Thanks to Emilio Labrador for the image.
Buying a used car is a tricky business. You can never be sure of a car’s history when you purchase it second hand. Often the car can look like it’s in tip-top condition only to break down a month or two later. Appearance is not always the main factor. Cars can be polished and tidied. External parts can be replaced. Likewise, the test drive will not always reveal the bigger problems. You may not experience any problems on the initial drive, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
The best thing to do when buying a used car is get under the bonnet. Don’t be scared to look at every nook and cranny of the car. Under the bonnet is no exception. The engine and the immediately accessible parts can tell you a lot about the history of the car. You’ll be able to see if it was well cared for and if fluids were replaced regularly. Don’t always trust what the dealer is telling you. They may not even know the full history.
Ask for the care service records
Firstly, ask for the service records. This will shed light on any major problems that the car has suffered. Most importantly, it will show how regularly the oil was changed. It is generally advised that a full oil change is necessary every 3,000-10,000 miles. You’ll know how many miles the car has done, so you can expect a certain number of oil changes. If it is well below the expected number, it is cause for concern. Oil changes are important, but lack of changes also shows a general lack of care for the vehicle. Regular changes shows a car owner who knows the importance of regular maintenance.
Use Your Nose
Take a flashlight with you and have a good look at the engine. There are plenty of signs to look out for. The first of which is the smell. An engine can look to be in great condition. However, the smell of burnt oil or burnt antifreeze is a dead giveaway. It suggests a poorly maintained car with engine problems. You can always replace a poor engine with other used engines later down the line. However, make sure it’s in the best possible condition.
Leaks and signs of repair
Leaks and obvious signs of repair should be quite noticeable. Be sure to full check under the car itself as well as the bonnet. Oil leaks are most likely to be noticed from underneath the car. Use the car’s dispstick to check the oil level and make sure coolant hasn’t leaked from the tank. Leaking coolant suggests a cracked radiator. This is the start of some severe engine trouble and can be very costly to repair.
Finally, look for any signs of ‘racing modifications’. On some hatchbacks you may find the evidence of botched attempts to alter the engine. This can be a sure sign of a short lifespan. The bottom line is don’t be afraid to assess every aspect of the car. It’s not intrusive and a good dealer will completely understand. Know what you’re looking for and get right inside!