Roadshow

Top 5 electric car maintenance issues and their costs

An EV lacks a lot of other cars' parts, but not all of their headaches.

James Martin/CNET

My recent video lambasting car engine head gaskets got a few of you electric car haters to remind me that EVs aren't exactly maintenance-free. Fair enough. So this week, I give you my list of the top 5 things that need tending to underneath an electric car hood, or wherever it is they hide these parts. 

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5. Tire rotation
I put this at the bottom because it's common to all cars (and you don't do it anyway), but it's extra important on an EV because they have a heavy footing with that big battery and exert a lot of torque on the driven wheels. Wouldn't it be a shame if you were saving the environment with electric power only to be polluting it excessively by tossing out tires more often than you need to? 

4. Brake fluid service
Even though electric cars do most of their everyday stopping via regenerative braking, where the mechanical brakes aren't used, they all have normal brake discs and pads. Those are pressed together via the same hydraulic fluid found in a conventional car, and that fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it likes to absorb water from the air and will corrode your brake system unless you flush it regularly. 

tesla-service

Tesla says 80 percent of the service its cars need can be done by a mobile service tech who arrives in a Tesla with a cool stripe.

Tesla

3. Coolant service
Battery electric cars have no engine but they still have coolant keep that big battery from doing what it naturally wants to do: catch fire. Coolant system-flush intervals vary widely, from every four years or 50,000 miles for a Tesla Model 3, to every 150,000 miles for a Chevy Bolt. 

2. Brake service
Separate from brake fluid are the brake pads and discs. How often an EV needs them serviced depends on how much you drive, how hard you drive, what regeneration settings you use and the terrain in your area. The best EV pilots read the traffic ahead and try never to use their brakes, and the lesser ones mash the brake pedal frequently and will be facing brake jobs. 

leaf-motor

The unseen battery is where a huge amount of cost and residual value resides. Take care of that battery with a new set of habits you never needed on your old car.

CNET

1. Battery care
Your electric car's battery, not its motor, is more analogous to a regular car's engine in terms of cost and value. It's the heaviest assembly, the most expensive and a big factor in the car's future residual value. Take care of it like you would an engine by knowing that it can suffer when it's sitting in overly hot or cold temps for too long, allowed to go totally dead, or charged too much or too often. The details of those parameters are in the owner's manual and if you read nothing else of it, at least read that section.