Before buying a used vehicle or anything that has the tag "used" before its name, you should be extra careful, since they are not produced brand new, and unlike a newly bought product, it can hide subtle problems that cannot easily be seen.
While some people resort to have their favorite mechanic come along and help them with the process, others choose to inspect it themselves. With appropriate guidelines, you can be able to do it on your own. In this article, we will walk you through, step by step how to properly examine a used car. And since the engine is the heart of the car, we'll start there. Unlike minor issues like broken wipers or scratchy bodywork, which can be fixed easily or with just some thousand Nairas, defects in the Engine dwarf all that. So, again, check it thoroughly if you don't want to thin your wallet a great deal in the future (aside from the initial fee that you put down to purchase the vehicle).
This is the heart of any vehicle, so make sure to check it first before anything else
1. Listen intently for unusual sounds
Before getting in, you should start with the ultimate first step for any inspection, the Test drive. Any fancy details that the owner laid out to you can easily be verified simply by getting out into the road. First off, get it down the road and listen closely to the sound it produces. If there are any abnormal sounds, such as loud bangs or screeching, you should ask if the owner can explain the situation, if they can't, inspect the car yourselves. And when even you cannot detect any problems but still hear the sound, you should postpone or ditch the deal altogether until it has been taken care of. Who knows what's the underlying problem behind it? It can be minor as worn-out brake pads or worse, a broken engine being on the brink of collapse. For further understandings of the unusual sounds from the car and the telltale signs behind them, check out these articles:
- 4 reasons your car makes squeaking sounds when braking (with explanations)
- Sources of rattling sounds under your car
2. Do a long enough test drive
Next, if you're located near the mountain area, drive it uphill and downhill to test its performance. And remember to brake frequently to see if the brake system is working properly, does the vehicle veer when you do it? Does it take long to respond or to slow down? All should be put into consideration. Also get it into the freeway, because that's where you can legally floor the gas pedal and see if the car operates stably at high speeds. If it shakes violently or produces an abnormal amount of smoke, it's best to stay away from the deal.
3. Watch out for the check engine light
Next, pay attention to the check engine light. There are many problems that could lead to a illuminating engine light. In general, if the car owner really wants to hide its defects, the engine light wouldn't go up. But sometimes they are not that smart, really, and that's when you know something is wrong with the car. Again, ask the owner if he has anything to do with it or understand the reason behind that. If he or she doesn't and refuse to pay an amount to even inspect the problem, it's time you move on to the next car. It worths noticing that once you start the car, all the lights will go off and that should not be the reason why you drop the deal. Wait several minutes after the car has started and only then look for the light.
Don't worry if the engine light blinks when you first turn the car key
4. Look at the maintenance history
The next thing you need to do is ask for the maintenance history of the car. Things such as the cambelt replacement should be looked at first if you want to know the condition and the frequency of the maintenance of the engine.
5. Smoke and timing belt
These two, especially the timing belts, are critical to the well-being of the engine and should never be neglected.
6. Oil levels and leaks
Next, check for the oil levels before and after giving it a test drive, if it sinks significantly, there's a possible oil leak in the system.
7. Engine and cylinder compression
Ideally, if you don't want to bear all the burden of inspecting the vehicle alone, ask or hire an experienced car maintenance technician to accompany you to the market with his/her tools to give in-depth analysis of the engine.