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The Ultimate Used Car Inspection Guide

Inspect a used vehicle like a Pro! Everything you need to know - All in one place.

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UNDER THE BONNET: THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT – P1

You don’t have to be a mechanic to learn something about a car, as well as its owner, by inspecting the engine compartment.

Overall condition

Inspect the overall engine condition and make mental notes. You might want to look at the engine again after the test drive to see if anything is different. Make sure to check whether the engine is clean or has any signs of leaking oil or other fluids. Also check for any loose components, signs of previous damage or obvious modifications.
Check for any sign of fresh paint or paint that is newer than elsewhere on the car that might indicate repairs made to the car. Inside the engine bay, look at the flinches and chassis legs to see if any bolts have been undone or panels re-aligned. Also be on the lookout for ‘clamp marks’ that could indicate that the car has been on a pulling machine to be re-aligned during possible accident repairs.

Leaking & Fluid levels

Inspect the entire engine, as well as on the ground underneath, for any sort of fluid leaks, or corrosion. On the engine block, look for any dark brown oil stains that might indicate a leak in a gasket, and could possibly lead to an expensive repair in the future.
Pull the engine oil dipstick, wipe it clean with a cloth, and reinsert. Remove it again and check that the oil is on or close to the ‘max’ level. Check that the oil is a golden colour and free from debris. Both are signs that the car might have been neglected. Also look for beads of water on the oil clinging to the dipstick, which could indicate a head gasket problem.
Check the brake fluid and engine coolant levels when the engine is cool, and make sure it is not leaking. Engine coolant is a pink fluid housed in a large tank with a screw cap whereas brake fluid is housed in a small container often at the rear of the engine bay.
Continued on page 7…
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