How Do I Know If the Used Car’s Engine Is Bad by Checking Oil?

Eleanor Hanson

You raised the hood and saw one heck of a shining engine. You feel an extreme sense of happiness because, at last, you have found the perfect car with an engine of your dreams. You bought the used car, drove it home, and just a few yards before reaching the garage gate, the car of your dreams conks out. You were absolutely confounded and then you ask yourself, “Why, oh, why?”

Actually, the “shiny engine” ploy is an old marketing trick. This tactic has fooled so many used car buyers. Unwitting customers eventually realize that the car of their dreams is in reality the car of their nightmares.

Many used car sellers wash the engine’s exterior thoroughly so that it will look nice and shiny. However, this masks the reality that a car engine’s performance is dictated not by how it looks from the outside. Instead, it’s what’s in it that counts. In this article, we will discuss the most important engine parts that must be inspected to ensure that the used car is worth every cent.

Safety Precaution: Turn the car’s ignition off before proceeding with any kind of inspection. This ensures that you will (obviously) not be ran over by the car, and that the fluid levels will be at their normal state.

Oil Levels / Oil Condition

The first thing that you must inspect is the engine’s oil. Ideally, engines that run on gasoline should have a golden-colored oil. There may be other brands or types of engine oils that may be differently colored, but the thing to remember is that the oil should never be black. However, engines that run on diesel (most trucks are like these) typically have black oil, so this class of engines are exempted from the rule.

Should the oil be in a bad condition (i.e. black), treat this as a warning sign that the car was poorly maintained. When a car is being sold, sellers would usually put their best foot forward. If this is their best, then it’s time to think twice. However, some used car sellers who are more experienced will usually replace the engine oil before putting the car up for sale.

Thus, it is also important to check the oil filter – this is something that is insanely hard (and expensive) to clean. Remove the engine oil cap (make sure that the engine is still off) and look for sludge buildup inside. If sludge is present, don’t buy the car – this means that the car will have serious problems in the near future, even if they are not very noticeable right now.

Oil Leaks

After checking oil levels and oil condition, the next thing to check is the presence of oil leaks. After replacing the engine oil cap, turn the car ignition on. Let the car run for about ten minutes (or until the seller’s patience wears thin) and check for leaks by looking at the ground beneath the car. By the way, if you can already see leaks even before turning the car on, then forget about it. Note that we are looking for oil leaks, so that apparent leaks due to the normal condensation of water from the air conditioning unit should not be a cause for alarm.

Oil leaks that were not fixed right away are signs that the engine’s interior might have suffered massive damage. Damage happens because the internal parts were not sufficiently lubricated, thus causing enormous friction among parts. Extra friction accelerates wear and tear, thereby greatly shortening a car’s lifespan. While most oil leaks are usually caused by faulty valve cover gaskets, there are many other things that could have cause this same thing – a problem that should be minded by the seller, and not you.

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