Five key points for buy­ing a car

Accrington Observer - - CLUB NEWS -

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. 3.Engine

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.

Avoid the pit­falls of buy­ing a car by fol­low­ing the ad­vice be­low

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