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No. 21 (December 1957)
– 13 –

BUYING A SECOND-HAND CAR

This is the first of four articles on motoring written by Des Mahoney, correspondent of the Auckland Star. During twelve years in a Rotorua service station, Mr Mahoney learnt that none of the trappings of European civilization fascinate the Maori people more than motorcars new or old.

THERE are so many traps in buying a second-hand car, starting with finding the money, that most of us would rather hang on for a few more years in the hope that from somewhere, somehow or other, enough money will turn up for a new one.

But then after a few years the same trouble starts again. The new car has become an old one, and perhaps there's not enough in the kitty to buy another new one.

A dim prospect this, but hold on! There's not so much to buying the used car as most people think. Mechanics like to look wise about it, and say that the outsider can't tell whether he is getting something good for his money, but the truth is that anyone who likes cars and finds out just a little bit about them can pick the bad ones.

To start with, never buy a car just because you like the look of it, or because Dad had one like it when you were a little boy and it was a grand car. That may have been a long time ago, and maybe ideas have changed about what is a grand car.

I remember buying one like that, before I knew any better. Then I found it was drinking oil—about a quart in 50 miles, so I took the cylinder-head off to have a look. There was a great big score in one cylinder, and the pistons were just about turning end over end in the others. I'd have heard them doing it if I hadn't been so set on buying the car. A mechanic cobber of mine looked at it sadly, wagged his head, and said, “Put the top on and sell her.” I was too soft for that, and she cost me quite a lot of money before I did have her right.

Well, once you've made up your mind how much you can spend on a car, the thing to do is to look at a lot of them first. Private sellers usually want more for their cars than they are worth, and so do back-yard dealers, and neither will give you service afterwards. A dealer in

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“Bounce the car up and down”.

new cars may have even higher prices, but you have a chance of getting faults fixed up if they develop.

Once you have sorted them through, narrow your choice down to perhaps four for a close look. Discard any on the way that have poor tyres all round, rusty bodywork, signs of leaks and so on.

With your chosen four ask to see the registration papers first; if any have been taxis rule them out. If you can, check with the last owners to find out why they dropped the cars, and what their histories were.

Now for a quick look round. Bounce the car up and down, front and rear. If it is hard to bounce, and bounce stops as soon as you do, the shock-absorbers are all right. Have the front wheels jacked up clear, after having waggled the steeringwheel to see whether there's to much play between it and the road wheels. Then try pulling the wheels back and forth towards you. Movement means the bearings are shot, or need taking up. Next hold the wheels at top and bottom, and try working them to and fro. A lot of movement here means that new kingpins are needed.

Now have one rear wheel jacked up, the car put in gear, and try turning the wheel. There should be very little slack; if there is any it means that the differential gear or the gearbox are worn.

Finally have the car started up and take it for a run. If there is a lot of smoke from the exhaust when warmed up, and fumes can be smelt inside the car, the engine is well worn.