Every vehicle I've ever purchased has been second-hand. Over the years, I've discovered how you can tell a dud from a bargain.
Getting the most from your second-hand car starts with not choosing a bomb, obviously. But once you've selected a vehicle and driven it home, you'll need to be extra vigilant about basic maintenance duties to extend its running life as long as possible.
To help you make the right choices, learn from my experience. Here are my top 5 tips to getting the most life out of your second-hand car:
- Check the odometer reading. For those not in the know, the odometer measures the distance your car has travelled. You'll find it on the vehicle's dashboard. You need a baseline from the time you start driving.
On later models, you'll see average kilometres travelled and fuel consumption. Keep an eye on all these figures-they'll guide you on how your car's performing and whether it's time for a service.
- Assess your tires regularly. They wear out quickly if they're under inflated, so it's always important to check the condition and air pressure of your tires on a monthly basis. And, apart from keeping you safe, there's nothing worse than taking a date out for the first time and breaking down in the middle of nowhere.
- Change the oil and other fluids fortnightly. Regular lubrication is essential to avoid any damage or engine failure. Again, there's nothing worse than your engine seizing up and having to stop in the middle of nowhere (the classic horror movies opener). Changing your car oil is essential, even for new cars with a new engine. It will also improve your mileage and life span and it's especially important when you don't know your car's previous usage history.
Mechanics suggest you change your car oil every 5000 kms. Other things that require regular checking are your transmission fluid, radiator coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. Have a look where you regularly park for any leaks and check them all fortnightly.
- Regularly change your air filters. Dirt and dust in your engine can cause it to seize up. Your engine needs oxygen to aid combustion-slow air to the engine makes for sluggish performance. If your engine is performing badly, you'll add to your fuel consumption and hit your back pocket-hard. Replacing an air filter is quick, easy, and inexpensive comparatively.
- Run your car on higher octane fuel. Although it might be a few cents a litre more expensive at the service station, the benefits in the medium to long term are immense. Higher octane fuel will clean out your engine, which increases performance and extends the time between servicing. Check your odometer to see the difference!
These are the basic yet helpful steps you should follow to extend the performance and reliability of your second-hand car. It's not always a matter of what model you're driving or how much it cost you; it's how you take care of your car that counts.