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Zen and the art of Nissan Leaf maintenance

One of the expected advantages of electric cars over today’s conventional cars is that they should require very little maintenance. Compared with gasoline-powered cars, EVs have very few moving parts: no crankshafts, pistons, valves, coolant, or multi-speed transmissions.

With no reliability history for these new cars, we decided, as a first check on this claim, to read all the way through the maintenance schedule in the owners’ manual of our Nissan Leaf.

Two things stood out: It’s the first maintenance schedule I’ve looked at where the “severe use” schedule is the default. It’s labeled Schedule 1, and it is listed before Schedule 2 (“less severe operating conditions”), clearly implying that most owners should expect to follow the more aggressive schedule. This jibes with federal statistics which show that most American drivers live in cities with stop-and-go traffic and use their cars on freeways, during hot summers and wet winters–conditions that call for the “severe use” schedule in most cars.

Second, under Schedule 1, the Leaf manual calls for changing the brake fluid every 15,000 miles (or every 30,000 miles on Schedule 2). That stopped us cold. Most cars call for changing the brake fluid at most every 60,000 miles. Nissan expects it four times as often on the Leaf. The service costs $291.95 at one Southern California dealership we called, which has sold 34 Leafs since they went on sale in January.

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