Everybody wants to buy or own a car but may fall short on key details. In this article, we will point out 3 important checks before you buy a car. This article is principally for people that want to buy used cars. Brand new cars do not exhibit any of these issues that will be highlighted in this article, except it wasn’t bought from an authorized dealer.
1. Exterior Check
This refers to the physical inspection of the car. Examine each body panel, as well as the roof. Take note of any spot that has rust, dents, and scratches. Look closely at the gaps between the panels (e.g. between the fenders and the doors). If the gaps are uneven, this usually means they were assembled poorly in the factory, or the vehicle was poorly repaired. Open and close each door, the hood, and the trunk. Gently lift and let go of each door, particularly the driver’s door. If it seems loose on its hinges, the car has seen hard or long use. Inspect any rubber seal for tear or rot.
Walk around the vehicle and take a careful look at all the glass to make sure there are no cracks or large, cratered areas. Using small stones to test for the glass durability is advised. If the glass cracks, it shows poor quality glass. However, if you are satisfied with the car, and you feel the need to buy it, you can use the cracked glass as a bargaining chip for a reduction in price. Cracks, on the other hand, will only get worse and can require an expensive repair later.
Another vital detail is the lights of the car; make sure they are in good working condition, or better still, ask a friend to test so that it can be compared. Make sure all the reflectors are in excellent working condition. Also, ensure that the high and low beams are on point. It is also important to ensure that none of the lights is damaged, filled with dirt or moist.
The suspension is important if not the most important thing to inspect because that’s what drives the car. Check for rust and check if the car is evenly balanced. Listen for any creaking sound in the car when body parts are shaken. One of the most important points to check for in a used car inspection is frame damage. Open the hood and check the saddle (this is the part connecting the front fenders and holding the top of the radiator). This should be bolted into place on either side and never welded. The bolt heads inside the hood, at the top of the fenders, should not have any scratch marks, which can indicate replacement or realignment after a crash. Lastly, check for welds inside of the door jambs.
Tyres are also to be considered when inspecting a car; tyres often tell the story of a car. If the tyre is seriously worn out it is an indication that the car has been used extensively. All the tyres should be the same size if there is any difference in the tyres, then it has been replaced.
2. Interior Check
The inspection of the interior of the car will give you instant results. The first thing is the odour of the interior when you open the door. Check for damp or moist odour, it could indicate a leak. Check the seats, the upholstery should not be too worn out especially if it’s a low mileage car. The sound system, air conditioning should be thoroughly checked to ensure they work and function well. Turn the ignition without starting the car, all the lights should come on. Individually switch all the buttons and make sure they perform their functions.
Check the headliner and roof trim for stains or sags to see if water is leaking through the sunroof, ill-fitting doors, or windows. If equipped with a sunroof or moon roof, check to see if it opens and closes properly and seals well when shut. Inspect the convertible top for tears by shining a flashlight up into it. The lights should come up at once.
In the trunk or boot, use your nose as well as your eyes. Sniff and look for signs of water entry. See if the carpeting feels wet or smells musty, and check the spare-tyre well for water or rust.
3. Engine Check
The last inspection is the engine. Check for any corrosion or leakages. Check coolant, oil and transmission fluids, these are vital. Make sure the oil is enough in the car. The owner’s manual will point out where to look to check all fluid levels. Engine oil should be dark brown or black, but not gritty. If the oil is honey-coloured, it was just changed. Transmission fluid should be pinkish, not brown, and smell like oil, with no “burnt” odour. If the dipstick has water droplets on it or grey or foamy oil, it could indicate a cracked engine block or blown head gasket. These are indications or symptoms of serious problems. The dipstick shouldn’t leave visible metal particles on the rag, another sign of a serious problem.
Check the automatic-transmission fluid with the engine warmed up and running. On some, the dipstick has two sets of marks for checking when the engine is either cold or warm. Power-steering and brake-fluid levels should be within the safe zone.
For cars with the rubber timing belts, the timing belt should be checked for wear. However, for vehicles equipped with a steel chain for a timing belt, you might not have much to worry about. The typical life of a timing belt is between 60,000-100,000 miles. On the radiator, look into the plastic reservoir that is connected by a rubber hose to the radiator. The coolant should be greenish or orange, not a milky or rusty colour. Greenish stains on the outside of the radiator are a sign of pinhole leaks.