The Web is full of information on what to look out for when you buy a used car. But, there is seldom any help for people that have just bought one! Most people assume they should just drive the vehicle they buy and not have a second thought about it.
Here’s the thing: you can’t rely on the previous owner to have maintained the vehicle! The sad truth is that even cars bought from franchised dealers can sometimes have issues. Assuming the car you bought isn’t an obvious lemon, here’s what you should be doing next:
- Check the brakes
One of the most important aspects of any vehicle’s safety systems are the brakes. These days, modern cars have disc brakes fitted to both the front and rear of the vehicles. Some cars illuminate a warning lamp on the dash when the brakes are quite worn.
If yours doesn’t, walk around the car and do a quick visual inspection. Is there a prominent “lip” on the edge of the disc surface? Is the friction material on the brake pads low? If the answer to either question is yes, you’ll need to have your brakes changed.
- Check the tyres
While you’re checking out your brakes on each corner of the car, inspect your tyres too. Tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.8mm. Anything less and they are illegal for road use, not to mention unsafe. Ideally, you should replace your tyres if they have less than 4mm tread depth.
Brand new tyres have a tread depth of 8mm. As you can imagine, 4mm means they are only 50% effective.
You should replace tyres that have signs of cracking on the sidewalls, or if they are older than eight years. To check the latter, each tyre should have a week and year date stamped on it.
For example, “0515” means the tyre got manufactured in the fifth week of the year 2015. If you don’t want to visit a tyre fitting centre, the good news is you can use a mobile tyre fitting service. The tyres you need can get fitted at home or your place of work. It’s a real time saver!
- Check your windscreen wipers
When people sell used cars, they seldom worry about the state of the windscreen wipers! Sure, they might “look” OK at first glance. But, when you try to use them, worn wipers will smear the glass and make it hard to see.
The price of replacement wipers is negligible. You should change them straight away, especially if the weather isn’t looking good outdoors! There are many mail-order websites where you can have wipers sent direct to your home. I recommend using such a service to save time and money.
Get your car serviced
One fact about buying used cars is you won’t usually find one that’s had every service done on time and by a dealer. In fact, some used cars don’t come with a service history at all!
To ensure the longevity of your new pride and joy, get it serviced. During the service, the mechanic can tell you if anything needs repairing or replacement. I recommend having the following work done during the service:
- Standard oil and filter change;
- Cam and auxiliary drive belt change;
- Water pump replacement;
- Air, fuel and pollen filter change.
- Have the brake fluid and coolant changed
As part of your service, you should pay the extra money to have the brake fluid and coolant changed at the same time. Brake fluid gets stored in a sealed system. If moisture enters the fluid, you’ll end up with ineffective brakes. Even if you’ve got brand new discs and pads!
On most cars, you should replace the brake fluid every three to four years. That also applies to the coolant.
Coolant should get changed at a more frequent interval (i.e. every two years).
- Check the condition of your battery
Unless you’ve bought a car built 100 years ago, it will have a battery that gets used to start the engine. Many car owners don’t pay attention to the condition of their car batteries.
As a result, those are the folks most likely to end up stuck somewhere because of a flat battery. First of all, do a quick visual inspection. Are there any signs of corrosion on the terminal posts? If so, use a wire brush to clean them up.
Note: remember to disconnect the negative battery lead FIRST and then the positive one! Reconnect them in reverse order.
Next, use a multimeter to check the charge level. Only do this once the car has been sat for a few hours. Doing so just after driving will give false results.
When the battery is 100% full, your multimeter will read 12.6 volts or more. A battery that is 50% full will read 12.06 volts. If your battery is less than 50% full, I recommend removing it and using an Optimate charger on it. The process may take several hours to complete. But, the result is you’ll end up with a full and refreshed battery.
If the Optimate charger reports that your battery isn’t holding a charge, it’s time to buy a new battery. The good news is that, in most cases, car batteries can get revived to their original state. It’s only badly damaged ones that need replacement.
- Make sure your stereo system works
On some cars, the stereo system also combines the controls for the HVAC system. In case you wondered, HVAC stands for “heating, ventilation and air conditioning.”
One example car that has combined controls is the Honda Accord. If the display on the system doesn’t work, it could mean one of two things. First of all, the DVD drive connected to it that also controls the display is faulty. Or, second, the display itself is faulty.
In either case, controlling your HVAC settings and radio channels will be hard. That’s because you have to do it “blind” without seeing what you’re doing on the display!
The good news is that old units can get repaired. If yours isn’t working, it’s worth paying the money for it to get fixed.
7 Things You Should Always Do When You Buy A Used Car
March 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment