Five key points for buy­ing a car

Rochdale Observer - - YOUR PICTURES -

●●Tim Shall­cross, IAM Road­S­mart’s head of tech­ni­cal pol­icy, ex­plains how to tell a bar­gain from a banger. HOL­I­DAYS are over, Christ­mas is not yet on the hori­zon and fore­courts are full of pre-owned cars which have been traded in to get the lat­est “67” plate.

For lots of us, now is the time we think about trad­ing up to a newer model.

How­ever, to­day’s high-tech cars can be con­ceal­ing wal­letcrunch­ing prob­lems un­known on pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of mo­tors.

For­tu­nately, you don’t need a de­gree in elec­tron­ics or a mo­bile di­ag­nos­tic ma­chine. Just fol­low the ad­vice be­low and you’ll soon tell a trust­wor­thy bar­gain from a trou­ble­some money pit.

1.Ser­vice his­tory

Mod­ern en­gines are stag­ger­ingly ef­fi­cient com­pared with their pre­de­ces­sors, but proper main­te­nance is es­sen­tial to keep them that way. Oil, brake fluid, fil­ters and coolant must all be changed when the man­u­fac­turer spec­i­fies, oth­er­wise ex­pen­sive trou­ble is be­ing stored up for the fu­ture. Ask for the ser­vice his­tory and take time to look through it care­fully. If the ser­vice record is se­ri­ously in­com­plete or miss­ing, walk away, oth­er­wise you could be foot­ing the bill for some­one else’s ne­glect.

2.Dash­board lights

ABS, SRS, ESC, en­gine man­age­ment – ev­ery elec­tronic sys­tem has a warn­ing light. Make sure they all light up when you turn on the ig­ni­tion – un­scrupu­lous sell­ers have been known to re­move a bulb to dis­guise a faulty sys­tem.

You may need to turn the ig­ni­tion on and off a few times be­fore you spot them all.

Most should go out within a few sec­onds, the rest of them when you start the en­gine and re­lease the park brake (hand­brake). Af­ter that, a light means a prob­lem. Don’t be fobbed off with “they all do that” or “that’s nor­mal”. The car has a fault, so walk away.


Lis­ten care­fully for the first few sec­onds – knocks or rat­tles on start-up can mean trou­ble. Watch the ex­haust smoke; white vapour from a cold en­gine is nor­mal pro­vided it dis­ap­pears as the tem­per­a­ture rises. Black smoke on heavy ac­cel­er­a­tion means dirty or worn in­jec­tors and blue smoke at any time in­di­cates a badly worn en­gine – of­ten through ne­glected main­te­nance.

Avoid the car.

4.Road test

Lis­ten for sus­pen­sion rat­tles and clunks over rough roads. Check gear-change smooth­ness, the cars steers straight ahead and brakes squarely.

Try stop­ping at dif­fer­ent rates – gen­tly and rapidly. The en­gine should never stall as the car stops, nor should the revs drop very low then pick up to the right idle speed. If it does, there’s a prob­lem with the man­age­ment sys­tem.

5. Learn to walk away

Keep your head and re­ject a car with signs of prob­lems.

Cars are more of­ten an emo­tional choice than a ra­tio­nal one, but the emo­tional choice is much more likely to end in tears.

If you have any doubts at all, go home and sleep on it. If the sales­per­son hints at other buy­ers on the way, call their bluff – there are thou­sands more bar­gains out there.

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