t be checked remotely, are regularly checked at a dealership.
But I hear some of you say “but automakers and dealerships are crooks and they’ll take me for every penny I have” and I hear you, which is why it’s worth being an informed customer when you enter a dealership.
Study the service schedule for your car and make sure the dealership doesn’t try to upsell you on something that isn’t in the official scheduled maintenance list.
Be clear about what you want when you drop your car off, agree on pricing beforehand, and make sure you read the bill before you pay it because some garages will try and charge you for that oil filter your car doesn’t need. Believe me, I’ve been there.
As for doing it yourself, well, if you have the tools and expertise, go right ahead. But make sure you document your service so that you can at least prove you’ve carried it out should you need to claim on the warranty in the future.
The Top Five EV Maintenance Needs.
I’m gonna rank these in order of how much they will cost you on your overall ownership of the car.
Number Five – Tire Rotation.
I put this one first instead of last because it’s common to all cars, electric and internal-combustion engine cars. It remains important, if not more so, because they swap out the heavy transmission and engine in a gas car for a heavy battery, putting a lot of load on its tires.
Also, EV’s have killer torque and are able to really twist those tires hard if you put the peddle to the metal, and that tends to shred tires.
So you want to get maximum life by moving them around all four corners. Tesla says rotate model three tires every sixty two hundred and fifty miles, Chevy Volt and leaf every 7500.
Number Four – Brake Fluids
Number four is the braking system on your car, not the pads and rotors but the fluid that puts pressure on the pads to the rotors. This is key, because if it gets full of water or gets stagnant and polluted it doesn’t work right.
You may say “wait a minute” electric cars do their braking via a regeneration, the electromagnetic resistance that puts the power back in the battery.
That is true, but not all the time and it depends on how you drive and if this is gonna be a system that you use quite a bit. You don’t want it to be crapped out when you need it, all cars need this, EV’s do as well.
On a Model 3 change the fluids every two years or 25,000 miles, and on a Chevy Volt, it’s every five years.
Number Three – Cooling Systems
Number three is the coolant in your electric car, that’s right there’s no engine but there’s a cooling system.
A Tesla model three needs its coolant replaced every four years or 50,000 miles, a Nissan Leaf goes 125,000 miles, and a Chevy bolt even longer 150K.
Number Two – Brake Parts
Number two is brake service, we are talking about the pads and rotors, the friction parts. Now, these are much more long-lived on an EV than a combustion car because most of your braking, as we mentioned previously is done by the drag of regeneration when you lift off the accelerator.
But it’s gonna vary widely, based on how many miles you drive, what style you drive, what terrain you drive in and over, and what regen settings you like to select on your EV.
I can’t give you a number of miles or number of months before you have got to get the brakes done, that said if I drove an electric car that would be my number one game.
Number One – Battery
The number one maintenance item on your EV is the part that puts the E in front of V, your electric cars main or motive power battery.
This is the heart of your car’s range and therefore its livability, as well as your car’s residual value, whether you’re leasing or buying it.
This is the heart of the beast, take care of it like you used to take care of an engine in your regular combustion car.
EV batteries can suffer when sitting too long in overly hot or cold temperatures or just being parked. A Chevy Volt, for example, wants to be plugged in below 32 or above 90 to manage its temperature.
You don’t want your EV to sit and fully discharged if you’re not driving it for a couple of weeks, or you don’t want to charge it too high or top it off too often.
Dealing with all those things is a lot easier and cleaner than dealing with tuneups and oil changes, but it’s kind of a similar cognitive load.
EV’s are easier to live with, that doesn’t mean they are maintenance-free.