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The five most important tips for your new car

6 min reading time
Your new car is ready for its first drive. Should you still break in a new car, you wonder, as you see its paint gleaming and breathe in that new car smell. And what else do you need to consider? Our guide answers these and many other questions.

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You’ve completed the process of buying a car and your brand new vehicle is finally on your driveway. But before climbing in, buckling up and hitting the gas pedal for the first time; there are a few things you need to consider. Here, our BMW experts will provide answers and give important advice on your new car – and they will explain why you no longer need to change the engine oil after the first 1,000 miles. Special guidelines apply to BMW i and M models; those purchasing these models will be provided with the specific details.

The checklist

Before your first drive in your new car
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“Getting to know you”: becoming familiar with your new car


You should easily be able to find your turn signals (indicators) and horn in any car. However, many components and features differ from one manufacturer to another and from one vehicle generation to the next. You should therefore take time to get to know your new car. Your owner’s manual can be a great help here. It will give you answers to all relevant questions.

Remember that becoming familiar with your new car is not just a matter of convenience – it’s also vital for safety reasons. Traffic congestion, the tail end of a traffic jam and a line of cars in the rearview mirror – but where’s the button for the hazard lights? To avoid running into this kind trouble, you should know where to find the most important features of your car. This includes the button for the heated rear window, the safety vest(s), the warning triangle, and the first aid kit.

So, before you get going, you should know the answers to the following questions:

  • Where and how do you refill any fluids; such as fuel, engine oil, wiper fluid, engine coolant, or maybe AdBlue?

  • Where are the specs for the recommended tire pressure?

  • Where are the spare wheel, breakdown kit, and vehicle toolkit?

  • How do the driver assistance systems work in your new car?
Maximum safety depends on having the correct seat position.
Peer-Oliver Wagner

Head of Ergonomics at BMW


Seat position and other adjustments: setting up your new car

Sitting comfortably will actually make you safer. This is because sitting behind the wheel in a tense or cramped position can also impair your concentration. You should therefore familiarize yourself with the configuration options for the seats in your car.


This is how to identify the optimum seat position:

  • Set the distance from the seat to the pedals so that your knees are slightly bent when stepping on the brake or clutch.

  • Eyes on the road: Select a seat height that gives you a good view of the road and the on-board instruments.

  • Sit, don’t lean: Configure the seat back in a way that allows you to sit as upright as possible. This will keep your head close to the headrest and your shoulders in contact with the backrest while ensuring that you don’t need to stretch out your arms.

  • It’s important that there’s a distance of about 12 inches between the steering wheel and your chest. This leaves enough space for the airbag to inflate in the worst-case scenario. You will have found the best possible position from a safety perspective when your wrist can rest on the top edge of the steering wheel while your shoulders are touching the backrest. When driving, your hands should remain on the steering wheel at all times, ideally in a 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position.

  • It’s easy to forget about the position of the headrest: Ideally, its upper edge should be aligned with the top of your ears, while your head should remain as close as possible to the headrest – providing that you can still turn your head over your shoulder.

  • Finally, set the position of the wing mirrors and the rear-view mirror to suit your seat position. It should be relatively easy to judge the dimensions of your car from what you can see in the wing mirrors. At the same time, you should be able to see as much of the space around the car as possible, with the line of the horizon halfway up the mirror. Be sure to memorize any potential blind spots.

  • Don’t be afraid to continue optimizing the settings after the first couple of miles, as you’ll only learn what needs to be changed when driving in real-life road conditions.

Other useful default settings include the memory function incorporated into a number of devices. Enter your home address in the navigation system. Connect your cell phone to the multimedia system and save it as a favorite in your settings. You can also save your preferred temperature in the climate control. Finally, configure the driver assistance systems to fit your needs. With the collision alert, for example, you can configure the sensitivity level at which the system will respond.



From sunglasses to snow chains: the most important accessories


The warning triangle and first aid kit should always be on board of every new car, as should a safety vest for each passenger.

You should also remember to carry two other very useful helpers. Firstly, you should always have a pair of sunglasses within easy reach, either in the glove box or one of the other compartments. When the sun is at a low angle, it can shine directly into your eyes and blind you, something that has already led to countless accidents.

Secondly, an ice scraper can also be vital for giving you an unobstructed view. If you head off after a frosty night with your windshield still iced up, it’s not only dangerous but can also be expensive. In Germany, for example, you can be fined 10 euros for such dangerous driving practices.

When driving on snow and ice, you should
also think of the following extras:

  • Snow chains, especially for trips to the mountains.

  • Jumper cables along with gloves, in case you get a flat battery.

  • A spare bottle of antifreeze for the windshield washer system.

  • In extreme snow, we would also recommend carrying a shovel in case you need to dig your car out of snow-covered parking bay, a woolen blanket, and a thermos in case you are stranded on a cross-country road trip.
Avoid exceeding your car’s limits for the first few miles – this applies to the engine, transmission, brakes, tires and additional loads.
Torben Flenner

Team Leader Vehicle Delivery, BMW Welt


The right way to break in a new car

Many drivers wonder whether breaking in a new car is still necessary or if this practice has been superseded with the advances in technology. The answer? Yes and no...

Doing an engine break-in used to be a standard procedure with new cars. And it’s still the case that you should avoid running the engine at high RPM for the first 1,300 miles. Experts recommend a maximum 3,500 rpm and 90 mph in diesel models and 4,500 rpm and 100 mph in gas models. This will give the engine and transmission sufficient time to adjust to each other. Once you’ve reached the 1,300-mile mark, you can gradually increase your speed and your engine’s RPM. In particular, avoid to put too much strain on a cold engine. However, that’s true not just when breaking in a new car but for the whole life cycle of your car. Likewise, never turn off an engine that has been running hard. Allow it to cool down by driving a few miles at a gentle pace.


During the new car break-in period, take note of the following tips:

  • For the first 200 miles, new tires will not yet provide full grip. This is because a release lubricant used in the manufacturing process has to be worn away from the tire surface. Adjust your driving accordingly to prevent accidents.
  • Similarly, the brakes won’t become fully effective for the first 300 miles as the brake pads and discs will need to adjust to one other. You should therefore drive cautiously.
  • The shock absorbers and springs will also need some time to become fully effective. That’s why you should not push your new car to its limits during the first 1,000 miles or so.

While many engine break-in tips also apply to modern engines, one compulsory rule for new cars has disappeared, as it’s no longer necessary to change the engine oil after the first 1,000 miles. You should, however, also keep these break-in practices in mind when replacing individual components later on.


Where should I keep the certificate of title? Storing your documents securely


New car break-in complete? Check. Accessories purchased? Check. All that remains is to give a little thought to the paperwork. Every country has an official vehicle registration document. In the United States, for example, it’s the certificate of title, also known simply as the vehicle title – the equivalent of the V5C in the UK. Whoever owns this document is the lawful owner of the vehicle concerned. This means that you should never store your vehicle registration document in the car itself but place it instead in a secure location. You could, for instance, use a safe at home or a safety deposit box at the bank.

That’s enough about all the paperwork, though. We hope you enjoy driving your new car!

On the lookout for a nice route to break in and get to know your car? These are our suggestions.

Animations: Johanna Noack

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