Whether it’s a bargain from the auction block or a hand-me-down from your parents, a used car can provide the same degree of functionality and performance as a brand new one but at a fraction of the price. However, it does come with added wear and tear. Even a car that’s barely taken out of the garage will still deteriorate over time, resulting in a couple of issues later on.
But while buying a used car has its downsides, it can also lead to big savings. With a bit of maintenance and parts replacement, you can have your used car running almost like new.
Consider its origins
The degree of wear on a used car depends largely on how it was used. A vehicle that’s been used for daily commutes to the office, for example, is likely to have worn brake pads and rotors while a car that spent years mothballed in a garage may have deteriorated tires and a gunk-filled oil pan. How the vehicle was stored can be a factor as well. Used car lots, for example, may have cars that extensive UV damage to the body panels due to constant exposure to the sun while those sold in government auctions tend to have dents and scratches everywhere.
Get a new set of tires
One of the first things you need to replace in a used car is its tires. The rubber used in tires tends to break down over time, so even if the vehicle hasn’t seen extensive use the treads may already be too brittle to maintain a good grip on the road. Check the date code on the side of the tire; if it is more than 7 years old, replace it regardless of its appearance. Don’t forget to have the wheels aligned and balanced as well.
In addition, other rubber components such as seals and gaskets in your vehicle will also need to be replaced. Weatherstrip seals, in particular, tend to become brittle with age and tear easily, resulting in poor temperature control in the passenger cabin. The wiper blades will need inspection as well, as worn ones can lead to unsightly streaks on the windshield when used.
Air intake and exhaust
A fresh air filter can breathe new life in older engines and increase horsepower. Modern filters and other air intake components are highly efficient in providing cool, clean airflow to the engine and can be installed with basic tools. In a similar manner, replacing a ratty exhaust pipe or muffler with a new one can help improve mileage and make it sound better.
A new set of strut and shocks can make a huge difference in handling especially in used vehicles. In fact, it is possible to make a 20-year old commuter vehicle feel like new with new stock-grade strut assembly . But if you are on a budget, even a new set of shock absorbers or springs can significantly improve the performance of your ride.
It is strongly recommended to replace the shocks and struts at 50,000 miles or more. Don’t forget to check other suspension components such as ball joints, tie rod ends, and bushings as well and replace them if necessary.
Don’t forget the A/C
Just like the air conditioner in your house, the car A/C can suffer from build-up of mold, mildew, and bacteria over time. This can lead to respiratory problems as well as obstructed airflow. You can have the A/C cleaned out and deodorized at your local service center, but if any of its parts have begun to show signs of deterioration they must be replaced.