The joys of driving an EV are many: amazing acceleration, no more trips to the gas station, and never again having to worry about oil changes. Overall, electric vehicles are much lower maintenance than an internal combustion car because there are far fewer moving parts, and nothing exploding inside of your engine. However, an electric car is still a piece of complicated machinery and does require some occasional attention.
If you’re a new - or seasoned - EV owner, it’s a good idea to refresh the basics on what you need to do and how often to keep your car running its best. In addition to keeping tabs on your battery and range with a service like Recurrent’s free reports, here’s what else to do:
Cabin Air Filter Replacement
$60-$100 estimated cost
You can likely do this yourself!
It’s spring in a lot of the country and for so many of us, that means allergies. Did you know that your car has an air filter that helps remove pollen, as well as air pollution and tire debris from the air? That filter should be changed around the two year mark, and is often something that you can do on your own. You can search for videos specific to your car make and model, or check out this Tesla Model 3 air filter swap.
Replace wiper blades
$30-$50 estimated cost
You can likely do this yourself!
This is an as-needed repair that can also be handled on your own. If your wiper blades are no longer removing water safely or effectively, and you’ve already cleaned them out, chances are you’ll need to replace them. This should not happen more than every 2 years. Check out this easy tutorial to get a sense of what’s involved.
12 Volt Battery Replacement
$0 under warranty - $300
Can be done if confident but an easy, quick job at a mechanic
We talk about the high voltage, lithium ion battery in our EVs all the time. But, all cars also come with a 12 volt battery for accessory systems such as lights, locks, and infotainment. Why do we still use a 12 volt battery in a car that has a much bigger, more high tech battery? Mostly because auto manufacturers already have a lot of 12 volt parts. There are also regulations that require the high voltage battery to be easily removable, so it makes sense to utilize a different energy source for non-propulsion power. In an ICE, the 12 volt battery is recharged by an alternator, but in an EV, there is a special DC-DC converter so the high voltage battery can recharge the 12v battery (Lewin Day has a great explainer in Jalopnik about converters). Occasionally, this 12 volt battery needs to be replaced – same as in an ICE car. This can be done at home if you feel very comfortable with cars and electronics, but you may just want to ask a mechanic to do it.
$250 - $400
Probably best to take it in
You can have your car for quite some time before needing to replace the air conditioning components - Tesla recommends this maintenance only every three to six years, depending on model. However, if you're a second owner, or have had your car a while, you can improve the efficiency of your AC by swapping out the desiccant. Of course, if you live somewhere very humid, you may consider replacing this more frequently.
Tire balancing, rotation, and alignment
Rotation: $100 - $250
Can be done at home for free
Alignment and balancing: $150 - $350
Bring it in for alignment and balancing
Your car’s tires need to be rotated and balanced periodically to ensure that they don’t wear down unevenly and cause a safety risk. This is because as you drive, tires or wheels may be bumped out of place or wear down in some spots more than others. Related but separate is aligning your steering, which protects the car’s suspension and preserves optimal vehicle efficiency and handling. It is recommended to get your tires rotated every year, and balanced and aligned less frequently. Tesla recommends rotating the tires every 6,250 miles or when the difference in tread depth between tires is 2/32 inch or greater.
Non-performance tires: $75 - $300 each
Performance: $250 - $600 each
Add on $20 - $50 per tire for installation, or replace yourself
While we’re talking about tires, you’ll want to keep an eye on their wear and tear. Since an EV is heavier than an ICE and has way more torque (wheee!), you should expect to change your tires every 30-40,000 miles. Some tire manufacturers, such as Goodyear and Pirelli, have started making EV-specific tires. Is it all just marketing, though? EV aficionados argue that there are certain considerations specific to electric cars:
- Rolling resistance - because EVs are so much more efficient than ICE cars, the amount of resistance caused by tires on the pavement is much more significant. Low resistance tires can be important for range and efficiency.
- Vehicle weight - EVs are much heavier than an ICE, so tires should be able to stand up to 10% heavier weight and up to 20% faster wear. There are special high load tires meant for heavy EVs.
- Noise - people love the silent ride of an EV, but did you know that electric vehicle tires are actually designed for a quiet ride? Swapping the factory tires out with non-standard replacements might mean hearing the road a lot more.
- Grip - because EVs have so much torque instantaneously, tires need to be grippy enough not to spin out when you accelerate – but not too grippy to severely impact range.
Brake cleaning and lubrication
$150 - $250
Probably best to take it in
Regenerative braking is a great perk to EV driving, especially for science nerds who love the simplicity of reusing kinetic energy to recharge the battery. Plus, it means that brakes may last twice as long as on an ICE where friction braking wears things down. Regardless, brakes are somewhat critical to driving safely, so it’s worth checking them once a year when you get your tires rotated. Especially if you live in a climate that gets cold in the winter, you’ll want to clean out your brake calipers and lubricate them yearly.
Brake fluid change
$100 - $150
Probably best to take it in but you can check your fluids at home for free
Another important piece of brake maintenance that recently got a full article, is checking on your brake fluid. In all cars, as brake fluid gets old, it can become adulterated and lead to corrosion. If you check it periodically, you can both avoid unnecessary fluid changes and prevent brake damage. You can use brake fluid test strips to test according to the great directions in the above article. It’s recommended to check brake fluid at least every two years.