An electric car is a low maintenance vehicle compared to an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. In this article, we are going to discuss all the general maintenance electric cars need. However, there are numerous electric cars on the market, and each has a unique maintenance requirement. For vehicle-specific maintenance, please consult your EV owner’s manual.
Motor Maintenance :
The correct answer is that you don’t need to do anything to maintain your electric vehicles’ main motor and electric drivetrain. Nowadays, electric motors are so reliable that your EVs other components will fail first before the motor. Even every internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle comes with a starter motor that never fails.
The motor and electric drive units have lubricating oil. However, almost all EVs do not require to change this lubricating oil for its lifetime. For example, the motor of any Tesla cars — Model 3, Model S, Model X — do not need to replace the motor lubricating oil.
You may be wondering, an ICE car engine needs an oil change every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, then why an EVs motor does not require an oil change at all. It’s because the electric motor is not subject to the high heat like an ICE engine. So, the lubricating oil does not break down. Moreover, an ICE vehicle needs to lubricate its engine even when it is idling. On the other hand, an EV only needs to lubricate its motors when the electric car is moving.
Every electric vehicle comes with 2 batteries. One, high voltage main battery. Two, a 12V auxiliary battery. This high voltage main battery operates the electric car. On the other hand, the 12V Battery is being used to unlock and the open door, shift the gear, etc. purposes.
High Voltage Battery Maintenance :
Every electric vehicle comes with a Lithium-ion high voltage battery. When you recharge or drive your vehicle, this Battery performs best at around 70-degree Fahrenheit (21-degree Celsius ). For this reason, almost every EV manufacturer has an active battery temperature management system — battery cooler and heater — in their vehicle. The battery cooling could be a liquid-cooled or air-cooled system. Though most modern electric cars do not require to change this coolant, you do need to top up this coolant on the scheduled maintenance period.
Never recharge your electric car up to 100% nor discharge down to 0%. To extend the battery health, set the recharge level up to a maximum of 80%-90%. Never allow your battery to discharge down to 0%. Doing so would harm your EV battery and may damage onboard electronics.
For example, According to Tesla owners manual, If the Battery’s charge level of a Tesla falls to 0%, you must plug it in. If you leave it unplugged for an extended period, it may not be possible to charge or use the Tesla without jump-starting or replacing the 12V Battery. Leaving a Tesla unplugged for an extended period can also result in permanent battery damage.
Also, please don’t recharge your EV at Level 3 charging stations all the time — high voltage DC charging — unless you are making a road trip or it’s essential. Because after a large number of DC Fast Charging sessions, the peak charging rate of the battery would decrease noticeably.
12V Battery Maintenance:
I believe you never thought that an electric car could come with an onboard 12V battery. Unfortunately, it does. In an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, this battery helps to start the engine. This also helps to run electrical lights and radio when the engine is turned off.
In an EV, this 12V Battery helps to do many critical electrical works including to lock and unlock the doors. The main high voltage battery keeps this 12V Battery recharged at all times. Never allow this battery to deplete completely. Not only it may damage the 12V Battery — requiring you to replace this battery — but also won’t be able to open and close the doors, unlock your vehicle, open the trunk, open the charge port, shift your vehicle from drive to neutral or drive to the park, etc.
A 12V lead-acid battery lasts a maximum of 3 years, depending on climate temperature. So, it would be best if you replaced this battery every 2-3 years.
Brake Pad and Rotor Maintenance:
Every electric car comes with regenerative braking. When you ease off the accelerator pedal, the electric motor becomes a generator and uses your vehicle’s kinetic energy — moving forward — to generate electricity, recharges the lithium-ion battery, and slows down your car in the process. As a result, the electric vehicle uses the brake rotor and brake pad far less frequently than an ICE vehicle. So, these brake pads and rotors last a long time.
Still, you do need to check the wear and tear on these parts and change them if necessary. However, according to EV owners, their brake pad and rotor last 2X more than conventional vehicles. Moreover, clean and lubricate the brake calipers every year.
