I'm looking to buy a used car. What do you think I should check (mechanically) before buying it (especially if it's diesel)?
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Inside the car:
Manual: Check the manual for the service history. Was it services regularly at a authorized dealership?
Ash tray: Smells like cigarettes? The previous owner was a smoker, dealbreaker for me personally.
Interior: Does the amount of wear correspond with the expected amount of wear for a car of that age and mileage?
Trunk: Spare tire present? Jack present? Condition of the carpet?
Under the hood:
Engine: Does it look to clean? If the garage cleans the engine it most likely has a defect like an oil leak
Oil cap: White creamy stuff on the inside of the cap? Can indicate a broken head gasket or the car was used for a lot of very short trips. Walk away, it'll cost you to much money for repairs.
Paint condition: Lots of small dents and scratches indicate a sloppy previous owner. Pay attention to door edges and fender corners.
Front fender: Look at the underside, lots of scratches present? The previous owner didn't slow down for speedbumps. Can cost you money for new shocks, ball joints, etc.
Door handles: Lots of scratches around the door handles? A woman owned the car before you, expect to find some small toys and jewelery in the car. ;)
Parking damage on the rims: Lots of damage? Walk away, rim repair is expensive and the steering parts will be more worn than with careful drivers
Steering: Accelerate tot 30 mph/50 kmh on an empty straight road and get your hands of the wheel. Does the car continue to drive in a straigt line?
Brakes: Go to an empty parking lot, accelerate to 30 mph/50 kmh and press the brake really hard. Does the car brake in a straight line without tugging on the wheel? Do you feel the vibration from the antilock brakes (if present)?
Gearbox/clutch: Does it shift smoothly? Is the clutch worn out? (Engage very late, does not stall when engaging the clutch without applying some gas).
Engine noise: How does it sound? No weird noises?
Shocks: Listen for squeaky noises or thumping sounds.
Engine temperature: Does the car reach it's normal operating temperature after a few miles/kilometers?
Airco/heater: Is the airco really cold? Make sure the fan of the ventilation doesn't make weird noises.
Lights: Everything works?
Timing belt almost due? Try to get a new one including the water pump included in the price
Airco not cold enough? Ask the dealer to refill it with coolant.
Worn tires? No new (good!) tires = no deal
And I think a full tank of gas is part of the deal. :)
These are things I check before buying a car (in addition to Alex's advice):
If it shows signs of overheating, leaking radiator fluid, having a blown head gasket, or leaking/burning oil... I would not buy the car.
I'm surprised this has not been mentioned.
Have a compression test performed on the engine. This will expose many major engine problems like head gasket leaks, damaged valves/valve lands or rings. It is a simple, inexpensive test that can save you from some of the most expensive repairs a vehicle may need.
I would consider a compression test absolutely mandatory on any engine with forced induction (turbocharged or supercharged).
Several printable checklists to consider:
If the seller shows you the service records/log book, verify the records. Call the dealers whose stamps are in the log book and make sure they have a record of having serviced the car.
Blank log books can be bought cheaply off the internet, and it's easy to find a dodgy mechanic who'll stamp the book while his boss isn't watching.
A friend recently bought a Toyota for around $50,000 with full log book history and 120,000kms on the clock. When he took it to his local dealership for a service, they told him that Toyotas records have the car as having 300,000+ kms. He then called the mechanics whose stamp was in the logbook and they say they have never serviced the car. My friend had the car re-valued and it's only worth about $30,000.
If this happens to you (at least in Australia) you have absolutely no legal recourse and could lose a lot of money.
A few other things which no one has mentioned which are pretty easy to do, or only require a cheap tool.
Before signing your name on the contract and completely sealing the deal for a used car, you should also check the dashboard features like the A/C, sound system, light and wiper controls, and horn. You can also check the speedometer for the mileage of the vehicle. After doing that, open the hood and check if the area is dusty or not. You may also want to check the oil in the car. To do that, you may use a dipping stick, which is found under the hood, to check if it's clean or dirty. If the oil is clean, the car is good to go. But if the oil is dirty, oil change is needed to avoid damaging the car’s engine.
protected by Community♦ May 7 '13 at 11:22
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