TO BREAK-IN or NOT TO BREAK-INPosted On: January 24, 2019 By : AutoLife Team
The most valuable part of any vehicle as we know it is the engine. The engine is the heart of the vehicle and we (well most of us) do the most we can to keep it in the best condition possible. By now, if you’ve read my previous articles (I hope that you have), you might already know that the engine is an engineering piece of marvel. It takes a squirt of fuel, mixes it with air, creates tiny explosions by the thousands in a minute and creates motion. Engines have come a long way from the days of its development. Due to advancements in engineering and manufacturing technologies, engines have become ever more reliable, reducing the need for breaking in an engine. Whatever the case is, manufacturers still recommend a break in period for their vehicles.
Breaking-in an engine is just about getting all the different components inside an engine to become familiar with each other. Components like the piston rings, valves, valve seats on the head all go through different manufacturing processes and although they are machined with tight tolerances, there will always be certain variances that can’t be accounted for during manufacturing. The breaking period is the manufacturer’s assumption of the time it takes to settle all these variances. Some break-in procedures are vague and only ask the user to get the oil and oil filter changed at a set distance whereas some manufacturers are more detailed and even go as far as setting a physical and electronic speed limit on the vehicles until a certain milestone is reached. There are two factions to breaking in an engine these days.
One faction says that the owner’s recommendation is based on facts and research that they have done and their procedures must be followed to the “T”. The other faction says that manufacturing technology has come a long way and that engine breaking in is not relevant anymore. The early engines built with early technology was not capable of mass-producing high precision engine components and definitely needed break-in procedures to ensure the correct fitment of the piston rings to the cylinder walls, the valves to the valve seats etc. By following a specific regimen, the manufacturers believe that the piston rings will have set to the cylinder walls by wearing out the microscopic manufacturing defects. Without a proper seal set on the piston rings to the cylinder walls, the engine will face premature wear, loss of performance and loss of fuel economy. Some manufacturers are pretty strict with the break-in period, as I have mentioned before. Some high-power motorcycles like the BMW S1000RR have an electronic speed limiter built into the ECU which can only be removed by the dealer after a certain distance travel is achieved. With this method, BMW is able to increase the reliability of the engines by ensuring a proper break-in of the engine, reduce losses on warranty claims by reducing user error, and also helps get the rider a feel of the motorcycle with restricted power and when the rider is fully familiar with the motorcycle, the power of the beast is ready to be unleashed.
During my time working at the then MV Agusta dealership in Kathmandu, I was going through the documentation of the motorcycles, reading up on the pre-delivery inspection sheet and all the information that I would need to convey to the buyer once they own an MV, but to my surprise, there was no mention of needing to follow a breakin procedure on any of the models. It came as a big surprise to me, up until that point everything I had studied had mentioned the need of proper break-in of engines, or face dire consequences. So, when it came time for me to go for a training session in the world famous MV factory in Italy, I was determined to ask that question. Why isn’t there any break-in instructions on your motorcycles?
To that question, they took me on a factory tour of where the dream machines are made, all by hand, I kid you not. The inside of the factory was immaculate, as if Nepal was the inventor of dust and hadn’t shared patent rights with the rest of the world, but I digress. So, when it came to the engine assembly section of the factory, it was more than what I had imagined. All these high precision CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine) tools measuring every component to 3 decimal places, meant that everything that went in, went in perfectly. There was literally no room for error. After the engine was finished being installed, and fitted on the motorcycle, it was time to go to the dyno room. The dyno room is the last stage of production for the motorcycle, where it goes through all the checks from the electronics to the power output of the machine. They put the motorcycle through a 5 km test run on the dyno to get all the results on the output and to see if the vehicle passes their quality control. The 5 km run that they put the vehicle through is enough to break-in the engine, said one of their engineers running the dyno. MV believes that the people buy MVs for their raw power and for something that costs so much, functions right out of the box. So, having the user follow a break-in procedure meant that the machine was not ready right out of the box. So, whenever you buy an MV, just remember that as soon as you are done paying for it at the dealer, you are ready to go full throttle on it.
So even though there are different opinions about how to break-in an engine the best way, whether it be by following the manufacturer’s recommendation or by going all out during the initial stages to force the engine into submission, it doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side for a few hundred kilometers to ensure that the engine will have a long life. Just make sure that you have your oil and oil filter changed at regular intervals to get the most out of your engine. After all it is just a mechanical thing made of metal, the more you care for it the longer it will last you, and the less you spend on premature maintenance.