Cars represent a significant amount of investment. Unfortunately, these machines don’t last a lifetime. Because of this, your decision to get one should be based on thorough research and evaluation, especially if you’re thinking about getting a pre-owned vehicle.
Before signing the contract to buy a used car, a pre-purchase inspection should be able to help you predict the possible issues on some of the vehicle’s components. To make sure you get back what you paid for (if not better value for your money), you should know about the six most common problems you may encounter and should look out for in a pre-owned car:
1. Electrical Problems
Electrical issues are more common in modern cars because of the higher number of electrical components built into them. While they may be more advanced, these cars are still susceptible to damage and, therefore, need to be inspected first.
Some of the components you need to check in a modern car include the forward collision detection and infotainment systems. Older features like the automatic power windows may also show signs of wear and tear over time and may need to be repaired or replaced.
Although they may seem difficult to deal with, these problems are actually more commonly related to a drained battery. If you’ve replaced the battery and the problem ensues, you might need to have the wires and connecting cables checked. Your best bet is to hire a professional to look at these problems right away before they get worse.
2. Smoothed-Out Tires
You can determine a lot about a car’s condition by simply looking at its tires. For example, you can check how far an automobile has been driven based on the condition of its four tires. In most cases, this is more accurate in measuring a vehicle’s mileage than looking at the odometer, which can be rolled back to a lower number.
Tires that still have their original markings are either newly replaced or are the original set that came with the car when it was brand new. The key to determining which is which lies in the consistency of the smoother surfaces of the tires. If one tire (or more) shows different wear and tear, there’s a good chance that some of the tires have been replaced.
Remember that the tread width should be the same on both sides of the car. If the tires haven’t been regularly rotated, the drive wheels should show more prominent signs of wear. If the outer shoulders (the area along the edge of the side wall) of the front tires are severely worn down, there is a good chance that the car was driven hard by its previous owner.
Unless you are a licensed mechanic, you will need to hire professionals to get excellent tire service.
3. Worn-Down Brakes
Like the tires, car brakes also show more signs of wear and tear over time. Used automobiles tend to have worn-down brake pads and may need to be replaced soon. As for the brake pedals, newer cars with low mileage should show very minimal signs of wear.
4. Suspension Issues
An unleveled car which appears to sag on one side may have suspension issues. To verify this, you can try to bounce the corners of the vehicle and see how often it rebounds. You can also bring it out for a drive to test the suspensions. If it bounces more than once and seems bumpy during your ride, you may need to have the struts and shock absorbers replaced.
5. Gearbox-Related Damage
Although it may not be as frequent as the other issues already mentioned in this list, signs of damage or possible repairs linked to the car’s gearbox are not uncommon. In fact, many used automobiles have major problems related to this component.
While both automatic and manual transmission vehicles develop issues related to the gearbox, the latter is more susceptible to damage mainly because of the previous owner’s driving style. If the previous driver isn’t well-versed on how to drive manual cars, they tend to wear down the clutch and the gearbox faster than those driving automatics.
6. Noisy Exhaust System
One sure sign that a car has a problem is the way it sounds when used. If you hear a noise coming from the machine that gets louder every time the vehicle is driven, that means you have an exhaust system issue in your hands. Check for possible leaks or issues with the muffler, especially if the car came from a wintery place.
You’ll learn a lot about used cars during pre-purchase inspections, so it’s best never to be present for this kind of service before closing a deal. Once you’ve decided to buy a pre-owned vehicle, you should make sure that you know how to spot potential problems and how to deal with them properly.
Luigi Rubinacci is the Director of Strategic Ventures at AW Rostamani Automotive Group. AUTOTRUST Multibrand Car Service and Accident Repair is the Group’s strategic division that deals with the accident repair and service of all brands and makes of cars. Its service centers currently operate from Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.