Goodbye Scheduled Oil Changes – Our Beginners Guide to Maintaining an Electric Vehicle
Electric vehicles (EVs) are rapidly becoming the go-to automobile for new and existing vehicle owners. As you notice more and more Teslas quietly idling around you, perhaps you’ve started wondering if switching over to an electric vehicle is the right choice for you.
Considering that you’ll never have to pay for fuel or an oil change ever again, an EV has many desirable perks to its ownership. Although, don’t be tricked into thinking that electric cars don’t need any maintenance or attention. If you are an EV owner (or soon-to-be), it’s essential for drivers to know the basics of maintaining these eco-friendly vehicles.
Owning a traditional gas-powered car, you would likely be somewhat familiar with the typical maintenance that is required, but maintenance needs for electric vehicles tends to be less common knowledge. Although there are some similar maintenance requirements for gas-powered cars and EVs (such as replacing the cabin filters and occasional fluid top-ups), taking care of an electric car can be a bit different for many reasons:
Electric Vehicles (EVs) Require the Following:
- Less Mechanical Fluids
- High Tech, Lithium-Ion Battery Packs
- Regenerative Braking
- Specialized Electric Car Tires
- Highly Integrated Software Systems
By understanding the basic anatomy and workings of an electric vehicle, you will be better prepared to properly care for your car, which over time, can be a difference-maker in savings on vehicle maintenance (via early detection) and overall longevity of your vehicle.
With that said, continue reading our electric vehicle maintenance and inspection guide to help keep you and your vehicle (or future EV) cruising into an emission-free future.
Do Electric Cars Even Have Fluids?
Say goodbye to oil changes. Although your electric vehicle will never need an oil change, like any car, there are still other fluids that will eventually need top-offs.
Fluids Common to All Electric Vehicles:
- Washer Fluid: Keep tabs on your washer fluid. If you are running low, this can easily be refilled in less than two minutes if you already have a container of windshield washer fluid at home. Or you can pick up a container at your local automotive store.
- Brake Fluid: Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, your brake fluid should be changed roughly every 40,000km (or two/three years). A good rule of thumb is to have your mechanic check the brake fluid while they are servicing your vehicle. They will be able to provide the best feedback on how your brakes are doing.
- Battery Coolant: We know how important the battery is for an EV, so make sure to review your owner’s manual to learn how often you should check and have the battery coolant replaced. These massive batteries need to stay within a certain temperature range for optimal performance, and thus maintaining proper coolant levels will help to ensure the batteries are functioning properly.
How to Extend Your Electric Car’s Battery Life:
Arguably one of the largest and most important components of any electric vehicle is its lithium-ion battery. This is why it’s essential to practice proper battery care to reduce degradation and increase the longevity of your EV’s battery life.
Here are some tried-and-true tips to get the most out of your electric car battery:
Minimize EV Exposure to Abnormal Temperatures While Parked:
To extend the lifespan of your EVs battery, you’ll want to minimize its exposure to extreme temperatures while parked or idling for extended periods of time. Electric batteries can be punished by extreme hot and cold temperatures. In these conditions, the automated temperature control system installed in your electric vehicle will needlessly drain the car battery in order to climate control internal temperatures for operating efficiency.
Unless driving, you should avoid leaving your vehicle in the extreme heat (+30 Celsius) or cold (less than -20 Celsius) for extended periods of time. A simple solution is to park your EV in the garage if you’re expecting extreme weather conditions, park in the shade if it’s a hot day, or plugin so that your vehicle’s thermal management system uses grid power (less strain on the vehicle).
Follow EV Battery Charging Best Practices (20% – 80%):
Think of maintaining your EV battery charge like you might with a smartphone. Maintaining the battery charge between 20% and 80% helps to extend your vehicle’s battery life according to this study from 2020 (batteries that are consistently over-or-under charged do not last as long). So, you should avoid frequently charging the battery above 80% and letting it deplete below 20%.
That being said, if you’re going on a road trip (or know you won’t have access to a charging station for some time), then you can make an exception and charge your EV battery to the maximum – as long as you aren’t doing so all the time. For daily driving, maintaining your battery charge between the 20% to 80% threshold is a smart idea for the overall longevity of an EV’s battery life.
Limit the Use of Fast Charging Where Possible:
A question we often get from customers is if it is best for an EV car battery to slow-charge (rather than fast-charge). The short answer here is yes. While fast-charging stations are a great convenience, the increase in heat stresses the battery, which can decrease the battery’s overall capacity over time. This is similar to cellphones: when you purchase a brand-new phone with a 100% battery life of 12 hours, after some time, that same 100% battery charge may only last 7-9 hours, depending how well you take care of the battery. Fast charging strains your EV battery, reducing its lifespan as it slowly diminishes battery performance.
Keep in mind that different electric vehicles will have different battery voltage limits and fast charging capacities. Therefore, the diminishing returns of battery performance are not parallel across automakers. So, we’d advise that you read your vehicle owner’s manual to review the manufactures battery capabilities and warranty. That said, if the need arises don’t be afraid to fast charge your vehicle from time to time!
