If you are interested in buying your first used car, you will need some sharp eyes to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon. Sellers try their best to hide the defects of their cars in order to get rid of it as soon as possible. If you are looking to buy a used car, and it’s your first car, try seeking help from a friend or a colleague who knows a thing or two about cars.
But if you can’t find anyone, no need to fret. Here are five things you should look before buying a used car. The body of the car and its exterior gives you a pretty clear photo as far as its physical condition is concerned although there could be more than what meets the eye but let’s just leave that for a later discussion. In this blog, we will talk about checking the heart of the car. An engine is a complex machine and requires detailed inspection but for the sake of keeping it simple, we will talk about five important and relatively basic aspects of an engine. Let’s start with smoke:
Check for smoke
Smoke from a diesel car is expected but if you are buying a used petrol car, you need to find what kind of smoke is it. A blue smoke from the exhaust means the car is burning its motor oil. At the cold start, if you see there is light blue smoke, but it vanishes after the warm up, then that can be considered as normal since older engines sometimes have worn out oil seals and oil drips in the cylinder overnight and you will see some light smoke on the cold start in the morning. Excessive blue smoke even after the warm up is not a good sign. Stay clear of such cars. Also, if the smoke is black, it means the car is burning excessive fuel. It’s running rich. Rich prolonged burning means car engine has carbon deposits in it.
Check everything related to oils
Check the oil quality and level of the engine oil with the dipstick. If it looks like a mud-slushy, it means the current owner didn’t bother to change the oil for a long period of time. When you lift the car’s bonnet, check for oil residue and seepage around the engine. A small patch of muddy and dusty oil is okay in an old car. It shouldn’t look fresh and/or all around the engine head, etc. That means leaking oil is a persistent problem in that car. Fixing it will take time and money. You might even find out the car had something worse done to it, hence the constant fresh oil spots. Open the oil cap and look inside. If you don’t find any black carbon gunk inside, and everything looks clean and shiny, that is a good sign as well. Also, ask the owner where the car is usually parked. Looks for the oil drip stains on the floor of his garage etc.
Check for coolant of the car. Open the radiator of the car, and see if the current owner has bothered to use any anti-freeze/anti-boil in the car. Unfortunately, most owners of old cars don’t bother to put anti-freeze in their cars. See for the signs of rust under the radiator cap. If it’s excessive, it means the car has been running on good ol’ plain water for a long period of time. You will find the rust deposits and residue in the reservoir bottle of the car as well. One very import thing to check when you open the radiator cap is if there is any oil mixed with the water. If you find a foamy substance inside and oil residue, stay away from the car.
Listen for engine noises
Do a cold start and listen for the noises. Warmed up engine would hide a lot of its weaknesses that are only visible when the car is cold. A minor clicking sound from an engine is normal. It’s usually sound of cold tappets. You don’t need to worry about that. The sound will vanish when the car heats up. Make sure there is no heavy thudding and clunking sound in the engine or constant loud noise of metal grinding. Let the car warm up and on light push of the accelerator, listen for sounds again. If you find the engine is making unnecessary mechanical noise, you should stay clear, or ask an expert about it. Rebuilding an engine is expensive. You don’t want to end up buying your first car that ends up in a workshop in its first week of purchase.
Ask for a test drive. A test drive can help you make your mind better. Engine although a major part of the car, is still just one part of it. Also, your transmission is another important part of the car. A test drive will let you check that as well. Maybe if you drive it, you find you don’t like the drive of the car even though it looks good otherwise. Not only will a test drive give you an actual feedback regarding the condition of the engine under load but will also give you an overall picture of the car.
These are just a few of the things that can help you decide whether to buy the car or not. It’s a vast subject, and there are a lot of variables. We have tried to simplify some of the most basic points for those who are new to car buying.
If our expert readers have more to add to the points mentioned above, please do in the comments section below. Happy motoring!