Like a new pair of shoes, a new car needs to be broken-in to perform as it’s supposed to. Though automobiles manufactured in the modern era are a far cry from their old-school ancestors, there are still a few guidelines that you should typically follow when you get a new vehicle, especially a performance car like the Ford Mustang. Ensuring proper wearing in and part settling for your vehicle, from your engine to your tires, is critical for top-notch performance and reliability down the road.
We’ve put together this guide to cover all of the basics that Ford recommends for the first 1,000 miles in their owner’s manual, plus a few extras that are popular choices among enthusiasts. While the break-in period isn’t the most fun, with just a little bit of patience and simple care, your pony will be ready to be unleashed to the fullest in no time at all.
It’s worth noting that a lot of these guidelines are just that: guidelines, and not hard and fast rules. Ford even approximates 1,000 miles as 1,500 kilometers in the owner’s manual, which is actually equal to about 932 miles. If you were to treat your break-in period as 932 miles, you’d almost certainly be just fine, but we like to err on the side of caution!
Also, if you’ve come here looking for how to break into a Mustang, this guide is not for you. And if the Mustang isn’t yours, you should go home and rethink your life.
Engine Break-In: Variety is the Spice of Life...For Your First 1,000 Miles
As tempting as it may be to just “set it and forget it," especially if you’re picking up your new Mustang from a faraway location, we’d recommend against using cruise control for the first 1,000 miles of your Mustang’s life.
The reason for this is that you’ll want to vary your speed and RPM range during the break-in period, to avoid staying at one point in the rev band for prolonged periods of time. This is arguably the most important part of breaking in your Mustang because it’s crucial to let the piston rings settle into the cylinder walls.
Don’t go crazy by burning rubber and slamming your Mustang to redline, that’s not a good way to break-in your car either (despite what some will say, a “hard break-in” is never a good idea for any car). Ford recommends driving at least 100 miles before performing wide open throttle maneuvers. But avoid a constant 2,500 RPM highway road trip by modulating the throttle every now and then to different engine speeds. Finally, for manual transmissions, be sure not to lug the engine. This is never a good idea but can be especially harmful during the break-in period.
Ford also notes that you should avoid driving “too fast” during those first 1,000 miles. What this means is up in the air, but stick to highway speeds instead of track speeds and you should be just fine.
Brakes and Clutch: Take it Easy for a While
Ford notes that you should “avoid heavy use of the brakes and clutch if possible” for your first 100 miles in city driving and first 1,000 miles for highway driving. Although your clutch will naturally have to be broken in a bit, try not to put excessive wear on it by riding it or burning it. It’s a similar story with your brakes, so avoid hard stops when possible and don’t go trying any burnouts.
While it's nice to give these components some time to wear in smoothly, most would argue that doing so is not quite as critical as allowing your engine to acclimate in a varied and relatively gentle manner.
Tire Break-In: Where the Rubber Meets the Road
New tires require a break-in period of their own, which Ford pegs at approximately 300 miles. Until then, “you may experience different driving characteristics.” You might not have the smoothest or sharpest driving experience at first, but there’s nothing to fear. Your new rubber just needs some time to break-in.
The Performance Pack 2 and GT350 trims get their own special note about tire pressure. The high-performance, low profile tires on these Mustangs are more susceptible to damage, so make sure that you check the tire pressure at the 1,000-mile mark before engaging in any spirited driving.
With the lower ground clearance on these two high-performance trims, you also need to be cautious when traversing over bumps. Approaching them at a 45-degree angle is one of the best ways to mitigate scraping or damage. While Ford puts this in the “Break-In” section of the supplement guide, you should be doing this all the time!
Notes on Towing
If you need to transport your Mustang early on, a flatbed tow truck (or the car carrier it came on) is totally fine. It’s recommended that you don’t use a dolly tow truck until after the 1,000 mile break-in period. A slingbelt or hook and chain tow truck should never be used to tow your Mustang unless we’re talking about a matter of life and death (these trucks are rarely used by reputable towing companies anymore). Ford specifically does not approve this type of towing. For Performance Pack Level 2 and GT350 Mustangs, dolly tows are not recommended and only flatbed trucks should be used.
Oh, and don’t even think about trying to tow anything with your Mustang during those first 1,000 miles.
Early Oil Change: Not Necessary, But Why Not?
It’s not recommended by Ford, but many owners like to give their new car an early change around 3,000 miles. Some like to do it right after the break-in period at 1,000 miles, others opt for between 300-600 miles, while some even insist on doing it right after they drive off the dealership lot. The reasoning behind this is that the oil that comes in the vehicle from the factory is not high-quality and contains all kinds of gunk, junk, and metal scrapings from the assembly process. While this used to be a concern with older vehicles, modern manufacturing and machining have really eliminated the need to swap out that oil ASAP. Though it’s not required, there’s no harm in doing the oil change early if you want and it does offer just a bit more peace of mind. We say it’s worth doing for a performance vehicle like the Mustang, but you’ll be just fine if you stick to your scheduled maintenance intervals and using quality oil.
The Little Stuff: Making Your Mustang Yours
While all of the above guidelines (minus the optional oil change) are really quite important during the break-in period for your vehicle, we also wanted to share some of the smaller things that we think are helpful when first starting off with your new Mustang. Some of the items below are for fun, others are very important!
- Read the owner’s manual, cover to cover!
- Ensure that your car is properly registered in your state/locale
- Don’t forget to add your car to your auto insurance policy as soon as you can.
- Add a car emergency kit to your trunk, the sooner the better.
- Avoid strong-smelling cargo (takeout food, athletic gear) if you want to help preserve that glorious new car smell. If you’re not a fan, you can leave your windows vented overnight if your Mustang lives in a garage.
- Remove any and all unnecessary stickers. We’re happy that the car was built in Dearborn, Michigan, but there’s no need to clutter up the window!
- Swap out the dealer license plate frame (surely you can find a better cause to support?)
- Find your ideal Ford MyColor shade for your gauges!
Take it Easy, Don’t Sweat the Small Details
Following the break-in recommendations that Ford outlines in the manual are key to ensuring that your Mustang properly settles into being driven. With a few weeks of patience and gentle, varied driving, you’ll be setting your car on the right path for years and years of driving enjoyment down the road. After that, you’ll be ready to really enjoy your vehicle the way it came from the factory. Alternatively, if you’re already excited to put your own personal touch on it with upgrades and changes (from LED lights to an engine overhaul), we’re here to help make it happen!
Image Credit: Ford