Purchasing a cheap car could turn into a costly affair if you fail to treat the old treasure with respect. Conversely, providing a low-budget car with the necessary car maintenance will bring you gratitude. Read in this article everything you need to know regarding the purchase of a second-hand car.
The £500 car adventure
The £500 car is a class of its own: while other cars set back their owners tens of thousands of pounds, low-budget fans drive around at the price of a set of wheel covers. As soon as these ultra-cheap cars have passed their preliminary check, they can often be made suitable for years of use with a few simple measures.
Car maintenance: Measures for a new starting point
There is a reason why cars are offered cheaply: they are no longer loved. Sometimes, they are deprived of months or even years of necessary care by their previous owners. Therefore it is all the more important to bring them in a zero state in the technical sense. This is a defined moment or mileage from which the new owner can calculate the car maintenance intervals.
The most important measures for a new starting point are:
|Thorough engine cleaning
Replacement of all filters
Replacement of the spark plugs, distributor caps, ignition cables and if necessary, circuit breakers
Change of all fluids
Read here how to conduct an engine wash: Washing the car – tips for optimum car maintenance!
To breathe and to let breathe: the filters
The most important filter in a car is the engine air filter. It is situated under a plastic cap in the engine bay. Depending on the car type its housing is locked with screws or simple clips. The housing is opened and the filter removed. Upon opening the housing, check the filter’s condition: if the filter is dirty with oil, several causes are possible:
– The engine is leaking oil and aspirating oil-containing air
– The cylinder head gasket is defective
– The engine venting is clogged
– The EGR valve is clogged
– The valve stem gaskets are defective
– The car has valve damage
– The plunger rings are worn
In a car which has been deprived of maintenance for years, a slight oil film is hardly avoidable. However, an air filter swimming in oil and soaking oil is a clear indication of more extensive damage.
Tip: Always check the oil filter and the car maintenance conditions when purchasing a second-hand car. Do not buy a car with this kind of damage!
A slightly oil-stained air filter housing should be cleaned prior to installing a new air filter. When using brake cleaner, allow it to evaporate before starting the engine.
Other filters in the car are: pollen filter, air conditioner filter, fuel filter, interior filter etc. Replacing all filters considerably enhances the comfort and profitability of the car.
Making it spark again
Replacing the spark plugs is part of the purchase of an old car. This has often been postponed for years and therefore replacement is always worthwhile. Always refer to the data in the vehicle registration when buying a new spark plug instead of showing the old spark plug to the accessory retailer. The previous owner could easily have installed the wrong spark plugs. When replacing it, checking the old spark plug can provide useful information:
Not only oil change
The most important fluids in the car are engine oil, the coolant and the brake fluid. Changing oil is part of purchasing a second-hand car. This especially applies when the previous owner is unable to tell you when this was last done. Oil change always goes hand in hand with an oil filter replacement.
The coolant is drained at the radiator drainage plug. If the fluid is coloured rusty red, the cooling system should be rinsed and cleaned. This occurs when no anti-freeze was used and the car has been standing too long. Connect the garden hose with the coolant hose and rinse with water until it no longer colours red. Please note: there is also red-coloured antifreeze. However, this is rather a pink or cherry-red hue and therefore should be easily discerned from the colour of corroded iron.
If the coolant has a deep rusty colour, a profound cleaning of the radiator is a good idea. Radiator cleaner from a branded supplier only costs £7 – 13 and can considerably extend the life span of your car.
We recommend changing brake fluid in a garage. The brake is the most essential part of the car and should only be handled by professional mechanics. If costs are a problem, at least the water content of the brake oil should be tested: the appropriate tool only costs £6 and supplies the necessary certainty. If the brake fluid is already green, change is the only option.
If the car sounds somewhat asthmatic and shifting gear is difficult, changing transmission oil should help.
This is a somewhat complicated task, however with the proper experience and tools a DIY’er should be able to do it.
Fresh transmission oil can cause wonders in an old car.
Timing belts, brakes and tyres
|If it is impossible to determine when the timing belt was last replaced, only one solution remains: replacement of everything attached. Belt, belt pulley, water pump have to go and be replaced by a new set. This provides the necessary performance guarantee and safety and protects against nasty surprises.|
|The brakes should be at least checked. Ideally, brake discs and linings are replaced. Presently, prices for online shipment of these parts are really moderate. There is no reason for driving with brakes reaching their wear limit.|
|The same applies to the tyres: new tyres can be obtained for £18. A professional assembly, alignment and disposal of old tyres included costs £13. This provides you with new tyres and you don’t need to worry about curves and water on the road.|
New battery for cold winters
In old cars, the battery needs replacement before the winter if the battery is the same age as the car. Nothing is a greater nuisance than a car refusing to start due to a battery weakened by age. New batteries are available starting at £37. Even the cheapest battery is better than a defective one. Do not forget to hand in the old battery for proper recycling.
Ensuring durable lighting
Equipping your blinkers, rear and brake lights with LED lamps provides you with a durable solution. The advantage of these lamps is, that they last sufficiently long for you to use them in your next car. The state of the headlight bulb covers can be considerably improved by polishing them with an old tooth brush and white toothpaste. LED lamps for the dashboard lighting are a real improvement. When changing lamps you will notice that a large part of the old bulbs were burned. This makes driving in the dark a real adventure.
Have courage with car maintenance!
A considerable advantage of ultra-cheap low-budget cars is, that you can limitlessly tinker with them. The fear of damaging a precious car does not apply for cars in the £500 price range. Grab your tool box and grinding machine and start working on that old car. You can only learn and broaden your expertise. Many have discovered their love for mechanics by tinkering on an old car, why not you?
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