Check­lists to tick when as­sess­ing your car’s con­di­tion

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - USED CARS -

Check­ing the con­di­tion of a used car can be daunt­ing — es­pe­cially if you don’t know much about cars, but there are a few ba­sic things ev­ery­one can look out for, even if you have no ex­pe­ri­ence.

Use our car pur­chase check­list to help you check ex­actly what you should be look­ing for, and what to walk away from. You should care­fully check the en­tire car, in­side and out.

Out­side the car

1. Vis­i­ble signs of dam­age — check for dents, scrapes, and pan­els or doors not match­ing up evenly.

2. Bro­ken or cracked lights and marks on bumpers. If light clus­ters are not the same make, they may have been dam­aged and re­placed af­ter a crash.

3. Other signs of dam­age, wear and tear such as rust un­der the sills or wheel arches.

4. Tyres that are dif­fer­ent makes or un­evenly worn. This could well mean they may have been re­placed fol­low­ing dam­age.

5. Are there signs of leaks on the ground where the car has been stand­ing for a time? There could well be a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion for this, but you should al­ways ask.

6. Check the spare wheel and full wheel re­place­ment kit. If the car has al­loy wheels, make sure you get a “key” to re­lease and se­cure them.

Oil checks

Check the oil— there’s an oil dip stick and an oil filler cap. Have a tis­sue at hand, pull out the oil dip stick, wipe it off, and in­sert it in again. And now pull it back out and see where the oil comes to.

At the end of the stick about an inch up you should see two mark­ings, one for min­i­mum and one for max. The oil should be up near the max, not very low and not over filled (both are as equally dam­ag­ing).

If there’s no oil, then don’t buy the car.

If the oil is as black as coal it will in­di­cate the car hasn’t been ser­viced in a while. If it’s golden it nor­mally in­di­cates clear oil and it’s just af­ter be­ing ser­viced ( most diesel oils will be darker, and the colour may not in­di­cate re­cent ser­vic­ing).

If the oil on the dip­stick is creamy or cof­fee colour, this nor­mally in­di­cates that the oil is mix­ing with the wa­ter and the head gas­ket is gone. If this hap­pens, don’t buy the car.

The oil filler cap may have this creamy residue on it but that’s nor­mally due to con­den­sa­tion in the en­gine and is fine.

In­side the car

Check how many airbags the car has and ask if they are in proper work­ing or­der.

Ask if the car has other safety fea­tures such as a three-point cen­tre seat belt in the back, se­cure fix­ing points for a child seat (IsoFix), Anti-Lock Brak­ing sys­tem (ABS), etc.

Check and take a note of the read­ing dis­played on the odome­ter.

It will be dis­played in miles or kilo­me­tres. If you think this has been tam­pered with or ‘ clocked’, for ex­am­ple, i f the mileage seems low com­pared to the con­di­tion of the car, you should con­tact the gardaí.

The av­er­age an­nual mileage of petrol cars is about 17,000km (10,500 miles). Diesel cars, if they have been used for busi­ness pur­poses, could have an av­er­age of about 24,000km ( 15,000 miles).

Ask the seller to con­firm in writ­ing the cor­rect mileage read­ing be­fore you buy the car.

Check the wear and tear in­side the car on the seat cov­ers, pedal rub­bers, gear knob, or steer­ing wheel to see if it is con­sis­tent with the dis­played odome­ter read­ing.

Start the car — turn the ig­ni­tion onto the first click and all the warn­ing lights should flicker on.

Make sure all th­ese lights come on ( airbag, etc.) and that they go back off again. If they don’t come on it could mean the bulb has been re­moved to try and hide an ex­ist­ing, ex­pen­sive prob­lem.

Ask the seller i f they would leave the car sit for half an hour or an hour be­fore you come so that you can start it from cold. Start­ing from cold can highlight some prob­lems which start­ing from warm wouldn’t.

Never ex­am­ine a car at night or in poor light con­di­tions. Al­ways do it dur­ing day­light hours and try to view the car when it’s dry as rain can hide scrapes or scratches.

Test drive the car

Al­ways try to take the car for a test drive be­fore you buy it.

Dur­ing the test drive, turn off the ra­dio and air­con­di­tion­ing, and make sure:

■ There are no strange noises or rat­tling.

■ There is no strong smell of oil, petrol, or diesel.

■ It ac­cel­er­ates com­fort­ably and the brakes don’t squeak or squeal.

■ The gears shift com­fort­ably and smoothly.

■ You drive over a rea­son­able dis­tance on dif­fer­ent road sur­faces to fully test it.

Pic­ture: David Keane

Paddy O’Con­nor, sales man­ager, cen­tre, with sales ex­ec­u­tives Marc Gal­lagher, left, and Pat Gowen, at the Kelle­hers Ford deal­er­ship, Mac­room, Co Cork.

If you re­ally have no idea about cars, then per­haps you should ask a me­chanic to have a look for you.

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