If you have recently bought a second hand car, or are looking at buying one but are wondering about what that will mean in terms of maintenance, it is worth knowing that for the most part (and with proper care), your used vehicle will likely take a similar approach to servicing that new ones would.

There are, of course, a few things you will need to look out for, components do age, and those in used cars might be well on their way to needing special attention.

Perhaps your even buying the used car on a voetstoots basis, in which case you are expecting to have to do a little restorative maintenance anyway.

Whatever the reason is, we will help you get more out of your second hand car with a few essential maintenance tips that are ideal for ensuring that you enjoy long-term ownership of your used vehicle, that it retains as much of its resale value as possible, that you can use it reliably, and of course, to reduce the long-term expenses of owning and running a second hand car.

In order to do this we will take you through a few essential maintenance tips that are specifically laid out for used cars. These include those inspections and changes that you can do yourself, moving through to the best ways to use fuel, how to take care of the bodywork, staying on top of scheduled maintenance and replacing those essentials that are all but certain to age, or may already have.

So, let’s get started with a few simple things that you can even do yourself:


Start with What You Can Do

This is a good start for buyers who have bought the car as is and need to give it a little restorative attention. Doing certain tasks yourself will save you money on labour, particularly if they are easy enough, and if the required parts are readily available to you.

In some instances you may just need to inspect things before handing the work over to a professional, and when looking at a second hand car, it is a good ideal to start by dealing with a few problems that are sure to come about simply through use.

Changing the Wiper Blades

You should be able to get a feel for the condition of the wiper blades by taking a look at them. If you see any dents, scratches or frayed edges, your wipers are not going to be very effective. Similarly, if the rubber on the blade has come loose from the frame, it will also need replacing.

Fortunately, replacing wipers is simple. You can buy them from just about any car shop, even some hardware stores. Be sure to take your old wiper with you to make sure that you get a blade that is the right length for your vehicle.

They are typically bought in pairs and shouldn’t cost you too much. They are also very easy to replace, and most products come with detailed instructions on how to do it yourself.

Keep Tyres Inflated

To keep your tyres and even your rims in better condition for longer, you need to ensure that your tyres are always inflated correctly, to the right pressures.

There are a few things to consider when determining what the right pressure for your tyres will be. Firstly, you will be given a guide from the manufacturer. This information is usually found on a sticker either inside of the glove box, or even on the inside of the driver door.

While this is typically the best indication of correct tyre pressure, you also need to consider how the vehicle is being used.

If it is taking on great loads, for instance, you will need to adjust the pressure to account for this.

What is important though, for the protection of your tyres, is that you never drive for extended amounts of time while they are below the recommended pressure.

Check Your Lights & Electronics

This one is simple (unless you want to attempt to actually fix electronics yourself). Start by testing all of your lights, headlamps, indicators, bake lights, reverse lights, etc.

If one of your indicators is moving faster than the other, it is likely that a bulb needs replacing. Bulbs for car lights are also easy enough to find at automotive shops and hardware stores, but can be a little complicated to replace, since you need to remove panels from the lights to access the bulbs.

Still, you can do it yourself if you are careful enough.

Do the same for any other electronic equipment in the car. Test the radio, the alarm if it has one, and anything else that is electrical by nature.

If you do spot any problems, it is best not to attempt to fix them yourself, rather look out for an auto-electrician that you trust.

Oil & Water

As it is with any car, you need to keep a close eye on your second hand car’s water and oil levels at all times.

Both are essential to the long-term health of your engine, and if left neglected, can utterly destroy it; which will result in expensive replacements if you are lucky.

A good rule of thumb is to check the levels of engine water and oil every time you fill up your tank; so, it is a good idea to make a habit of it.

A Note for Older Car Batteries

This one is particularly for those much older second hand cars out there, since batteries have come a long way in terms of reliability and complexity in recent years.

With older batteries, however, you need to keep an eye on the levels of mineral water in their cells, and they need to be topped up appropriately from time to time.

