10 keys to making the right purchase of a cheap second-hand car

Years ago in Spain the tables were turned and more used cars are sold than new ones. The second-hand market already moves as much money as the new market, but the majority of sales correspond to cars that are more than ten years old. Most people look for cheap cars that they can easily pay for in cash, without getting into a car loan.

The high demand for these “mileurist” cars” has caused their price to rise a lot in recent times. They are old cars, which may have some serious problems. Furthermore, 60% of transactions are between individuals, which offers fewer guarantees. That is why it is key to locate cars with problems, before having to regret it or report hidden defects.

We have compiled a series of tips to help you discover those possible errors in a second-hand car. There are three fundamental steps:

For this last point, the ideal is to have a car checked by a professional mechanic, but it is not very common in these cars in which savings are sought. Hence, with a few tricks, serious problems can be located, with a step-by-step vehicle inspection:

1. Startup

A car with electronic injection should start immediately. If the car does not do this or the idle speed is stable (the revolution needle remains at one point and does not oscillate), there may be serious problems of various kinds that involve a significant future outlay of money (fuel system, lack of compression in some cylinder…)

2. Address

Once underway, check that the steering returns to stand up straight when you turn. Use an old trick: when you're going in a straight line (about 80 km/h), let go of the steering wheel and check that the car doesn't go somewhere. When stopped, turn the steering wheel completely from one side to the other to check that you do not hear any clicking (a symptom of a serious problem). If it is assisted, check that it is not more difficult to turn to one side than the other.

3. Transmission

The transmission is the system that transmits the engine force to wheels (by a set of gears). If there is a clicking noise when turning and accelerating, this is a sign of problems. You have to pay attention:

  • To the rubber gaskets that exist before joining the wheels.
  • To possible oil leaks in the area where it joins the gearbox.

4. Suspension

Shock absorbers are key to road safety. Not only do they prevent our car from bouncing uncontrollably on the road, but they keep the tires in contact with the road and control body oscillations. To know the condition of the shock absorbers there is a trick: Push hard on the car, just above each wheel. When it reaches the point of maximum compression, release and see what happens. If there is a bounce when returning, it is a sign that the shock absorbers are not very good.

They will be in poor condition and you will need to change them if:

  • If you perceive that they occur oscillations when drivingor if you notice oil stains when looking behind the wheels.
  • Yes, at To brake drythe vehicle sinks more towards the front, pulls sideways or is difficult to control.
  • If when driving vibrating steering wheel, even though the pavement is in good condition. If you go over potholes and notice that the wheels are bouncing too much, it is also a sign that they should be changed.

5. Escape

The color of smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe implies different problems. A blue smoke It indicates oil consumption (worn engine and very expensive repair), if it is white it means that there is a lack of fuel in the combustion and if it is black it means that it consumes too much fuel. Fixes are less expensive in these cases.

6. Headlights

Check that all the car's lights work (position, high, low, fog, reverse and turn signals). If they don't, it could be anything from a light bulb or a fuse (little thing) to a fault in the light control unit. If the intensity It is not constant, it may be due to the alternator or the wiring.

7. Liquids

Car fluids are the lifeblood of its mechanics. Ask when the last change was made and if you have papers or invoices to prove it. Changing them is cheap, but solving the problems they may cause is more expensive.

  • Oil: Neither too black nor too viscous.
  • Brake fluid: If it is in poor condition it will be very dark.
  • Coolant liquid: There are different colors depending on the brands, check the level is adequate, otherwise it could indicate a leak.

8. Change

The gears should have no play between them and should enter smoothly. In neutral, depress the clutch. If it makes noise, the gearbox fluid may need to be changed.

A trick to check the clutch status is to put on the handbrake, engage second gear and try to start driving. If it doesn't stall, the clutch is worn and will have to be replaced soon.

9. Brakes

If they let you test drive the car, brake hard. If the car goes to one side, there are problems with discs or pads. There are more tricks to detect brake problems. It is important that you check that the ABS It works (the fix is ​​more expensive). To do this, it is best to try it on a dirt road at low speed and brake hard. If the pedal does not vibrate, the ABS is not working.

10. Air conditioning

Also check that the air conditioning blows Cold air in less than a minute. You may need a gas refill (around 50 euros) or there may be leaks in the circuit (a more expensive fix).

Photos: cc Flickr Thomas Hawk,

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