Your Guide to Electric Car Maintenance and Repair Costs
Electric cars use more advanced technology than conventional cars, so you might think that they cost more to repair and maintain. And while it’s true that some components are more expensive — like the lithium-ion battery pack — electric car maintenance costs can be surprisingly low, since they require less maintenance overall.
If you’re someone who dreads taking your car to the mechanic, an electric car may be right for you. Not only do EVs have lower lifetime maintenance costs than gas cars, but you’ll spend less time waiting around for tune-ups and oil changes.
Let’s take a look at the do’s and don’ts of electric car maintenance, and what you can do to prolong the life of your electric vehicle.
Electric Car Maintenance Basics
In order to estimate your electric car repair costs, it’s important to understand how an electric car works. There are several components that are unique to electric cars:
- The lithium-ion battery pack, which stores electrical energy
- The electric motor and transmission, which powers the drivetrain
- The regenerative braking system, which recharges the battery
- The charging port, which connects the battery to a charger
Electric cars don’t have an internal combustion engine (ICE), which can account for the majority of maintenance costs on a conventional vehicle. That means no crankshaft, no connecting rod, no pistons, and no carburetor.
Instead, EVs have an electric motor with a single-speed transmission and only a handful of moving parts. This can reduce your overall maintenance costs significantly.
That said, less maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance, and you’ll still have to keep an eye on the brakes, tires, and a few other components that can get worn down.
Be sure to check the manual to find out the recommended servicing schedule for your EV, which can vary a bit from model to model.
What Needs Maintenance?
There are some parts on an electric car that require regular maintenance, just like a conventional car. Your automaker may recommend having your EV serviced once or twice a year to check for wear and tear and other damage.
Recommended services may include:
- Tire rotation: Electric cars have a low center of gravity due to the placement of the battery pack, so tires can wear down more quickly than on gas-powered cars. Be sure to have them rotated every 7,500 miles or so to extend their lifespan.
- Brake pad replacement: EVs use a technology called regenerative braking to capture the kinetic energy lost when the car slows down. This reduces wear and tear on the brake pads, so they may not need to be serviced as often. Still, you should have the brake pads and brake fluid replaced occasionally.
- Cabin air filter replacement: You’ll need to replace the cabin air filter, roughly every few years or every 36,000 miles.
- Cooling system flushes: This service doesn’t need to be performed as often on an EV, but should still be done occasionally to keep the car from overheating.
- Transmission fluid replacement: Some EVs have a powertrain that needs to have its fluid replaced at periodic intervals, such as the Tesla Model S.
- Windshield wiper replacement: Windshield wiper blades need to be replaced, usually every 15,000 miles.
These are just some of the maintenance services your electric car may need. Always follow the recommendations provided by your manufacturer, and choose a mechanic who has experience with EVs to get the best results.
What Doesn’t Need Maintenance?
Many gas cars need to be serviced every few months or every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. This typically includes an oil change and tune-up. But what about EVs?
The good news is that you can skip most of these maintenance steps if your car is a battery electric vehicle (BEV):
- Oil changes
- Fuel filter changes
- Coolant changes
- Spark plug replacement
- Drive belt replacement
- Transmission fluid replacement
This isn’t the case for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), which do require tune-ups and oil changes because they have an internal combustion engine.
Electric Car Battery Maintenance
One major concern that many electric car owners have is battery life. After all, this is the most expensive part of an electric car to replace.
While the battery pack doesn’t need regular servicing per se, your mechanic can check its health to determine how well it holds a charge.
If your EV battery needs to be replaced, it can cost upwards of $5,000, depending on the make and model. Fortunately, all electric cars sold in the U.S. have a warranty on the battery pack that will cover you for at least eight years or up to 100,000 miles.
Most electric cars also have a 12-volt lead-acid battery, just like a conventional car, to power the navigation system, door locks, and other electrical components. Treat this one just like you would in a gas-powered car: avoid draining it by leaving the interior lights on, and jump-start it if necessary.
Electric Car Maintenance Costs
With that in mind, how much can you expect to spend on electric car maintenance and repair? A recent report found that EV owners spend 3 cents per mile on maintenance, while cars with an internal combustion engine cost 6 cents per mile to maintain.
That works out to a lifetime cost of $4,600 for BEVs and $9,200 for gas-powered cars — or a total savings of $4,600 for EV owners.
So even though it costs more upfront to buy and insure an electric car, EV owners can expect to spend less money on repairs and less time at the repair shop.
How to Take Care of Your Electric Car
In addition to following the recommended servicing schedule, there are a few steps you can take to prolong the life of your electric car.
Avoid Temperature Extremes
All cars perform differently in extreme weather conditions, but EVs are especially at risk of battery issues in high and low temperatures. Cold weather can reduce your range in the short-term, while hot weather can reduce the overall battery life of your vehicle.
Some EV manufacturers, such as the Nissan Leaf, provide two different maintenance schedules: one for driving in normal “temperate conditions” and the other for hot and cold environments or for stop-and-go driving.
Check the owner’s manual to make sure that you’re following the best practices for your make and model, and ask your mechanic if you have any questions.
Watch for Corrosion
Because the battery pack is located in the underbody of the vehicle, corrosion can be more damaging to EVs than to conventional cars. Wash off any road salt and other corrosive materials as soon as possible, and keep an eye out for corrosion on the charging port and other electrical components.
If there’s dirt or other debris in the charging port, you can clean it out with electronic cleaner, isopropyl alcohol, or a homemade baking soda solution.
Keep Fast Charging to a Minimum
Finally, prolong your car’s battery life by using Level 2 charging as much as possible. While DC fast charging is handy when you’re short on time, using it excessively can impact your car’s ability to hold a charge.
You can also improve your car’s range and fuel economy by driving at steady speeds and avoiding hard braking. This will make the most of your car’s regenerative braking system and reduce wear and tear on your brake pads.
Take Good Care of Your Car
Aside from these tips, you can take care of your electric car the same way you would any other car: wash it frequently, make sure there’s enough air in the tires, and store it in a garage or an undercover parking area when possible.
With a little care and attention, you’ll be able to keep your EV running smoothly and retain its resale value for years to come!