Buying a used car has become relatively easy over the years. Specially due the reason that almost every major car manufacturer now offers used car through their own platform and that too with a warranty. However, in case you still choose to go with a used car option offered by road side seller or someone unknown. Here is the list of things you should check to confirm if the car is really as good as it looks.
1. Engine head gasket
All different parts (Engine head, Block, Sump etc.) that together form an engine must be perfectly sealed from each other. Also, the engine oil and coolant pathways should not leak into cylinder block. Head gasket is extremely critical and can be very difficult to repair if damaged.
You can check if it is intact or not by simply removing the oil filler cap. In case of a perfect gasket, you may only find traces of oil, however if it’s damaged, it may have creamy sludge deposits.
2. Rubber hoses and belts
The rubber hoses and belts get old not only with use but also with age of the car. It’s extremely important that they should be in working order. Visual inspection would reveal if they are okay or not. Minor cracks or extremely hard or soft rubber indicate greater extent of wear and is not good for normal working. It’s a sign that they would soon require replacement.
3. Engine oil and coolant
The engine oil and coolant colour tell a great deal about the engine health. The engine oil would have golden brown or red colour and level would be between the high and low level mark. A dirty black engine oil indicate that oil has not been changed in long time. The correct way to check the engine oil is when the engine is warm. The coolant is generally Blue / Green / Orange in colour, dirty brown liquid in the overflow tank generally indicate that head gasket is not intact or rust in the coolant pathways of cracked cylinder. Stay away from these cars.
4. Tail pipe
The exhaust gases coming out of the tail pipe should be invisible to extremely light black colour in case of healthy petrol cars after the engine has sufficiently warmed up, while in case of diesels it would be light black to slightly dark colour. Blue colour indicates that the car is burning engine oil while extremely dark black colour tells that the engine is running rich. The white colour smoke is extremely rare, however it indicates that there is coolant leaking in the combustion chamber. Don’t be afraid to put the finger in the tail pipe to check if it’s greasy, this indicates that trouble is even deeper. There’s no point in putting your money in this car.
To find out if the suspension is in good condition or not, you would need to drive it. Any abnormal noise while going over rough patch or excessive pitching while braking or acceleration give an idea if it’s in working order or not. Replacing the mounts or shocks may be relatively easy but you would really want to avoid that. A new car of the same type can really serve as a benchmark if you are not sure of your judgement. Driving the cars back to back would give a good idea of the car’s suspension.
6. Tyres and Ride
Uneven tyre wear indicate that car’s alignment is messed up and needs adjustment. You can also get an idea by driving the car if it’s in need of alignment or the wheels require balancing. If the wheels are not balanced, at high speeds you would feel the steering wheel vibrating. In case if the the alignment is needed, the car may pull to one direction and would have trouble staying straight without inputs from the steering wheel.
Most cars have an anti rust protection which is strong enough and offers decent protection against rust, however in case of coastal areas cars are more prone to rust and may likely have it too. The best way to inspect if the rust is secretly eating away the car is to get under it and check the car’s underbody.
8. Dashboard & Interiors
A car’s odometer may not always tell the truth since it could be that it’s being tampered with, which is a common practice among road side car dealers. Have a close look at the steering, dashboard and door handles etc. if they correspond to the age that’s shown by the odometer reading. Also see if the power window switches, music system, wiper and indicator stalk etc. are in working order.
9. Exterior body & lights
Minor scratches and dents on the body work are nothing to worry about. However inconsistent panel gaps or welding marks give an idea if the car has been in a major accident or if the chassis is permanently damaged. Have someone else drive the car and see if the front and rear tyres drive in parallel planes, in case of severe collision, the geometry will be permanently damaged. See if the lights, wipers etc. are in working condition.
10. Spare wheel / boot
If all else fails look into the boot of the car, dealers give a nice polish to the exteriors but the boot space is hard to polish. Place where the spare wheel is kept would give a nice idea about the car’s age. If the boot tells a different story than the exteriors, walk away from the deal.
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