8 Most Common Problems With Used Cars

Problems With Used Cars

When choosing a second-hand car, you will hardly find one in perfect condition. Even if its previous owner drove carefully and never got in an accident, the parts of the vehicle wear out over time. The older the auto, the more funds you need to invest in updating, repairing and replacing its components. In this article, we will talk about the 8 common problems with used cars that typically require the most attention, regardless of the age, brand and model of the vehicle scrap parts of the vehicle.

The Engine

Engine and drivetrain contain numerous small parts that require replacement — such as timing belts and chains. Their lifespan is expressed not in years but in miles. Other parts, such as air and oil filters, should be replaced even more often — preferably, during each standard checkup.

The performance of modern direct injection engines might diminish and they might consume too much fuel because their intake valves are covered with dirt. Any type of engine might face these problems with used cars — but the one with the direct injection is more prone to it. To fix this issue, you should meticulously follow the instructions about fuel grade and type as well as oil, air-filter and spark-plug changes.

Be especially careful when purchasing a vehicle with a turbo on its engine. Its purpose is to add performance to the car, so when you accelerate, you should notice a considerable power boost. If you fail to feel the boost, the turbo might be damaged. After you park the auto, let the engine idle and check the exhaust pipe. If smoke is coming from the pipe and you can smell gas, it means that the turbo is cracked.

The Brakes

Brake pads normally have a long service life. But once you realize they have worn out, you will hardly be able to fix the problems with used cars yourself. They are located underneath your car, so you will need special equipment to access them. Mechanical skills and experience are also necessary for brake pad replacement. So you should better entrust this task to a professional.

The Electrical Systems and Sensors

Modern vehicles, equipped with dozens of motor and electrical sensors, are very complicated. When you start the car, look for signs of failing systems on the dashboard. Even if you detect no problems with used cars immediately, be ready to regularly replace the sensors during the exploitation of the vehicle.

Used car owners often complain about issues with the electrical system that they fail to identify. Something has gone wrong — but it is tricky to tell what it is. In many cases, the dying battery is to blame. Once you replace it, the auto will get sufficient voltage and all its electronic components will be functioning properly.

The Alternator

Amateurs often have no clue of what this part is responsible for and where it is located. It is a component of the charging system, powered by the crankshaft. Its primary mission is to provide power to the battery, dash, air conditioner and other systems. Alternator is a pricey part and you will hardly be able to replace it without professional help. To check from the onset whether it is in an operable condition, look at the lights on the dash: they should be bright enough.

The Air Conditioning

Air conditioners wear out over time. Once you find yourself behind the wheel of a used car, turn the coldest temperature on and make sure the air cools down quickly. There should be no suspicious noises and the vents should not be clogged by dirt and dust. If the conditioner fails to cope with the task, you will either need to replace the air compressor or ask a mechanic to refuel the system.

The Transmission Electronics

If the automatic transmission fails, you will notice many alarming signs. The vehicle stops being responsive, it becomes awkward and clumsy. The gears shift too harshly. This creates great risks for the driver — but, fortunately, the problem is easy to fix. You should either replace the software in the transmission’s computer brain or update it. The functioning principles of this software do not differ too drastically from the one installed on your home computer: it requires regular updates and starts failing if you neglect them.

As for the mechanical transmission, its condition largely depends on the driving style of the previous car owner. If they drove recklessly and often exceeded the speed limit, you might need to replace this part — unlike its automatic counterpart, it is impossible to simply upgrade it. Unfortunately, transmissions are pricey.

Oil Consumption

Over time, vehicles consume more and more oil. Today, the problem of overconsumption becomes relevant for relatively new autos. The reason might be the usage of lower-viscosity engine oils of the latest generation, with optimized fuel mileage. The weird thing is that some manufacturers refuse to acknowledge the problem. Others, on the contrary, agree to replace defective engines and parts.

Body Panels, Frame and Chassis

Faded paint and superficial rust should be considered as a minor problem. But too much rust might pose a threat to the structural integrity of the vehicle. The maximum lifespan of an aluminum chassis is 30 years, while steel frames start to brittle even earlier. Replacement will be the only way out.


When purchasing a second-hand auto, ask an independent mechanic to check whether it is functioning properly. Be especially cautious when a dealer offers you a discount if you buy an old car without a warranty — most likely, it has some major flaws that you will detect only when it is too late. Yet if you find a responsible dealer, it will help you to find a car in a good condition that will serve you for many years. If you cannot afford a decent auto and lack opportunities to take a loan, consider purchasing a used car dealership with bad credit financing. If you succeed, this will allow you to acquire a vehicle that will not require too many costly repairs.



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