mycar Sense Check Second-Hand Car Inspection Guide

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Using common sense

Many find the second-hand car inspection process nerve-wracking, with 83% of buyers concerned the car will have a mechanical fault. We’re here to walk you through it, so you feel confident when buying second-hand.

Servicing for both new and second-hand cars is also available at mycar Tyre & Auto. Find one of mycar’s 265+ stores by searching for your postcode.

Organise the inspection

SEE the car in the daylight. Never inspect a car in the dark or in the rain. During the day, inspect the panels to see that they are even and not painted, misaligned, damaged or rusty. (If you can’t meet in the daytime, bring a torch.)

Inspect the outside

SEE if there is any hail damage. Check if reflections look like they are bouncing. You don’t want the roof to look like a golf ball.

FEEL for any bubbling in the paint, particularly around the edges of panels or near rubbers where water can get trapped.

SEE how many fingers fit between the front wheel and the body of the car on one side (at 9 o’clock on the wheel), then do the same on the other side. They should be roughly the same. Any major difference could indicate damaged suspension or issues with the front end.

FEEL for the tread wear indicators in the tyres (bars inside the grooves). Feel if the tread level is higher than the bars. These indicate the recommended safe tread level (1.6mm) and will give you a decent idea of the life left in each tyre.

Jump in the driver’s seat

SEE if the temp gauge rises when you turn the ignition on (but don’t start it just yet). If it rises, then it’s probably too hot to check the engine.

Pop the bonnet

SEE the oil by removing the oil cap and checking for any milky coloured residue, which indicates moisture, so coolant could be entering the engine somewhere (which is not good).

FEEL the texture of the oil by removing the dipstick and getting a little between your fingers. It should feel smooth.

Start the engine

LOOK at the dash – the oil light should go out immediately

LISTEN for any odd sounds, like unusually loud idling or popping from the tailpipe.

SEE if there is any smoke coming from the exhaust pipe, also check under the car for any leaks.

SMELL the air from the A/C once it’s turned on. The air should smell clean and not damp/mouldy.

LISTEN for the cooling fans to kick in, so check things like the spare tyre, the radio, the heater, and the logbook while you have a minute. When you’re done, glance at the temperature gauge to see that it’s not overheating.

Go for a test drive

Time for the fun part – take the car for a spin! You want to go far enough to make a few left and right turns, go through the gears and over a few bumps.

LISTEN for any strange noises when you apply the brakes

SEE if there’s an engine warning light

FEEL for any surging or vibrations

Servicing for both new and second-hand cars is also available at mycar Tyre & Auto. Find one of mycar’s 265+ stores by searching for your postcode.

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