Things To Check Before Buying Used 4x4s
Buying a used 4X4 is not the same as buying a two wheel drive sedan or wagon for many reasons.
You have quite a bit of extra stuff to look out for in the way of damage not only on the body and interior trim, instruments and the usual steering/suspension, but wheels can be damaged and wheel bearings may be worn out as well.On a 4x4 changing a wheel bearing can be quite a big and expensive job.
A 4X4 has another drive shaft, differential, and gearbox to service so checking for leaks or fluid loss is essential. If the "Joey" or low speed gearbox gets low on fluid it can be damaged easily and be godawful expensive to repair.
If the seller claims that it has seen little off road use that means it has had some off road use so I would be looking more closely at the condition of the low speed gearbox, wheel bearings and any other components that wear out quicker with off-road use.
A lot of unexpected damage can be done to a 4X4 if badly driven off-road.
Stress can bend and distort, water and mud can grind and destroy brakes and other mechanical components. Electrical and electronic components get moist or even drowned, extreme temperature changes can stretch and shrink mechanical components.
If you can find a used 4X4 that has never been off-road, so much the better!
Always carefully inspect the service records on 4X4's as repairs often run into many thousands of dollars.
Check the ownership of the vehicle as well. Some 4X4's are stolen and others have been badly damaged then rebirthed.
Any sign of oil leaks or a dark stain line where the gearbox or motor is joined together such as block to cylinder head could indicate prolonged off-road use.
If a four wheel drive has been constantly driven off-road hard in low range the motor and gearboxes can get very hot, causing these oily lines to appear as the very hot oil is thinner than it should be, the casings have been hotter than they should get thus allowing oil to reach the outside of the join.
Some 4X4 owners have been known to overfill the transmission, especially the transfer case. This damages seals and forces oil to leak.
Inside the cabin.
Start the engine cold and listen for any noises in the motor that sound metallic. Get a friend to listen under the bonnet when you start the 4X4 cold if you can.
- Check the operation of all instruments including gearbox engagement light.
- Ensure all warning lights go out on start-up.
- Check air-bag function light goes off.
- Turn on air-conditioner, and check that it gets cold.
- Turn the heater on and make sure there are no water leaks from the heater inside the cabin on the floor from the heater and that it gets really hot when set to maximum heat.
- Check windscreen for chips and cracks.
- Lift floor mats to inspect for water stains or other water damage.
Outside of vehicle.
- Look along the sides of the 4X4 in bright sunlight to see any paint flaws or ripples in the panels.
- Examine tow bar and bull bar mounting points to see that they are properly secured and have not been crushed or damaged at the chassis mount points.
- Check all lights to see if they have allowed water to leak in and discolor the lenses.
- Open and close all windows and doors including rear hatch door to ensure proper fit and seal.
Under the Hood.
- Look at the underside of the bonnet for any stains or oil that has been thrown up onto the hood lining. Stains could indicate a failed cooling system or past fluid leak which may have caused damage to the engine. Unless you can find an explanation in the notes of the service manual, including the repair of a component which could have caused the stain be very careful.
- Check the engine for any signs of oil leak. The engine bay should be clean and dry.
- Check all fluid levels. They should all be right on the maximum line. Any sign of a low reserve indicates a leak somewhere. Fluids do not evaporate between services!
- Check radiator for fin or core damage from rocks or large stones.
More by this Author
Buying a used BMW 5 series can be tricky. The 5 series problems were mostly sorted under warranty.Here is how to pick a good one.
Where to start when buying a used or new car? Buying and selling cars and motorcycles for more than 30 years, I have a set of rules that I never break when buying and another set of rules for selling used cars.
Starting a workshop business or auto repair shop can be very profitable if you get the basics right.