Is that used car in the paper really a great deal or are you just purchasing a headache? There are many things you can check before buying the car which can let you know the answer.
Many problems with a used car will cost you a large amount of money to repair. Spotting some of these problems before you purchase the car can help you prevent buying a car that is more trouble than it is worth.
Some of the basic things to check are: mileage, oil and transmission fluid levels, coolant levels, and the tread on the tires. The following are the things which are often overlooked:
1. Leaking Oil: Checking for oil actively dropping from the car is the easiest way to see if there is an oil leak; however, the leak is not always large enough for this. You should look underneath the car beneath the engine for black crud covering the components. This build-up is a mixture of slow leaking oil and dirt and grime from the road.
2. Rust/Corrosion: This applies to more than just the body of the car. Look for rust or corrosion especially around the bolts and screws underneath the hood. While nothing may be wrong at the moment with the components of the car, inevitably things will break down and need to be replaced. If the bolts cannot be removed due to rust and corrosion you’ll have to bring it into a shop for repair. This will often turn a small repair into a huge expense.
3. Brakes/Rotors: Ask the owner if you can have a look at the brakes and rotors of the car. All that this requires is removing a tire which will reveal the pads and the rotor. Look to see how thin the pads are and also what shape the rotors are in. Brake pads can be easily replaced but rotors can be more expensive even when doing them yourself.
4. Ball Joints: Push or kick the tires on the top to see if there is a large amount of movement. If the tires move more than a couple millimeters then the ball joints may have problems and need replacing soon.
5. Engine Rev: Start the car and while remaining in park rev up the engine for a few seconds. Engine or other warning lights that show up again are a sign that someone has reset the car by removing the battery terminals and re-attaching them, in an effort to hide potentially serious problems with the car.
6. Key Turn: If the car has the engine light on and the owner claims it is something minor there is an easy way to check. Turn the key in the ignition to the on position (not all the way to the start position) three times in a row and then watch the engine light flash (or the display on newer cars). Count and write down the number of flashes (or the number on the display). You can then look up the codes by the model of the car to see exactly what is wrong. You can find a more detailed guide here.
7. Alternator: You can check if the alternator is in good working condition without needing to bring it in to a shop. First loosen a single battery terminal and then start the car. Once the car is started remove the loosened terminal and let the car run; if the car turns off then the alternator is bad and needs to be replaced.
When buying a used car always make sure you check it thoroughly, it can save you more money than the car actually cost you.