Electric car maintenance: top 5 tips for owners

Electric cars may be very different to traditional petrol and diesel models, but there’s still plenty you can do to look after your EV between services...

Nissan Leaf front three quarters

Buying an electric vehicle (EV) isn't only good for the planet, it can also be beneficial for your wallet. Electric cars have fewer mechanical parts to maintain than petrol and diesel models, so they should cost less to keep in perfect running order. 

On average, an EV motor has around 20 components, compared with the thousands of moving parts that are in conventional engines. That means there’s no oil to change, filters to replace or cambelts to renew. 

EVs also have simple single-speed gearboxes that are sealed and shouldn’t require any maintenance throughout their life. In contrast, regular manual and automatic 'boxes often need replacement clutches, replacement gearbox oil and other maintenance as they age. 

There’s more to think about than just the oily bits under the bonnet, though. There are many components and wear-and-tear items on EVs that will require the same checks as on any other car. 

Fiat 500 EV

It’s also important to bear in mind that EVs have a number of high-voltage components that must only be worked on by an appropriately trained technician. That’s not to say you can’t do any of your own maintenance on an EV, but the basic rule of thumb is that you must not touch any lead or component that is coloured orange because it is part of the high-voltage system. 

Here we run through five areas on your EV that you can check and maintain at home. 

1. Batteries

The 12-volt battery that powers the car’s alarm, infotainment, locking systems and other items is likely to have a lifespan of three to five years, so it’s worth getting it checked regularly. If you think this battery is degrading, get it checked by a mechanic or at a car accessory shop so you can replace it before it fails and leaves you with a car that won’t start. 

The main battery pack that powers the motor should have a much longer life. In fact, we’ve heard of many EVs that are still going strong after 10 years and 100,000 miles. However, as with all batteries, some cells will degrade over time and need to be replaced. 

Volkswagen ID 3 battery pack

Most car makers provide around eight years of warranty cover for EV battery packs, and will replace them for free if their performance drops to 70 to 75 percent of the original capacity within this time. 

If you own an older EV and are concerned about battery degradation, you can ask your local dealership to check for damage to each bank of cells. Rather than replace a whole battery pack, it is often possible to remove and replace small sections of it to keep the overall cost down. 

2. Brakes

An EV is likely to be a bit gentler on the braking system than a conventional car because its regenerative braking system uses resistance from the electric motor to slow the car down. That means it should go through discs and pads at a slightly slower rate.

However, the battery packs make EVs heavier than petrol and diesel cars, and that extra weight will mean the brakes are working harder when they are used, so the rate of wear may not be drastically reduced.

As with all car brake systems, those on EVs will require regular fluid changes done by a qualified mechanic, usually every two years. It’s worth having a visual check of the brake fluid level in the reservoir regularly, though, so you can be confident there are no faults or leaks in the system. 

3. Fluids and windscreen wipers

Some EVs use air to keep the main battery pack cool, but most use liquid. The liquid is likely to be in a sealed compartment and should only be checked by a technician trained in working on high-voltage systems.  

2. Brake and windscreen washer fluids

EVs have windscreen washer fluid reservoirs, which can be checked and topped up by owners. We recommend using a mixture that contains some antifreeze to make sure it doesn’t freeze in sub-zero temperatures. 

Worn windscreen wipers are a common MOT fail item, so it’s worth checking the condition of the wiper blades regularly and replacing them if they start to degrade or leave smears or streaks on the screen. 

4. Lights

In many cases, replacing blown bulbs on your EV should be a simple, five-minute job, as it is on most conventional cars.

Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 headlight detail

More sophisticated models with LED light units may need to be worked on by an experienced technician, though. It’s always advisable to check the advice in your car owner’s manual before going ahead. 

5. Tyres

It’s well worth inspecting your car’s tyres each week for wear on the tread and damage to the sidewalls. Spotting a nick out of the rubber or a nail in the tread before it turns into a puncture will save you from a roadside breakdown. It should also save you money because you’ll only have to get the tyre repaired rather than replaced. 

EV tyre

That’s important with EV tyres because they can be far more expensive to replace than those on conventional alternatives. Prices vary depending on how many are produced – tyres that are fitted to many car models are likely to be much cheaper than those only fitted to a few specialist vehicles.

EVs often have low rolling resistance tyres. These are great for economy and wear out more slowly than conventional tyres, but could be costly when you need to renew them. 

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