the time to venture under the bonnet. First have a tentative feel. How warm
is the engine? Obviously you don't want to get burnt when feeling around,
how hot it is also tells you how much the car has been run by the seller
to your arrival. It's always more revealing to start a car from cold. They
only have taken it out of the garage, but be suspicious.
appearance: all engines are dirty places, but look in particular for
oily gunge on the outside the engine, around the engine joins and indications
that it may have been splattered about in places where it really shouldn't
eg. on water bottles or the underside of the bonnet. It could indicate
a past leak. Be worried if you see a corroded battery or wires or hoses hanging
loose and be suspicious if it's just been steamcleaned. Might be the seller's
trying to hide something.
always get a car insurance quote from Direct
as they don't take part in the price comparison websites.
try to squeeze the various hoses around the engine bay, particularly
running to the radiator. When squeezed, look closely for cracking or
This shows the hoses are old and need replacing before they split mid-journey
and leave you on the hard shoulder. It's also another sign of neglect - clearly
the car hasn't been serviced for a while.
check all fluid levels. Oil: grab those tissues you brought and take out
the dipstick. These usually have a mark to indicate the proper level. The
the colour of the oil, the better. Honey-coloured indicates a recent
Should normally be dark brown or black, but not too dirty and certainly
gritty. Remove the oil filler cap, normally somewhere on the top of the
and inspect underneath. White foam indicates water is present in the
is a strong clue to excessive wear and a potential expensive head
change. Water: don't remove the radiator cap until the engine
has cooled off. Is
it full to the proper level? It should be greenish or bluish,
not a rusty or milky colour. Green stains on the radiator are signs of pinhole
leaks. Squeeze a
couple of the radiator hoses and see if the water level moves
as you squeeze. Brake fluid: is there fluid to the proper level in the
brake fluid reservoir? Power steering: Gearbox: some cars need warming
up before checking the gearbox
oil. It should be pinkish in colour, not dark
brown or black like engine oil. It shouldn't leave metal grit on your rag - a
sign of serious problems.
Wiring: feel the plastic outer-coating
on electric wires. If it is brittle or cracked,
the wires have overheated
at some point. Look at the connections between
wires - you want to see neat
plastic connectors, not joins wound round with
black electrical tape.
Belts: look closely and feel any drive
belts that you can see for tightness and fraying. Are they slack - do they look
worn? The most important one in many
cars - the timing belt - may not be visible.
If the car has done over 40,000 miles
- replacement schedules vary on different
cars - ask if the timing belt has been replaced and check for service receipts
that prove it. If this belt fails, the consequences for the engine can be very
expensive. You need to know the
timing belt is relatively fresh, or factor
in the often high cost of replacing it.
use your torch to look up at the engine from under the front.Oil
drips or leaks aren't a good sign. If you can see where the car is
parked - in a garage or on a driveway - check to see if it is covered
puddles or oily stains. If you can see them, examine the constant velocity joints
between the front wheels and the engine - normally covered by round,
bellows at the end of the driveshafts. If these rubber boots are split or leaking
grease, assume the car has, or soon will have, bad CV joints - an expensive repair.
Just the rubber boots being split is an MOT failure point.
around the rest of the car. Look for leaks around the fuel tank
pipe - check for rust, dents and welds in the sills and floorpan, and
at the exhaust. It's bound to be pretty dirty with some light rust, but heavy
or flaking rust indicates it will soon need replacing. Mention that when it
to haggling. Look at the residue in the end of the pipe(s) - normal
should be dry and dark grey. If black and greasy, the car isn't properly tuned.
a used car: test driving >>