Whether you’re a new driver raring to go, or a experienced driver looking for a new car these top tips will help pick out the ‘Créme de la créme’.
There is no point buying an unsafe, unroadworthy car. Usually your first port of call would be to check the mileage on the dashboard – but this needn’t be the be all and end all of your decision making – modern cars are much more resillient and durable than older vehicles, so mileage has become less important – you should mainly be concerned with diesel fuelled vehicles as they are often more difficult and expensive to fix. The most important thing the vehicle must have is a valid MOT. Do rudimentary checks for unusual noises, bellowing smoke and be sure the wheel alignment isn’t going to make the car fly into another lane (or worse, hedge or central reservation!). The best thing to do is take someone with you as a second pair of eyes and ears – if they’re a qualified mechanic that’s a bonus!
Under the Hood
Checking the engine isn’t just to see how clean and pretty it is – check for any rust within the engine bay; on the shocks/suspension mounts; and then move onto the more traditional checks: oil, oil filter, and radiator. With the oil, make sure to remove the dipstick and check that it is a honey-coloured, clean consistency – black marks or bubbles are a bad sign, along with the oil volume being below the max line. With the radiator, make sure the hoses are not loose and, after unscrewing the cap, check to see if you can see if there is any rust or oil in the water. – if any of these are true, it’s time to grab some excuses and walk away from the car. In genera, when checking under the hood, make sure there are no unexpected leaks, streaks or dampness anywhere.
The chance of finding a used car with no scratches, dents or chips and scrapes are very slim. One thing we look for on the outside is the ticking time-bomb of rust – make sure that the doors up and close perfectly and check for rust on the inside panels. You should also take the time to check sills, bulkhead and the floor. MOT garages will check all these spots for rust so don’t be shy to lift up a lil bit of the carpet in the corners to see if rust is coming through the body work, or even get your knees dirty and take a swift look under the car.
When checking the vehicle’s wheels and tyres, you can tell a lot by just looking alone. The tyres must be legal to drive on – the minimum legal requirement for a tyre is to have a tread depth now shallower than 1.6mm, with no bulges, remoulds or bald spots; and all should be inflated to the correct pressure. If all the tyres are same brand/design, it means that this car is likely to have been well looked after by the owner, but you should still check all the tyres carefully. Alloy Wheels are likely to have a few scrapes and chips, and depending on the driver type, this is to be expected in varying degrees – however, you should check that the wheels have been cared for and that no major damage to the finish / laquer is present – this can lead to spidering under the lacquer, allowing corrosives to enter the paintwork and damage the wheel’s structural integrity. Of course, we’d heavily endorse buying a car with our range of alloy wheels fitted.
It is more than just a pain to get replaced history and past MOTs from garages – so if there isn’t any history, you may want to pull out that list of excuses again (the cat’s died, there’s a water leak at the house, a tornado is coming…). Ideally, at least the past few years’ MOTs and mechanical bills should be there just to see what recent work has been done on the car. Anything major, and you may want to start asking questions about any big crashes or accidents as this could have weakened the chassis and result in further payout.
While letting the engine run for a period of time before taking it out, make sure the inside is up to standard. Mould maybe visible in the corners of the carpets and on the seats, this is a sign of damp. This might well be a problem easily fixed, but depending on how bad the mould is, the vehicle could end up requiring new upholstery. In newer and most used cars, many people take the original radio out and fit custom aftermarket speakers / headunits. Be sure to fiddle with all the dials and buttons to make sure they all work and none get stuck. Lights are also a big safety check: make sure when twisting through the settings of the lights that everything comes on appropriately. Even check down to the door lights when opening and closing.
This is where the “second opinion” comes in handy. As you start the car get someone to stand behind and watch the exhaust. Any smoke bellowing out is a bad sign. Overly blue smoke may be caused by burning oil, white is usually coolant leaking, and black could mean the car has been standing there for a while. Once the engine is on check the dials, if the temperature gauge is already high, this could mean the owner had pre warmed the car before you arrived. This could be to make sure it still runs or can also mean that the engine is annoying to start first time. If the car is a diesel and isn’t starting well could mean the car is lacking compression or just worn out.
The Test Drive
Before setting off, adjust the wheel height and seats to make sure you can actually drive comfortably. When pulling away engage the gears and pull away sharply. Just to check if can hear any clonking on the rear side. If this does happen could be the propshaft may need to be changed with a new one. The question you should ask yourself is, ‘does it feel sluggish?’; and is it a nice ride. Does the steering pull to any side? You don’t want to be hearing any bangs or crashes coming from under the hood, if this happens mean a lot of things but a very costly damage as the whole engine would be taken out and taken to pieces.
The Final Checks
After the test drive, and if everything has gone well up till this point, its best to re-check the engine to see if there are any leaks or fluids in the engine bay or under the car having been run. Given that the engine has run, this would flush fluids around to all parts of the car and show any weakness. If you do get up to offering, start off low. You may get laughed at in the face but it’s worth it! Haggling is the best way to get the right price and not get ripped of. The owner will always think their car is ‘top notch’ and not see the smaller dent and repairs as a way to cut the price.
Until the next blog, ‘Good Luck’ and happy shopping…
Source: Wheelwright Blog