If you aren't a mechanic, it can be hard to tell whether a used car you're about to buy has any hidden problems. Sometimes if you're buying from an as-is lot or from someone else who isn't a mechanic, the person selling the car to you might not know its flaws either. Fortunately, you don't have to be an expert to detect some of the more stealthy problems. Keep these tips in mind when you check out used car sales, and you'll know right away whether it has one of the most common hidden issues.
First, Try Turning It Off And On Again
While this adage is a staple of the IT world, computers aren't the only machines that you might want to restart to identify problems. As a courteous gesture, most dealers will start a car for you and drive it to the front of the lot so you can hop in for a test drive. Still, if you don't see the car start up, you should take a moment to turn it off and back on once it's cooled down.
Problems with the starter will be apparent if you have a chance to actually use it, and starting the car for yourself allows you to check the dash lights to make sure everything looks good. Turning it off and on again also applies to the rest of the car as well. Be sure to run through all of the car's amenities, turning on and off the air conditioner, heater, radio, lights, and rolling the windows up and down. If you flip every switch and push every button at least once, you'll know exactly where the car stands in terms of functionality.
Be Fluent In Fluids And An Expert In Emissions
The color, consistency, and smell of a car's fluids and exhaust can say a lot about its general health. Don't be afraid to pop the hood on a potential buy and give its fluids a thorough inspection.
Oil on the dip stick should be dark black, not a diluted chocolate milk color, which might hint at a coolant leak. It should also be full enough to coat much of the stick, not just the end. Similarly, transmission fluid for automatic cars should be red, not brown. Unscrew the radiator cap and take a peek inside: you should see plenty of water and anti-freeze, with no obvious floating debris, which can signify a failed attempt at patching a radiator leak.
While the hood's open, you might as well have a look at the battery's terminals. If they appear dirty and corroded, you might interpret this as a sign that the owner did not regularly maintain his or her car, since cleaning off the terminals is a common and easy maintenance step.
As for the car's smoke, be on the lookout for a bluish tint, which can indicate that the car is burning oil due to failing seals. White or sweet-smelling exhaust isn't a good sign either: it means somewhere coolant is leaking out and being burned on the hot insides of the car.
Become A Cyborg (Or The Next Best Thing)
Okay, so an ODB II meter can't be a part of your body... yet. But that doesn't mean you can't treat it like a third limb on the car lot. These little meters typically cost less than $30 and can read out the alert messages in most new cars. If you're feeling especially techno-savvy, you can even download a Bluetooth ODB II app to your phone, which eliminates the need for a second machine and allows you to check the car's messages stealthily.
Common sense dictates you take any used car to a mechanic before purchase, but a thorough inspection will almost definitely cost you the value of an ODB II meter, which can also be reused for multiple cars. Even if you buy the first car you look at and nothing is wrong with it, a meter is still a money-saving investment. You can even use it after you buy your car to diagnose any problems it develops over the years.
Don't buy a car without knowing for sure if it's going to last. Watch out for these common warning signs, get the full history of the vehicle from the dealer, and keep your trusty ODB II meter or app by your side. With enough care before you buy, you can ensure that your used car will last as long as you need it to.Share
4 June 2015
Last year, I had to replace the brakes and rotors on my car twice because the rotors had warped. I knew that this wasn't something that should be happening and started questioning what was causing it. I started doing some research into my car's breaking system to see if I could figure out what was causing the rotors to get so hot that they warped so quickly. I created my blog to help others find the problems with their brakes. It is my hope that my personal experience and research can help others avoid the costly repairs that I have endured over the years.