At our Searles Autoshop, we have added a FREE EV charging station (available to all customers) at 517 Kelvin Rd Victoria, BC. If you’re ever in need of a charge, come check out our charging station onsite!
Taking Care of Your EV Brakes (Regenerative Braking):
EVs are unique in that they use what’s known as regenerative braking. This means when the vehicle is braking, the kinetic energy being built actually recharges the vehicle’s battery. In doing so, the pads and rotors can actually last up to twice as long as a conventional system, because the process of regenerative braking actually places less stress on the brakes.
While the technology involved in this process is quite impressive, don’t forget to still have your brakes regularly checked or serviced. Factors considered in determining how soon your brakes will be replaced include your driving style, driving terrain, and the electric vehicle’s regenerative settings.
How to Make Your Brake Pads Last Longer:
Like any vehicle, EV brakes will need maintenance. While there are a few key indicators that will let you know when to get your brakes looked at, there are some simple solutions to get the most out of your EV’s brake pads before heading into the shop.
Here are some of those tips that will help extend your brake pads’ lifespan (and keep more money in your pocket):
- Plan ahead and drive with the flow of traffic. You’ll avoid unnecessary heavy braking behind the car in front of you.
- Follow the three-second rule by providing yourself with ample distance between you and the car in front so you can either coast or gradually come to a stop when needed.
- Remove any unnecessary weight from your vehicle. More weight in the vehicle equals a heavier load on the braking system. Have a 60lb ski box on the roof? Maybe it’s time to take it off for summer.
When washing your car, you can further maintain your brakes by spraying the rotors to remove dust/debris. Keeping them clean reduces the chances of additional wear and tear.
Do Electric Cars Need Special Tires?
The short answer is yes. While electric vehicles can be a ton of fun to drive, the instant torque that comes with these cars has positive and negative attributes. On the one hand, the instant toque means instant acceleration (who doesn’t like that). On the other hand, the instant acceleration places additional strain on the wheels. And don’t forget, thanks to the battery pack, EVs are on average 20-30% heavier than gas-powered cars, placing that much more pressure on electric car tires. Because of this, it can be common for their tire tread to wear more quickly than on combustion engine vehicles.
To extend your EV’s tire lifespan, monitoring for tire maintenance is essential. As with other vehicles, be proactive about checking the air pressure of your electric car’s tires regularly (once a month) and adjusting as necessary. Also, accurate wheel alignment will reduce uneven tire wear and should be checked every 6-12 months, depending on driving style, or sooner if you’ve hit something (ex. pothole, curb, etc).
You can refer to your vehicle manufacturer guidelines for recommended servicing, but you should also take your EV to a reliable wheel and tire mechanic who can check for any issues such as excessive wear. If necessary, an expert will recommend alignment or rotation, when/if required. Remember that properly maintained tires perform better, last longer, and will keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.
How Often to Change Your Cabin Air Filter in an EV:
Electric cars also have cabin air filters to keep the air in your vehicle’s cabin clean. It’s best practice to replace your cabin filter once a year (approx. every 15,000km), or sooner if you’re noticing the air inside is starting to smell musty.
If you’re having any issues with cabin air filters, the expert EV technicians at Searles Auto in Victoria, BC can assist with any cabin filter replacements or air conditioning repairs you need.
EV Software System – Service Updates Required:
If you compare an EV’s operating system to that of a smartphone, then you’ll understand the importance of software updates in electric vehicles. In today’s market, there are a variety of software systems exclusively written for different EV manufacturers.
For older EV models that require you to take them to a dealership for software updates, don’t put this off. Make sure to schedule an appointment sooner than later to have your system updated. Otherwise, if your EV has the option of over-the-air (OTA) software updates, then you don’t have to worry about booking an appointment at the auto shop– your system updates should automatically run for you.
Remember that software updates are released to continuously improve your vehicle’s performance/capabilities. By not updating your system accordingly, you run the risk of experiencing system bugs, and other vulnerabilities that could allow security breaches into your vehicle’s operating system.
Typical EV Maintenance Schedule:
The typical maintenance schedule for EVs is very minimal compared to servicing a gas-powered vehicle. This results in hundreds if not, thousands of dollars in savings throughout the vehicle’s lifetime.
The following list below offers your typical EV maintenance schedule through the first several years of ownership. Keep in mind that every car is different and that these figures can change for various reasons, such as your driving habits and experiencing unforeseen circumstances/accidents.
30-day Intervals (General Upkeep):
- Examine the tires for excess/uneven wear.
- Check all 4 tires’ air pressure.
- Check the windshield washer fluid and top-off if needed.
- Have the tires rotated
- Service inspection that includes the following:
- Looking for any suspension wear
- Inspect the tires, brakes, steering, and chassis components for unusual wear or damage.
- Checking the power inverter, cabin heater, accessory power, and charger modules.
- Check the vehicle’s various light bulbs and replace them if necessary. Make sure that you test that your high and low beams are working properly.
- Checking the battery coolant levels.
- Replace the cabin air filter if not done already (sooner if the cabin is starting to smell ‘funky’).
- Brake Fluid Service
- Cooling System Service
Searles Auto has a team of expert mechanics that specialize in EV and Hybrid repairs. Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online for any of your EV servicing needs.