Buying and maintaining a car can quickly cost a fortune nowadays. This is why many consumers explore the used car market, where they feel protected by the statutory warranty offered by the traders. As a result, unforeseen (and especially expensive) repairs are an absolute nightmare for second hand traders, who see their margins evaporate when a car they sold displays major defects. OPENLANE ascertained which 10 components you ought to check twice (or ten times) in order to avoid major expenses.

1. Cylinders

Cylinder problems are often caused by insufficient compression. This is a result of worn piston rings, cylinder head leaks or cracks in the cylinder wall. Normally, if the car’s owner executed regular maintenance, this never occurs. An engine that stutters is an omen of potential problems. Quick intervention is of the essence, and failure to do so involves a risk of significant expense.

2. Hybrid power train

A hybrid car doesn´t necessarily have to be more expensive than a car with a conventional internal combustion engine. Or at least, in theory. In practice, the scarcity of replacement parts does lead to a higher purchase price, although ´hybridisation’ may reverse this trend in upcoming years. The greatest cause for concern for hybrid vehicles is the inverter. This component converts the batteries’ direct current into alternating current for the engine. While defects are rare, they are very hard to detect. The only warning is a vague light that displays “Check Engine” on the dashboard…

3. Lithium-ion batteries

As is the case for hybrid vehicles, we are still waiting for a huge breakthrough in the field of electrical engineering that will reduce the price of battery technology. Tesla´s success was an initial step in the right direction in terms of a necessary increase in scale, but there are also several European manufacturers that made great strides this year in forcing the breakthrough of electric vehicles. A lot of batteries remain the property of the brand, which means that you need to conclude a rental contract. Thankfully, this also means you receive a warranty on the battery. Furthermore, lithium-ion batteries are gradually becoming as reliable as ‘good old’ nickel hydride counterparts and prices are expected to drop significantly in the near future.

4. Gearbox

The gearbox is one of the most vital parts of a car. Unfortunately, it is also one of the parts that is most subject to wear and tear. Improper use of the gearbox – and we’re honestly not singling out female drivers – is still absolutely devastating to this component. For automatic gearboxes, transmission fluid issues are the cause of defects 9 times out 10. As it needs to be replaced less frequently than oil, a lot of drivers simply forget about it. One brand in particular has a lot of gearbox problems, namely the VAG Group with its DSG gear box. Sometimes an oil change and cleaning the valve block will resolve the problem. If you need to replace a clutch or install a brand new gearbox the price tag quickly becomes significantly heftier.

5. Engine

Thinking of getting a dirt-cheap car with a souped-up engine? This may seem tempting, but you had better think twice if you don’t want to end up with a lemon. Souped-up engines often have significant internal damage and will need to be completely overhauled, if not entirely replaced.

6. Camshaft

Problems with the camshaft (or the camshaft phase unit) occur relatively rarely, unless you’re dealing with a car (or more specifically car owner) that did not respect the need for frequent oil changes. When they do occur, and dirt and dust accumulate in the valves, the result is labour-intensive repairs. A lot of well-known brands have this problem, which is caused by using inferior components. This shifts some of the responsibility to the brands. Even when the car is properly maintained, these problems may persist. This also relates to supply chain problems. Rattling during a cold start and an engine that stutters at operating temperatures are signs of trouble.

7. Head gasket

The head gasket is a vital component, because it is the seal between the engine block and the cylinder head. Problems with the head gasket most often cause collateral damage in the form of overheated engines and leaking coolant. This problem can be identified by the typical white smoke coming from the exhaust. While this component is not expensive as such, repairing it does take a significant amount of time.

8. Keys (!)

This may sound strange, but even replacing car keys has become a very expensive affair nowadays. Just consider the mini-computers that come with BMW’s 7-Series now (which allow you to park your car from a distance). Apart from these, ‘regular’ keys with central locking need to be reprogrammed again to match with your steel steed. And this is not cheap.

9. Air conditioning condenser

The air conditioning condenser converts the gaseous coolant into a fluid. The condenser is located in a vulnerable place – in front of the radiator – and stone strikes can cause leaks. Corrosion may also occur in winter due to exposure to road salt. As soon as the air conditioning is used, the condenser is subjected to significant pressure causing leaks as a result. Replacing the condenser is the only viable solution.

10. Mass air flow meter

The mass air flow meter measures the amount of air flowing to the engine, and controls the amount of fuel that is injected. Sensor problems are frequently the result of a clogged air filter (in other words, one that wasn’t replaced in time). Replacing a filter will only cost you a few Euros, while replacing a mass air flow meter will cost considerably more.

Damaged cars at OPENLANE

At OPENLANE, cars that have one of the above defects, are generally listed in separate auctions for damaged cars. In damaged car auctions we distinguish between cars with technical damage and cars with body damage. Approximately four percent of the cars sold have technical damage. Cars sold in a normal auction can sometimes also have a specific type of damage. The nature of the damage will always be described in our damage reports. Use our advanced search filter to search specifically for damaged cars.

You can recognize a vehicle with technical damage by the following icon: damaged cars, damaged vehicles

You can recognize a vehicle with body damage by the following icon: accident cars, accident vehicles