Last month, Warren Strong told us how to inspect a second-hand vehicle for potential problems. This month he discusses how to check whether a vehicle has been in an accident.
It is difficult to know for sure if a second-hand vehicle has been in an accident. The owner, or dealer, might tell you that it is in an excellent condition and that it has never been in any sort of mishap, but how can you be sure?
Well, there are a couple of things you can look out for. The first thing I do when inspecting a car is to check that all the panels are perfectly straight. Do the panels line up correctly? If not, this is a troubling sign that some serious work has been done on the vehicle, which possibly means that it has been in an accident.
I also recommend running your fingertips around the edges of panels to check if they are smooth. If the edges are smooth, the vehicle probably still has its factory paint job. If its rough, this is a sign that it has been repainted after leaving the factory, since the edges are often left rough when a car is given a new paint job.
If I suspect that something might be up, I get on my knees and check the chassis legs of the vehicle. If a vehicle has been in an accident, it might look perfect at first glance, but the chassis legs might still reveal damage. Check to see if they have been re-welded, or if they are slightly bent.
Another fairly easy way to find out if serious work has been done to a vehicle is to check the paint itself. Repainted cars often suffer from three paint-related issues: runs, orange peel and fish eye.
What are these? The first, and fairly obvious issue is a run in the paint, and is the result of improper painting techniques.
As its name suggests, orange peel looks exactly like the outside skin of an orange – rough and pitted – and is usually caused by shoddy painting as well.
Fish eye usually occurs when a contaminant, such as grease, finds its way into the paint. It prevents the paint from adhering properly to the body of the vehicle, leaving a small crater. This little crater looks like the eye of a fish.
The best way to check the paint for any issues is to park the vehicle in the sun, and carefully inspect the body panels from an angle. Also look at the clear coat that has been sprayed over the paint. Orange peel can often be visible in the clear coat as well.
While you’re at it, check for overspray, which occurs when paint finds its way onto surfaces where it shouldn’t be. Check the body trim and panels for signs of overspray. Overspray won’t occur in the factory, so if you find that some trim has been painted over, you can be sure that it occurred at a later date.
Of course, the fact that a vehicle has been given a fresh coat of paint doesn’t automatically mean that it has been involved in a horrific accident. A door, for instance, might have been scratched badly at one point, necessitating some new paint. That’s why I recommend checking all the body panels carefully. If work has only been done on one panel, you probably don’t need to worry about any accident issues. But, if all the panels on one side of the car have been repainted, it becomes far more likely that the vehicle was involved in a serious crash at some stage.
What else can you look out for? Well, you can check all the body trim. How have the pieces of trim been stuck to the car? Is the badge, for example, still stuck on with the original black tape that the factory used, or has some common double-sided tape been used?
Also, check all the rubber fittings. Do they fit snugly? If not, the vehicle might have been in an accident. You’ll sometimes find, for instance, that the rubber strips around the windscreen of a car that has rolled no longer line up exactly as they should, since the pillars aren’t in their exact positions any longer.
Overall, it can be tough to find out if a vehicle has been in an accident, but by following these basics steps, you can provide yourself with some peace of mind.
• Warren Strong is a dealer at Emmarentia Auto, a second-hand dealership that specialises in 4x4s. The company has been a round since 2000 and is a family-run operation. Warren is a 4×4 fan with a self-professed soft spot for old Land Rovers.
For more information, visit: www.emmarentiaauto.co.za