A standard ‘guide to buying a used car’ will advise consumers to check a whole host of potential problems, from the condition of the tyres to the clutch pedal, several even point out the ‘hidden’ costs of buying a used car such as car tax and insurance rates. Once this decision to purchase has been taken however there are other basic checks that you should carry out before you start driving your new purchase that won’t be covered under vehicle warranty.
- Oil – Under the bonnet, wipe the dipstick then stick it back in to get an accurate reading and top it up with the recommend type of oil if it’s too low. Running an engine without oil can cause no end of problems ultimately resulting in the engine seizing up all together and having to be replaced.
- Lights – Are all your lights working, or has a bulb gone? Switch them all on then walk round the car. Make sure you test indicators in both positions and get a friend to check whether your brake lights work when you press the pedal.
- Tyres – Check the tyre pressures and look for any signs of damage or uneven wear. Check the tread depth – the legal limit is 1.6mm but when it gets below 3mm, starting thinking about replacing them.
- Battery – Give the battery an overnight charge as soon as you get the vehicle home to bring the battery up to maximum capacity. The used car up for sale will be subjected to a variety of ‘checks’ on electric windows, stereos, heated seats, air conditioning and other electronic functions, along with several short test drives that will have drained the battery.
- Water – Check the water (coolant) level. When the engine is cold, it should be between the max and min marks on the coolant reservoir. Only do this with a cold engine.
- Windscreen wipers / screen wash – Top up your screenwash with a mixture of water and anti-freeze. Follow the instructions on the anti-freeze bottle to work out how much to put in. Running out can be dangerous, especially in winter.
These factors won’t necessarily result in immediate vehicle failure in the car showroom or seller’s home but this is something that may strike shortly after purchase. To protect against costly breakdowns as a result of not undertaking basic vehicle checks, we recommend undertaking all of these checks as you get the vehicle home. Dealers will happily undertake repairs that fall under warranty but won’t be prepared to rectify problems caused by lack of basic maintenance.