A Comprehensive Checklist for Buying a Used Car: Safety Guidelines to Follow

Buying a used car can often be the more economical choice, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you would be purchasing a run-down lemon of a car, either. It could even be a 6-month-old Tesla that was only driven twice. However, convenience and lower cost aside, there are potential safety issues that accompany the purchase of a used car. It may be badly damaged or even illegally acquired, which poses a whole other set of problems.

With that in mind, the safety experts here at Orion Safety Belts have compiled a comprehensive checklist that can not only help you weed out the hazards of buying a used car, but also make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck. Having said that, let’s dive right in!

Check the engine for leaks and drips

Check the engine for leaks and drips

The engine is the heart of any car, and as such, it needs to undergo a lot of maintenance for all the wear and tear it is subjected to. Any used car that has not been taken care of or is in need of maintenance will present evident and ample symptoms. For instance, you want to check for leaks as a lot of the functions depend on a variety of fluids like oil, coolant, gearbox fluid, and power steering fluid. Oil leaks usually present as brown or black (if it’s really old) stains on the ground below the engine. Coolant is usually green, pink, blue, or yellow in colour, while other fluids may have a reddish-brown hue.

If you see any of these colours where they are not supposed to be, haggle the price down with the seller, or insist that they get it fixed before the deal is made because it can become a serious safety hazard.

What colour is the exhaust smoke?

What colour is the exhaust smoke

Now onto the lungs of the car. We encourage you to flip on the engine and check the exhaust pipes. Keep in mind that a little puff of smoke when the engine is just turned on is nothing to be worried about. However, if the smoke turns blue, that means the oil is burning, which could indicate a blown gasket or damaged engine seals. If the smoke is also very white (not counting the steam on cold mornings), it could mean that coolant is leaking into the engine. Similarly, if it is black smoke, too much fuel is burning.

Check the gearbox, clutch, and break

Check the gearbox, clutch, and break

Checking the gears and the clutch is based more on feel than sight. So, we here at Orion would recommend that you take the car out for a short test drive and see how the gears and the clutch feel. Ideally, all the gears should engage smoothly and without much noise.

Likewise, make sure that the car’s brake shoes are in good working condition. In the test drive, take it up to a moderate speed and apply the brakes firmly but gradually to see how long it takes to stop. The car should stop within 5 to 6 seconds to be considered safe to drive.

Seat belts and airbags should be in pristine condition

Good condition Seat belts and airbags

When it comes to actual safety inside the vehicle, seat belts and airbags are a must! In the event of a collision, it could mean the difference between a few scrapes and bruises or something worse if they fail to work properly. As such, when you are checking the interior, give the seat belts a once-over. Check to see if there is any fraying of the edges or if there are cuts that could compromise the strength of the mechanism.

We here at Orion Safety Belts recommend that you reach out to our safety experts to get a proper assessment of your vehicle’s safety belts. Given that we work with many clients across various industries, it puts us in a unique position to service a number of different vehicles. We take care of everything from fitting and manufacturing to repair and replacement.
When it comes to the airbags, make sure that they are fitted correctly, perhaps consult a mechanic on that. The car’s handbook should also tell you where the warning lights for the airbags are; make sure those are also in working order.

Checking the wheels and tyres

Checking the wheels and tyres

Now, onto the legs of the car. Examine all four wheels and tyres for damage that could indicate more serious underlying problems. For instance, if you see any large dents or bends in the wheel’s rims, that could indicate that it needs changing. With the tyres, make sure that there aren’t any cuts, splits, gouges, or bulges. Additionally, ensure that the tread of each tyre is at least 1.6 mm deep all the way around. An uneven tread points to an uneven suspension and alignment, which could have been the result of a previous accident or running over a pothole at high speeds. Either way, it won’t be cheap to fix.

Lights and windscreen wipers

Lights and windscreen wipers

Now, you may think that windscreen wipers and lights are just the second priority. On a bright day with good weather, that would be the case. But switch out said good weather for a foggy, icy night, and you’re in for a lot of trouble. Wiper blades that don’t sit flush with the windscreen and lights that are too dim on a major highway can be a disastrous combination, as they can severely impair your vision on the road.

Get the car documentation in order

Get the car documentation in order

This step isn’t so much a physical safety issue as it is more of a general legal protection step. Whenever you purchase a used car, having the old receipts and a service book can greatly reduce legal issues in case you get into an accident, but it can also help you understand the car’s service history and know what has been done versus what needs to be done.

Further, have a look at the past MoT certificates. If everything is right, the car’s mileage should have gone up by a similar amount every year. However, if you notice a difference and it suddenly drops, the car could have been clocked. This means that the odometer was illegally wound back to make it look like it has less mileage on it. This is not only illegal but also hides the true age and usage of the car, which could, in turn, hide several technical issues. For more tips and tricks for a safer driving experience, get in touch with us and check out our blogs while you’re waiting to hear back!

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