Beware used cars that have had recent work done

December 9, 2019 | Used cars

A used car that has recent repairs or maintenance may seem more attractive than others, but beware that sometimes recent work can mean that there is a major problem with the car that the seller does not want to deal with.

A used car that has recent repairs or maintenance may seem more attractive than others, but beware that sometimes recent work can mean that there is a major problem with the car that the seller does not want to deal with.

Most people spending money on their car want to see a reasonable return on their investment. There may even be some sellers out there who want to make sure their car is sold problem-free, but I'm sure they are in the minority.

Here are some examples of what kind of recent work you should be suspicious of and investigate further before purchasing a used car.

Cooling system

The cooling system does require regular maintenance but you should be aware that when a cooling system component fails it can cause the car to overheat and subsequent major damage to the engine.

A recent water pump or radiator replacement may seem appealing but were they replaced as part of regular maintenance or did the component fail?

Some sellers may repair the obvious cooling system fault only to find out that the head gasket has failed and decide to cut their losses at that point.

Automatic transmission

The first step to try and fix many automatic transmission faults is to replace the filter and fluid. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

If it doesn't solve the problem then the next step is often an expensive repair, overhaul or replacement, so many sellers will attempt to sell and pass on the problem to the next owner.

Cylinder head

A used car for sale with a freshly reconditioned cylinder head or new head gasket is not that common but it is something to be cautious of.

One of the common reasons for an engine needing this kind of work is if it has been overheated.

These are expensive jobs, so not something you would expect the seller to be immediately offloading the car after having done.

This type of job doesn't always go well. If the job was done cheaply the head may not have been properly tested, and a crack is sometimes found later if the engine does not run well after the work.

Overheating an aluminium cylinder head, like that used in most modern cars, can cause it to lose its' hardness and become weak. Cylinder heads like this should not be reused otherwise they will not seal well and can cause a new head gasket to fail.

Other work

A car that has had paint and panel work should not necessarily be discarded, but if the work was done recently you will want to pay extra attention to make sure the job was done well and that the car hasn't developed some unwanted characteristics since the repairs.

Electrical problems can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint, so recent electrical work could mean that the car has an intermittent electrical fault that may have become too hard or too much trouble to find.

There is, of course, many other types of work that might not have gone well and resulted in the owner putting the car up for sale. It's always a good idea to investigate whether any work was done properly and get a professional inspection if you aren't sure and want an expert opinion.

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