Mileage is one of the items that most values a car. It is no coincidence that even today malicious sellers tamper with the odometer to charge more for a particular car.
We’ve already explained how to identify evidence of this type of fraud. However, assuming that the mileage informed is true, it is worth noting that a little-run vehicle is not a guarantee of good business – especially if the copy has already been manufactured for some good years.
Depending on how the car has run, it can show severe component wear.
In addition, it is worth checking whether the maintenance plan recommended in the owner’s manual has been followed – fluids and natural wear items are exchanged not only according to the distance covered, but also according to a deadline: whichever wins first matters.
The tips below were developed with the help of Erwin Franieck, SAE Brasil’s advanced engineering mentor.
1 – Avoid cars that always run on a cold engine
If you are considering purchasing a car directly from the owner, it is worth asking the owner how he or she uses the car.
If the seller says he lives close to work and uses the car to cover a few kilometers a day, turn on the warning sign – recommends Franieck.
The engineer points out that the engine needs to reach a certain temperature for the heat to expand the internal components and, thus, provide ideal operating conditions and lubrication.
Using the car continuously for very short displacements, insufficient to reach the correct temperature, accelerates wear and increases fuel consumption.
“Driving for less than 15 minutes doesn’t even heat the engine oil, making proper lubrication impossible. There are cars with low mileage that has up to triple the wear and tear compared to a more wheeled model, which however works most of the time at temperature ideal”.
Erwin Franieck informs that vehicles fueled with ethanol tend to have more problems in the “cold phase”, especially in locations with lower temperatures.
“On cold days, starting an engine fueled with ethanol tends to be more difficult in older cars, without a pre-heating system. More fuel is injected at the start and the unburned part of the ethanol generates water as waste. If the engine not heating properly, the water does not evaporate and ends up contaminating the oil, compromising its performance”.
2 – Escape from used cars in extreme conditions
Another aspect that relativizes and very low mileage is the use in conditions that demand too much of the vehicle.
The owner’s manual itself highlights: cars that run predominantly on the floor and stop traffic jams and/or on unpaved roads are considerably more punished – to the point that automakers guide to shorten the deadlines of scheduled revisions, including oil replacement, filter and other fluids.
“A car used most of the time on highways tends to be in better condition than one with much lower mileage, which, however, only ran in the city or on dirt roads”, highlights the specialist.
Again, Franieck advises to question the seller about the use.
3 – Vehicle stopped for a long time requires expenses
When an older car ran very little, it probably remained stationary for a long period of time.
This is something even desirable for those looking for a collection vehicle and are willing to pay a lot for a totally original copy. However, collectors in general know that, after purchase, they will have to open their pockets even further to get the car in good running condition.
Franieck warns: cars were made to run and, if they remain off for too long, a series of components deteriorates.
Depending on the downtime, the most obvious effects are battery discharge and tire deflation and deformation.
However, even more serious problems can arise.
“Water and other fluids standing for a long time in the same place accelerate corrosive processes and contribute to the drying of rubber, hoses and ducts in general. It is common for corrosion formed inside the tank to release residues that end up in the fuel pump, damaging it “, teaches the engineer from SAE Brasil.
Furthermore, the fuel itself undergoes degradation, making it unsuitable – gasoline, for example, within about six months is no longer suitable for use.
“If the vehicle is not used for a long period, the ideal is to have someone to run it at least once a week, including to lubricate bearings and suspension components that need to move regularly”, warns Erwin Franieck.
4 – Clean car is a good thermometer
A clean car is no guarantee that it is worth buying, but it does indicate that the owner has possibly taken good care of it.
Don’t close the deal until you’ve done a careful inspection, including the engine compartment. The guidance is also related to item 2 of this report: finding incrusted dust may indicate possible severe use of the vehicle.
Take a look at the state of the door seal rubbers:
“Gently pull the rubber on the door, especially at the bottom, near the threshold. If there is an accumulation of dust, it is an indication that that vehicle may have run more than recommended on dirt roads.”
If possible, put the car in an elevator to check how it is underneath and also observe if there is dirt accumulated in the CV joint hood.
5 – Test-drive and general inspection must not be ignored
Driving the intended car is a fundamental tool to assess whether it is worth purchasing. Another important measure, if you are not an expert, is to bring a trusted mechanic to inspect the vehicle – not to mention checking in advance for any outstanding debts and/or administrative restrictions.
After all, as we have already warned in the previous items, low mileage can be accompanied by poor maintenance, inadequate/severe use and even a crash.
“Be aware of vibrations and noise when driving the car”, points out Franieck.
These noises, warns the engineer, can be related to the suspension, due to dry rubber, including the tires, and possible damage to other components.
In addition, be sure to pay attention to engine noise: rotation fluctuations and failures can indicate insufficient lubrication, even due to expired oil, or the use of adulterated fuel.
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