Buy A Used Car
To some people, buying a used car is like betting all your money on red at the roulette table. You just don’t know what you could end up with! Of course, plenty of guides online show you how to be a savvy car buyer. There’s even a helpful guide here on this blog!
But, what you don’t usually hear from people is what to do post-purchase. Yes, driving your new (used) car is the obvious answer. But, no-one really talks about how to make the vehicle in tip-top condition.
All too often, people buy used cars and just drive them. They seldom do any exhaustive checks to make sure they are 100% roadworthy. Yes, the car might have an MOT on it. But, that only means it was roadworthy at the time of the test. As you can appreciate, anything could have happened between then and now!
If you ask anyone that knows me, they’ll tell you how I scrutinise the cars I buy. If you want years of trouble-free motoring, you should be doing the same thing too! Here is what I do whenever I buy a used car:
1. Give the car a thorough clean inside and out
Let’s face it. Used car dealers seldom spend much time making the vehicles they sell look like new. They might do a quick wash and rinse, and let nature dry the vehicle. You might even be lucky if they spend some time vacuuming the interior. But, that’s usually as far as things go.
I always give my used cars a comprehensive clean. Why? First of all, I can determine if there is any rust or panel damage. And, inside the car, I can check for any damaged interior trim panels. A thorough clean of the car ensures that you know what you’re working with!
2. Steam clean and degrease the engine bay
Sticking with the subject of cleaning, I turn my attention to what’s under the bonnet. Using a small steam cleaner and degreaser spray, I can wipe off any oil and dirt. I usually attack areas around the engine block. I also turn my attention to the oil sump.
Why do I do this? If there are any leaks, I want to know where they come from. A clean engine bay makes locating the source of a leak easy.
3. Replace the tyres
Unless you’re buying a prestige car, chances are the tyres on your used vehicle won’t be great. In fact, it’s likely the dealer or seller will have fitted budget brand tyres to the car!
As a rule, I usually get AA Tyres out to fit new rubber for me. The only time I don’t change the tyres is if I know they are new. One way to be sure is by checking the manufacturing date stamp on the sidewall. It might say something like 0416 (week 4 of 52, in the year 2016).
4. Replace the brake discs and pads
The thing about vehicle brakes is you seldom know what quality of parts got fitted. In fact, you don’t even know if they got fitted correctly by the previous owner!
Brake discs and pads aren’t difficult to change. All you need is a few basic tools, axle stands, and a trolley jack. You can buy the parts cheap from places like EuroCarParts. Just make sure you stick to well-known brands. I also recommend “bleeding” the brake fluid for a sharper pedal response.
5. Have a “cam belt kit” fitted by a garage
Now here is one of those mechanical jobs that are best left to a garage. You might not know it, but the cam belt isn’t the only thing you should check. The tensioners (the “rollers” they fit on) and the water pump should also get replaced at the same time.
Whenever I buy a used car, I always get a new cam belt kit fitted. Let’s face it. It’s cheaper to pay £300 for the work and have peace of mind than £1,000+ for a new engine if your cam belt snaps!
6. Carry out a service on the car
At the same time as having the cam belt kit fitted, I usually have the engine serviced too. Believe it or not, it works out cheaper to have all this work done at the same time. Aside from the oil and filter, I like to have the coolant, brake fluid and power steering fluid replaced.
Doing so means that the car will now run on fresh fluids. I don’t have to worry about it overheating or under-performing!
7. Go on a long motorway journey
Today’s modern cars often suffer from one thing. People don’t drive them on long distances! As a result, the upper parts of the engine get coked up with carbon deposits. One way to clear all that carbon is by going on a high-speed motorway journey.
In essence, you are “blowing away” the deposit from the engine. It’s also a good idea to do that in a diesel car. In either case, short journeys can block up parts like the EGR valve. When that stops working, your engine’s emissions will rise. Plus, the car will run rough and use more fuel. And last, but not least, it could even cause the car to fail its next MOT!
Just be sure to fill up with fuel before you set off down the motorway!
8. Get some breakdown cover
The final thing I do whenever I buy any used car is to take out breakdown cover. It doesn’t matter whether you get cover from the AA, RAC or Green Flag. What does matter is that you’ve got some backup should your car stop working on the road.
There’s nothing worse than trying to deal with a mechanical emergency on the roadside. Especially if you happen to have your family in tow with you.
I hope you’ve found this blog post useful today. The points I’ve made might seem a bit overkill to some people. But, they are necessary for trouble-free motoring!