Archive for 21st October 2014

Buying a Second Hand Car Checklist

buying a car checklist

Following on from our recent blog and the theme of buying second hand parts, we’ve decided to put together a check-list of important points to consider when buying a used car.

Checking the Car’s Exterior

Is the car on level ground? This is important in order to allow you to properly check the tyres and any sagging issues there may be.

Inspect the paint job: Make sure you give the cars paint job a thorough going-over. Is Rust spots, dents and scratches are obviously undesirable, and in the case of rust spots could later lead to further issues. Roughness and / or unevenness is a potential indicator of previous use of masking tape or a poorly executed paint job to mask over these blemishes.

Boot-iful: What condition is the boot in? Tread carefully where there is evidence of rust or leakage.

Tyre Check: Tyres on a used vehicle should ideally be matched and evenly worn. Uneven wear can sometimes be attributed to knackered steering and suspension parts. Always worth checking the spare tyre too to ensure that it’s a full spare and not a cheap filler that will serve little to no purpose.

You’ve been framed: This one can sometimes be difficult to spot, but it’s definitely one of the most important things on this checklist as the frame is an integral safety feature. Collisions with faulty frames are particularly dangerous. Look out for clamp marks (i.e. holes or gashes) as a sing of previous damage. Uneven paint jobs (i.e. paint on rear / front headlamps) may also give away a vehicles bumpy history (pun intended). Remember, the gaps between body panels should always be of a consistent width. Door’s, boots or hoods that don’t close and seal properly is strong evidence that the vehicle has been involved in a series accident.

Get down and dirty: If possible try and inspect underneath the car (preferably with it safely raised). Check for black spots or rust on the exhaust system as both indicate leaking. Rub your fingers along the exhaust – if you find greasy grime you’ve got a problem. Get the car running too and check for white vapour. If it’s emitted in warm conditions there’s issues.

Under the Hood

Check for damage: Dents? Rust? Beware! Look for the VIN (vehicle identification number) where the hood joins the fender. No sigh of it? That’s a tell-tale sign that the fender has been replaced.

Hoses and Belts: Important to inspect all hoses and belts for cracks. Radiator hoses should be neither soft nor sticky. Hoses with noticeable swelling where connected to the radiator or engine will need immediate replacing. Might as well check for leaks around hose clamps while you are there.

Engine Check: Here you should have your eyes peeled for evidence of leaks, stains and corrosion. Any evidence of these could be indicative of a gasket leak, which could potentially lead to some very expensive repair costs further down the line. All engine belts should look as good as new. Replacing old belts which can easily snap can prove costly.

Filler Cap: Does the oil filler cap have a foamy residue inside it? If so then you could be forced to deal with a faulty / leaking head gasket. And if that is the case then you might be best of holding onto your money. What sort of condition is the overflow jar in? If you find grimy brown coolant than its possible that it’s never been flushed or, again, there is a leaky gasket at play.

Dipstick: Always worth checking the transmission fluid. Pull the dipstick out and inspect the fluid. It should ideally be pink or light red. If dark (and this is sometimes the case with older cars), it should never look or smell burnt. Best to do this check with the engine on!

Timing Belt: The timing belt is the most important belt in a car’s engine, and therefore the most expensive to replace. CHECK IT!

What about inside the car?

Keeping Up(holstery) Appearances: Pretty obvious, and easy to spot – rips, stains, tears, all undesirable scuff marks.

Air Conditioning: OK, so here in Ireland the air-con might not get nearly as much use as we’d all like, but you should still make sure it’s working perfectly.

Mileage: This one really goes without saying. Check the odometer. And if there is any lingering doubt, make sure to have the seller put in writing a confirmation of the correct mileage.

Lights Out: How does the car function when it’s not moving? Parking sensors etc should always be given the once over.

Test Drive

Brakes: This one is really stating the obvious, but the best way to learn about any car is to take it for a test drive. And one of the most important things to check is the brakes. Press down firmly to decelerate hard in order to accurately judge the state of the brakes (30mph is a good speed to try this test). There should be no vibrations from the brake pedal. Also keep an ear out for noises such as squealing. If the brakes are throbbing you may be looking at having to replace the rotors or pads. There should be no swerving. If it is swerving then the brake calipers or steering components could be worn.

Why Oil Changes are Important

lifetime engine oil

What is an oil change?

The engine in your car works hard. Or more specifically the components that make up the engine work hard. There’s an awful lot of grinding, friction and heat going on under that hood. Your engine oil is the lubricant that keeps subsequent wear and tear in check. But, if left for too long without changing, that oil starts to accumulate dirt, grit and gunk, which in turn increases the effects of the wear and tear. Think of the engine and oil change as a sick patient getting a blood transfusion.

Why is it important?

Thermal Breakdown: Car engines function at very high temperatures which in turn can frequently cause oil to go through what’s called a ‘Thermal Breakdown’. This chemical reaction basically amounts to a serious degradation of the engine oil. This in turn affects the oils ability to flow smoothly and properly coat the engines components. The subsequent friction severely shortens the lifespan of an engine.

Engine Gunk: Engine combustion inevitably leads to your car’s engine collecting a substantial build-up of carbon deposits. This gunk, which collects on the pistons, cylinders and valves, eventually hardens and, if left unattended, can limit the amount of air and fuel the valves let in. This can lead to less efficient burning of fuel and possible overheating, which in turn leads to oil stress.

Corrosion: Aside from gunk, engine oil also collects water, dust and dirt. This debris gradually corrodes engine components if not removed. Fresh oil helps flush out these unwanted fragments.

Congested Filters: Changing the oil should always be accompanied by a changing of the filter too. Filters serve an important purpose – preventing sludge from getting to the engine. Failure to change the filters regularly leads to an unhealthy congestion of particles such as dirt, degraded oil and combustion sludge. That means less good quality oil makes its way to your engine. And the less oil your engine receives the worse of your engine will be. “

Leaks: From time to time gas or coolant can leak into oil, contaminating it in the process and eventually damaging the engine. There is no way to know whether this is happening short of having the oil changed.

car oil change

Money Saver:

This is the most important thing that you will do to ensure your engine lasts the distance. Regular oil changes are recommended every 3 months or 3000 miles (whichever comes first) so learning how to do it yourself will not only save you money in the here and now, it will also prevent further more expensive costs occurring further down the line.

How do I change my car’s oil?

Drain the Oil: Lift the car, and let it heat up. This will get the oil warm and churned, which in turn will help it drain more easily. If the engine is hot, let it cool down for AT LEAST 30 minutes. Remove the oil plug underneath the car (it’s a large bolt on the oil pans bottom). A complete drain usually takes about two minutes.

Remove and replace the Oil Filter: The easiest way to locate the oil filter is to look at your new filter and search for a similar part. Before removing the filter make sure you have your bucket / oil pan positioned below. Ensure the rubber gasket ring comes off too, otherwise your new filter won’t get a sufficient seal on the engine. Smear some new oil on the gasket ring of the new filter and thread it on. Make sure it’s tight.

Adding New Oil: Refill the engine using a funnel and recap the bottle before you toss it into the recycling bin. Check with a dipstick if you’re not sure if you have put enough in. Once satisfied, screw the cap back on tight.

Run the engine: Start the car and run the engine for 5 minutes. This brings the engines oil pressure levels back to where they need to be, while also allowing you to check if there are any leaks by the oil plug and filter. If there are leaks or spots, clean them, and tighten the plug as needed.

lifetime engine oil

When changing my car oil, what do I need?