Brake fluid absorbs water over time, which degrades the effectiveness of the brake fluid. Never open the brake fluid reservoir cap. Only periodically check from outside to make sure that the brake fluid level is between the MAX and MIN lines on the reservoir. If required, add brake fluid according to the specifications of your electric vehicle’s owner’s manual. For example, Tesla suggests checking the health of brake fluid every 2 years and replace it if necessary. Nissan Leaf, however, suggests replacing the brake fluid every 5 years.
Usually, electric cars are heavier than ICE cars. Electric cars also have high rolling torque. That’s why electric cars need more tire maintenance than their ICE counterparts.
Keeping the tire pressure at the required level is very important to get a good range on an EV. Always keep an eye on the tire pressure.
Rotate the tires at regular intervals. Tires are rotated to achieve uniform wear for all tires. Anytime irregular wear is noticed, rotate the tires as soon as possible. The following table shows when you are required to rotate the tires according to owners’ manuals.
|Tire Rotation Interval
|Tesla Model S
|10,000-12,000 miles (16,000-20,000 km)
|Tesla Model 3
|10,000-12,000 miles (16,000-20,000 km)
|5,000 miles (8,000 km)
|7,500 miles (12,000 km)
Note: Do you know that Model X tires can not be rotated? Because its tires are asymmetrical, and front tires are of a different size from rear tires.
Washer Fluid top-up:
Periodically check the washer fluid level and add fluid if the level is low.
Cabin air filter:
The cabin air filter reduces the road dust, pollen, industrial fallout, and other airborne irritants from outside air that is pulled into the vehicle. Tesla, Chevrolet Bolt owners manual suggest replacing this cabin air filter every 2 years. For other EV manufacturers, please consult the owner’s manual. However, more frequent cabin air filter replacement may be required if driving in areas with poor air quality, heavy traffic, high dust levels, or environmental allergens.
Wiper Blade Maintenance:
Regularly clean the tip of the wiper blades and check the rubber for cracks, cuts, splits, and roughness. If damaged, replace the blade quickly to stop any damage to the glass.
Frequently Asked Questions Answered:
Do electric vehicles need servicing?
An electric car needs far less servicing than an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Most of the time, an EV never needs its battery coolant or electric drive unit lubricating oil change. However, EV needs typical vehicle servicing such as tire rotation, cabin air filter replacement, brake fluid top-up, washer fluid top-up, brake pad, and rotor change, etc.
Do electric cars need lubricants?
The electric motor and electric drive unit uses lubricants. However, for the lifetime of an EV, this lubricant doesn’t need to be replaced.
How many batteries does an electric car have?
Electric vehicle has 2 types of batteries. One, a main high voltage battery that runs the electric vehicle. Two, a 12V lead-acid auxiliary battery.
What happens if your electric car runs out of battery?
Never allow this to happen. If you allow your main battery to discharge completely, it may damage the battery and onboard electronics. In this scenario, your 12V onboard battery may also discharge completely preventing you from opening the door, or prevent you from shifting the gear. Nevertheless, for any reason, your vehicle runs out of charge completely, then pull over to a safe location, call a tow company, and tow your vehicle to the nearest charging stations.
Do electric cars need cooling?
Almost every electric cars have a battery cooling system that prevents the battery from becoming too hot. Some are liquid-cooled, and others are air-cooled systems. However, we have observed that this coolant doesn’t need to be replaced for the lifetime of the battery.
Does DC fast charging damage batteries?
Unless it’s essential, try to avoid Level 3 chargers or fast DC charging. A large number of DC fast charging sessions would harm your battery in the long run. This would decrease the charge rate of your high voltage lithium-ion battery. It’s because a battery performs best and lasts a long time if it charges and discharges slowly.
Do electric cars lose charge when parked?
Not only electric cars but also every electronics that is powered by a lithium-ion battery loses charge even if you are not using it. For example, according to the Tesla owners manual, every Tesla loses about 1% of charge every day, though the discharge rate may vary depending on environmental factors— such as cold weather. This could be a problematic issue for an EV owner. For instance, if you leave your electric car at an airport for an extended period, it may lose all of its charges and damage your vehicles’ battery.