Buying a Safe, Second-Hand Car.

Whether you can afford or have access to a mechanic or not, it’s sometimes a good idea to try to achieve things on your own before resorting to professional services – both to save money and to simply be able to say you have the knowledge and skills. With this in mind, these 5 essential car parts and tips on how to check you’re running smoothly could be the saving grace in your purchase of a second-hand vehicle that is both reliable and safe. Knowing what to look for before making the purchase could ensure avoidance of life-threatening, car-related issues rearing their ugly heads in the near future.


While tyre wear is inevitable, it is important to know the line between “slightly worn” and “replace me now”. A simple way to do this is by taking a 10c coin and inserting it between the treads (“c” symbol down). If the lily on the coin is visible, the tyre does not have enough tread and needs replacing. Another option is to check out a local tyre outlet, as many offer a free tyre-check service. In the case that the tyres need replacing, use sites like Gumtree South Africa to check the price of replacement tyres and subtract it from the asking price of the vehicle.


Windscreen Wipers

One of the most important aspects of safety is having an unobstructed view of the road ahead. However, a quick glance over at their appearance is not enough as an untrained eye can often not decipher wiper quality. Making this mistake could cost you a lot when the Cape winter rain or Gauteng summer storms hit and you cannot see a thing out your windscreen. So, how do we check that the wipers on the vehicle are working properly? Easy. Think ahead and bring a bottle of water with you when you go to view the vehicle. Then, ask the seller to turn the wipers on while you poor water over the windscreen. Voila.



It is unlikely that anyone would argue that brakes are the most important element needed for vehicle safety, and the most expensive to repair. However, a full check-up on a vehicle’s brakes or a report from a recent service is sometimes not an option. In this case, insist on taking the vehicle a little more off the beaten path during your test-drive to ensure the vehicle’s brakes work not only on flat, city roads but in hillier areas as well. Additionally, if your foot is pressing almost completely to the floor in attempts to slow down, this is your cue to request their replacement before you sign any papers and make it official.



Although the hooter might be a simple and sometimes humorous element of a vehicle, it is often forgotten how crucial it is for it to be in good working condition until you find yourself without one. Additionally, it is one of the most forgotten elements on a potential buyer’s safety-check list. To ensure you don’t make the same mistake, lay on that horn during your inspection. You’ll know straight away if it works. We don’t need to tell you how to check a horn, do we?


Headlights & Indicator Lights

Lights may turn on, but are they bright enough? The simplest way to check this is to request that the vehicle viewing occur at night. This way you will be able to test out both headlights and all indicator lights and see if they are bright enough. To go one step further, find out the exact distance headlights on that specific vehicle make and model are meant to shine to give you a more accurate indication on whether they are in optimal working condition.


With over 200,000 vehicle listings on Gumtree alone, it is clear South Africans are in hot pursuit of reliable second-hand vehicles. Gumtree, SA’s most visited autos site with the largest showroom in the country, is where they go to find them. Giving these tips a try during that process will give you the confidence you need to make the purchase; lessen your worries and enjoy the open road.

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