This water ensures that the battery cell retains its charge, and it needs to be mineral water, and should pretty much always be full. Should the levels of mineral water deplete even once, it will likely result in a dead battery cell, which will have you replacing the whole battery.


Using the Right Fuel

Using the right fuel on older vehicles can make all the difference to their performance, economy and lifespan. For this reason, it is worthwhile to know the difference between the two main types. These are high octane, and low octane fuels.

High Octane Fuel

High octane fuels are known for burning more slowly, which is mostly due to the number of additives and even detergents in the mixture. There are plenty of advantages to using it, even if it does come at a bit more of a cost per litre than low octane fuels, but it does work to keep your engine clear and prevents knocking thanks to the lower temperatures that it burns at.

Low Octane Fuel

Low octane fuel, which is purer in a sense, burns much more quickly than its high octane counterpart, which is because it burns hotter as well.

It isn’t particularly bad for your engine, but it does cause a fair amount of residue when used extensively.

Still, it is cheaper, and is okay for your engine. However, because it burns hotter and more quickly, it will have you returning to a service station to fill up much sooner.

Cleaning the Tank

There is a trick to keeping your tank relatively clear, however, essentially preserving it for longer; particularly if you prefer using low octane fuels over high ones.

Once a year or so, be sure to fill your tank with a high octane fuel, which even though it burns with less heat, is an excellent way to clear out your engine after a long time using low octane fuels.


Maintaining the Body

Now let’s take a look at a few maintenance tips related to the body of the car, which accounts for more than just the way your car looks. Minor body damage might not be that much of a problem in the short-term, but can become worse over time if not properly dealt with.

Here we will show you how to keep an eye out for these issues, and why you should rectify them as soon as possible.

Clear Scratches Before They Rust

Let’s start with scratches on the body. Far from simply being an eyesore, scratches in the bodywork can contribute to greater damage, which will only be fixed at a higher expense.

This one is particularly important for second hand cars in coastal or damp regions, where you are always fighting against the onset of rust.

A scratch in the bodywork of your car strips it of its protection from the elements, and while it doesn’t seem like too much of a problem in the short-term, those scratches will eventually start to rust.

This rust will then spread throughout the body of your car and will severely impact its structural integrity and looks.

So even if that scratch is barely noticeable, be sure to have it dealt with as soon as possible.

Check Rubber Seals

It is not often the case with newer cars, but older ones can give problems in terms of water-tightness. Something a lot of second hand car buyers only figure out after a spell of heavy rain. The rubber seals on the doors, which insulate them against water, do deteriorate over time, mostly due to heat.

When this happens, there is a risk of rainwater getting into the car’s interior, or worse, into the actual doors themselves.

In the case of the interior this will leave your car smelling damp, and if left unchecked can even lead to the growth of mould.

If water seeps into the door, on the other hand, there is a high risk of the onset of rust, which will cause much more wide-spread and severe damage in the long-term.

So, inspect the rubber seals to see if you can spot any signs of damage. Small cracks, warping, or any areas where the rubber has come away from the door. If you see any, you should have those seals replaced as quickly as possible.

Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning isn’t just about getting your car looking ‘as good as new’, it should also be considered an important maintenance task. There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, it is much easier to spot damage to the car’s body when it is clean, which means that you can act on maintenance tasks sooner rather than later; reducing the chance of further damage being dealt to the car.

On the other hand, keeping your car free from dust and larger matter like leaves and twigs will also keep it from getting fine scratches overtime.

IF you really want to keep the body in the best condition for the longest time, and if you are buying a second hand car because it is a classic, you should definitely consider getting a cover for it to provide the body and interior with additional protection from the elements.


Scheduled Maintenance

A quick word about scheduled maintenance; all cars need to stick to it whether they are new or used. Be sure not to skip out on any service schedules, its even worth booking the car in just after buying it, to be sure.

You should be able to find your maintenance schedule in the car’s service book, so be sure to familiarise yourself with it.

Where parts need replacing, try and stick to original manufacturer parts where possible.

It is also a good idea to do as much as can practically be done at once when servicing it, to cut the cost of additional labour further down the line.

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