This infographic takes you through the must-do checks when inspecting a used car
1. The check points
Under the hood – The engine is the most important part of any vehicle.
Visually inspect the engine for fluid leaks, corrosion, and cracked hoses and belts. If you notice an unpleasant burnt smell, that means there’s oil leaking onto the engine’s hot metal parts.
Engine – Look under your engine oil cap and you may see a milky, frothy residue. It could be a sign that the coolant has mixed in with the engine oil. This is a serious concern that could indicate a head gasket leak or engine damage. When engine oil is contaminated, this significantly reduces its ability to provide lubrication and may quickly lead to engine failure.
Next, you can check the engine with its dipstick (with the engine off), pull the dipstick out and wipe any oil off from its end. Then insert the dipstick back into its tube and push it all the way back in. Pull the dipstick back out and check the oil’s color. It should appear brown or black. But if it has a light, milky appearance, this also could mean coolant is leaking into the engine.
Also look closely for any metal particles, as this could mean there is internal engine damage.
Undercarriage – Spot for fluid leak, rust condition.
Rims & Tires – Tires tread should be visible and have even wear.
Exhaust – When inspecting a used car, the color of the exhaust smoke can provide some valuable clues of an engine problem.
Blue exhaust smoke – engine oil is burning in the combustion chamber.
It only requires a very small amount of oil leaks to cause excessive blue exhaust smoke and it is most often seen in older or high mileage cars with worn seals and gaskets.
White exhaust smoke – coolant is burning in the combustion chamber.
It is likely the case when you are able to smell a sweet door and you also see that the coolant reservoir level is low. The white smoke will happen even just a small amount of coolant leakages.
Black exhaust smoke – less efficient combustion and it is generally nothing much to worry about. The first thing to check is the air filter. If your engine isn’t getting enough air, then more fuel will be burnt.
These conditions can also be caused by a leaking fuel injector, a blocked fuel return pipe, a broken airflow sensor or a fuel pressure regulator stuck closed.
Trunk – It should not show any sign of rust or water entry due to cracks or holes. Also check if spare tires, jack and ratchets are there.
Window & Door – Make sure they close smoothly
Paintwork – Check for mismatched paint finish. Taking note of any rust spots, dents or scratches.
2. The test drive
- Are the brakes effective?
- Do the brakes stop the car in a straight line?
- Try using the handbrake on a slope, there should be no slippage.
- Make sure the car doesn’t pull to one side or vibrate.
- Listen out for any grinding sound when turning.
- Make sure the gear changes are smooth, immediate and almost silent.
- Make sure the ride is smooth and the car soaks up bumps.
- Look under the car with a touch oil, if the suspension looks greasy or oily, it is probably leaking hydraulic fluid.
3. Check the documents
Vehicle Ownership Certificate (VOC)
Does the manufacturer year, number plate, chases number, color match the VOC?
When inspecting a used car, look for its VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), which can usually be found at the base of the windscreen, under the hood, and stamped into the framework under the carpet by the driver’s seat. Make sure it matches the VIN registered in the VOC.
Does the car has a good service record? Check out the car’s service history which should give you some information regarding the performances, repairs, and problems of the car.
Is a manufacturer’s warranty still exists and is transferrable, or if an extended warranty is available?
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