Common Electric Car Maintenance Issues

You finally took the plunge and traded in your gas guzzler for a more practical electric car after years of contemplating. What do you need to know about keeping your new wheels in good shape?

First, the good news—electric cars are far simpler from an engineering perspective. A typical combustion engine car has over 10,000 moving parts. A typical electric car has closer to 150. That means there's a lot less that can go wrong with an electric vehicle (EV). Still, even EVs have a handful of typical maintenance issues.

Finding a Mechanic

Now that you're cruising on a battery powertrain instead of a continual series of contained gas explosions, you're finally free from changing the oil every 3,000 miles, switching out spark plugs, and replacing fuel filters. If you're lucky, you won't be visiting the repair shop often. The downside is that far fewer folks are certified to care for EVs, so you might get stuck going to the dealership for regular upkeep, at least for a few years.

As the market continues to expand, more mechanics will incorporate EVs into their business. In the meantime, consider springing for a dealership repair package when you make your initial purchase.

the inside of an electric car battery

Battery Upkeep

The most important part of maintaining an electric vehicle is caring for its battery. This starts with not fully charging it. Some car makers suggest limiting recharges to 80 percent capacity. That way, you won't risk degrading functionality by overloading the system. Like with a laptop or phone, though, it may be a good idea to charge your EV battery fully about once every three months, following this up with a drive. This helps keep the system calibrated, so it can accurately report power levels.

By the same token, try not to leave the vehicle for long periods of time with the battery at zero or only slightly charged. If you have to leave your EV unattended for multiple days, leave it plugged in and set to maintain a charge of 50%.

Keep in mind temperatures and climate can affect battery life and performance. If you live in a warm climate, always try to park your vehicle in a shaded or cool place as opposed to leaving it in direct sunlight. In any environment, avoid parking an EV near a heat source like an incinerator or an outdoor fire pit.

If your climate is on the colder end, consider adding radiant heat pipes or space heaters in the garage to keep the area warm when sub-freezing-temps hit in the wintertime.

a line of sleek tires

Tires

Because of the speed with which energy moves from the battery to the wheels, electric cars tend to have high torque. This can mean increased wear on tires. Because electric engines are quiet, you may be able to hear a dull thumping drone when your tires are getting tired.

As with gas cars, EV tires still need to be rotated and aligned on occasion. Every six to twelve months is a good general rule, though you should always consider a tune up when a tire hits something significant, like a curb or a large pothole.

Regenerative Brakes

EVs use regenerative braking, which means they reclaim the car’s kinetic energy when you tap the brakes, using it to recharge the battery. This system uses internal engine friction to slow the car, which means the wear and tear on brake pads is much lighter. Still, your brakes will need to be serviced and maintained eventually.

To cut down on the need for this, avoid driving at high speeds that might require you to stop suddenly. Additionally, if you find by experience that you don't need more than a 70% charge to make it through your average day, consider limiting your powering up to that level. To avoid electron overloading, some EVs won't use regenerative breaking if the battery is charged 80% or higher, which means they'll rely more directly on the brake pads.

air filters

Cabin Filters

Some newer EVs have internal air purification filters. Every 30K miles or so, these filters will need replacement, a task you can perform yourself if you have an hour to spare.

Fluids

Like gas cars, electric vehicles have a thermal management system, coolant levels, and gauges that should be checked regularly. When you replace them, take a look to make sure the brake and windshield-washer fluid levels are sufficient, too. Letting any of these fluids run out completely is a recipe for more expensive repairs down the road.