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How to Conduct Preventive Maintenance for EVs

Electric vehicles are taking the world by storm. These news EVs are something of an enigma for drivers used to more traditional internal combustion engines. Gone are the days of checking engine oil levels or heading to the Jiffy Lube when the car needs a tuneup. Hi-tech vehicles require a more hi-tech approach.

Parts of EV maintenance may look more like computer repair than a traditional car tuneup. Here’s what preventive maintenance looks like on an electric vehicle, and why EV owners should set up a maintenance schedule and stick to it.

Electric vehicles vs hybrids and plug-ins

Maintenance for electric vehicles looks a lot different than it might for hybrid and plug-in hybrid models despite the fact they all rely on battery power. The main difference between the three is that the latter two still utilize internal combustion engines in tandem with their batteries. Maintenance of a hybrid might have a few extra steps to verify the battery’s health, but in general, it’s going to look incredibly similar to the maintenance schedule of a traditional vehicle.

EVs give up the internal combustion engine in favor of an entirely battery-powered system. That means no internal combustion engine, no oil to check, no fuel injectors to unclog, and no tune-ups necessary — at least, not the traditional kind.

What does preventive maintenance for EVs look like?

right, rear, of metalic silver BMW electro car.
Maintenance for electric vehicles looks a lot different than it might for hybrid and plug-in hybrid models despite the fact they all rely on battery power. (Image: Janitors, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Taking an electric vehicle in for a tuneup might look a little strange at first. A visual inspection will be conducted to ensure nothing is wearing out, and the mechanic may not even need to lift the hood. All they need to do is plug in their diagnostic equipment, and the car will tell them if there’s an issue they need to address.

Electric vehicles tend to be a lot easier to maintain than their internal combustion counterparts, simply because they have fewer moving parts. If they have any fluids to change, they’re few and far between. Some models may use a liquid cooling system for the battery, and those need to be checked periodically to ensure they’re not leaking and are working optimally.

The biggest part of EV maintenance lies in the battery that powers the vehicle. These massive battery packs will ideally last for five to eight years, but as with most batteries, they have a limited number of charge/discharge cycles in their lifespan. Regular load tests will ensure they’re holding a charge properly and won’t leave their drivers stranded on the side of the road. The battery technology is more advanced than the traditional lead automotive batteries, but the principle of load testing is still the same.

Testing EV motors is also important. While they might not have as many moving parts as an internal combustion engine, they can still wear out over time. When this happens, they begin generating less power and will eventually fail.

Like in a traditional vehicle, EVs have cabin air filters that need to be changed periodically. Other common maintenance needs include brake pad replacements, tire inflation and suspension repairs.

Some of these repairs sound complicated, which may make it seem like they’d be more expensive. In reality, EV maintenance ends up costing half as much as traditional cars on average. Fewer moving parts and fluids translates to less frequent and less expensive repairs.

Setting up an EV preventive maintenance schedule

New electric vehicle owners likely have a maintenance schedule handed to them at purchase. For the most part, it will be the same as any other vehicle. Tires still need rotation and replacement. Windshield wipers wear out, and cabin air filters will get clogged. The biggest difference lies in drivetrain maintenance.

While the average driver may be able to carry out basic maintenance on their electric vehicle, anything under the hood will fall solely into the purview of professional mechanics and electrical engineers.

The best way to understand an electric vehicle’s maintenance needs is to read the owner’s manual. This little book is a wealth of information, with everything from how often the tires need to be rotated to how frequently the battery should be load tested to ensure optimal health.

Electric vehicles don’t require maintenance as frequently as more traditional cars and trucks do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Owners won’t need to spend as much time in the shop to keep their cars running.

New electric vehicle owners likely have a maintenance schedule handed to them at purchase. (Image: flickr / CC0 1.0)

Keep it on the road

Preventive maintenance is part of owning a vehicle, especially for those that want to keep them on the road. Don’t start by climbing under the hood, though. Electric cars may have fewer moving parts, but they’re quite a bit more complicated than their internal combustion counterparts. Stick to the maintenance schedule outlined in the owner’s manual. It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s necessary to keep these pieces of automotive engineering on the street and safe for everyday use.

Megan Nichols

This article was written by Megan Ray Nichols. If you enjoyed this article, please visit her website Schooled by Science.

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