By: Gov Auctions | 18 May 2013

Seeking a Mechanic’s Advice Before Buying

Most people consult an advisor before making investment decisions and the same should apply when investing in a used car. A mechanic can determine whether your chosen vehicle is a peach or a lemon and paying for an inspection before you buy is always money well spent.

Whether you’re buying privately or from a car lot, if the vehicle is in good condition, then the seller should have no objection to you bringing in an expert to give it the once-over. There are a number of areas that a good mechanic will examine when making their appraisal.


A mechanic can tell a lot about a car’s history and current condition just from looking it over on the outside. Things they look for include:

  • Rust – this is usually more evident in the trunk, engine bay and wheel arches and a good mechanic will check all of these areas.
  • Tires – while worn tires are not necessarily a big deal, they will have to be replaced, so this should be factored into the selling price of the vehicle (i.e. ask for a discount).
  • Body work – a good mechanic can tell at a glance if a vehicle has been in an accident. Tell-tale signs include over-spray, signs of masking, slightly different colored body panels, ill-fitting doors, signs of body filler and inconsistent welds.
  • Suspension – pressing down on the fenders and then letting go can tell a mechanic whether struts or shock absorbers are worn by the amount of rebound observed.


A mechanic will focus their inspection of the interior mainly on the operating mechanisms such as:

  • Steering – whether there is any play in the wheel, which can indicate a worn steering rack or tie rods.
  • Brakes – whether there is any sponginess when the brake pedal is pumped, which can mean a problem with the brake lines.
  • Gear box – this can really only be tested by driving the vehicle, so if at all possible, have the mechanic take it for a test drive. This will also reveal any other problems with steering or brakes.


This is the heart of the vehicle and any problems found here can translate into serious money if repairs are required. The mechanic will usually lift the hood and conduct an inspection focusing on the following areas:

  • Oil – checking the dipstick to determine the color of the oil (which can reveal engine wear) and looking for oil leaks around the crankcase, sump and engine bay.
  • Belts & hoses – testing them for tightness, cracks and signs of wear.
  • Radiator – checking the coolant for evidence of corrosion or leakage.
  • Engine noise – running the engine and listening for noises such as knocks or pings, which can indicate valve or piston wear.

Obviously if you are bidding for a vehicle at a government auction, it will usually be no more than 2 or 3 years old and will still have a new car warranty, in which case a mechanical inspection is less essential. But in all other circumstances, seeking the advice of a mechanic before you buy is a win-win situation. If they give the vehicle the thumbs-down, you’ve saved yourself a lot of money and heartache and if they give it a clean bill of health, you’ve made an investment in trouble-free motoring for years to come.