Purchasing a vehicle is always a challenging task. When it comes to salvage cars, there are even more moments to consider. Technical fluid conditions take one of the key places if we speak about a used vehicle pre-sale evaluation. Why is it worth checking the level and condition of working fluids? How to measure the level and condition of the engine, transmission oil, coolant, and power steering fluid? How to examine the condition of other working fluids? Read our article to sort everything out.
Engine Oil Examination Before Purchasing a Used Vehicle
Initially, check the car’s dashboard for warning lights and trip computer messages about low oil level or the need to change it.
Under the hood, it’s worth checking the info card to find out when the oil was last changed. Also, pay attention to what kind of oil was used and whether it meets the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Was the lubricant from a reputable manufacturer or the cheapest unknown oil used? What was the car’s mileage when the fluid was changed?
Then you need to check the oil level with an oil dipstick. It should be between the minimum and maximum marks on the counter—the closer to the maximum, the better. Also, check the bottom of the oil filler plug for grease and for oil stains in the coolant reservoir.
It’s worth examining the color of the engine lubricant, especially in vehicles with gasoline motors (in diesel ones, the oil is usually very dark due to soot). A drop of oil applied to a hygienic handkerchief (from the pressure gauge) will allow you to check whether it’s very black and contaminated, for example, with metal crumbs.
It’s also worth putting a drop of oil from the dipstick on the index finger, touching the thumb, and then very slowly moving the fingers apart. Remember that the lubricant mustn’t smell like exhaust or fuel.
Transmission Oil Also Matters
Checking the transmission oil level in the gearbox is difficult. You need to get under the car and reach for the oil filler cap.
Low-leveled or very old transmission oil can be indicated by audible gearbox operation with driving noises, gear problems, which can be caused by various damage, and automatic transmission malfunctions.
In the case of an automatic transmission, it’s good to check the dashboard messages. They may indicate that the oil has overheated or that its replacement period has expired. You need to get the transmission fluid changed by a reputable auto repair shop for the proper functioning of your vehicle.You need to get the transmission fluid changed by a reputable auto repair shop for the proper functioning of your vehicle.
It’s also recommended to ask the vehicle owner if they have a document confirming the replacement of transmission oil. When was it conducted? What oil was used? Does its specification match the requirements of the vehicle manufacturer? Was it oil from a reputable manufacturer or was another manufacturer’s lubricant used?
Pay Attention to the Coolant Condition
The coolant level is visible on the scale on the expansion tank. It should be as high as possible, even a maximum. What is also worth noting? Pay attention to whether the fluid is contaminated. Does it have impurities (for example, lime)?
Remember that coolants come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, green, yellow, and blue. If it’s difficult to determine the color of the fluid, then different liquids, including external ones, are mixed. For example, there may also be water in the system, so it’s better to abandon the idea of purchasing such a vehicle.
A hydrometer can be very useful to the buyer for checking the coolant. When a small amount of cold coolant is added, the hydrometer shows the freezing and boiling points. This allows you to check whether the protective properties of the fluid are good enough.
It’s also worth asking the car owner when the coolant was last changed or when the concentrate was added. The best fluids lose their properties after 5 years.
What About Brake Fluid?
Brake fluid is directly related to the driver’s safety. Its level is checked on the tank under the hood and should be at its maximum.
The fluid must be clean and free of contaminants. A simple electronic gauge can be used to check the condition of the brake fluid and help determine the amount of water mixed.
A liquid in which there is a lot of moisture indicates that the car owner has not changed it for a very long time. It can also mean worn out brake lines and moisture in the brake system.
In the End
Proper vehicle maintenance and care is based on compliance with the required level and quality of working fluids. The characteristics of these fluids are also very important. Correct vehicle operation is only possible with fluids that meet the parameters specified by the vehicle manufacturer, especially when it comes to oils for engines, transmissions, and brakes. That’s why you should examine all the key technical fluids before purchasing a used car in bad conditions, repairable car or auto in excellent condition from insurance car auctions.