- Change the oil.
Even if the seller said the oil was just changed, or the level on the dipstick is where it should be, always err on the side of caution and go ahead and change the oil. That way you know for sure when the last oil change was done and are sure the proper kind of oil was used.
- Rotate the tires.
Take a tread depth meter and measure the tread on all of the tires, then rotate them accordingly. (Refer to this post for tips on how to rotate your tires properly.) Hopefully you checked the tread on the tires before purchasing the vehicle as well. Rotating the tires will give you the optimal amount of traction and ensure your tires will wear more evenly.
- Have the fluids serviced.
If you have your oil changed at a service station that will be a good opportunity to ask them to inspect your other fluids as well. Obviously, you can also do this yourself as well. Some big-ticket ones you’ll want to inspect are the transmission fluid, the coolant, differential fluid, transfer case fluid, and make sure you haven’t lost any oil since your last oil change.
- Change your air filters.
There’s a good chance when buying a used car that the previous owner neglected to change both the air intake filter and cabin air filter. You’ll want to replace both of these to keep air flowing as it should both into your engine and throughout the cabin of the vehicle.
- Check your spark plugs.
If the car you purchased has anywhere near or above 100,000 miles, chances are your spark plugs are due to be changed. There is a chance these have been replaced in the past, and its usually fairly easy to tell the difference between and old and fairly new spark plug. It’s usually a fairly simple task to remove one and inspect it. If all of the spark plugs are not too difficult to get to, I would recommend checking them all. This is because in some instances one spark plug may have been replaced without the others to cut costs. Keep in mind, it’s almost always better to change them all at the same time.
- Replace your ignition coils.
These are a bit harder to tell visually if they are going bad. So, as a rule of thumb, if your car is pushing 100,000 miles, it’s probably time to go ahead and replace your ignition coils. Ignition coils are often easily done in conjunction with spark plugs, so you might want to just go ahead and do both of these at the same time. Making sure your ignition coils are in good shape ensures all your cylinders will be firing as consistently as possible.
- Properly inflate your tires.
This may go without saying, but is often overlooked. You’ll just want to measure your tire pressure and make sure it is at the proper level. If you aren’t sure what PSI to set them so, check the sidewall of your tires, or often times it will say on the inside of the driver’s side door panel. This, paired with rotating your tires, will provide optimal traction and extend the life of your tires as long as possible.
- Don’t floor it.
On a list of things you should do after buying a used car, here’s one you should not do, at least not right off the bat. This is something I actually recommend doing during a test drive, as if something goes wrong, that’s when you want it to. But, with a used vehicle you just got your hands on, it can be hard to predict how it will handle under stress, if it can handle the stress. So you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any hidden problems are maintenance needing done before you go all “fast and furious” on your new-to-you car.
- Fill up your gas tank.
This is one that may seem extremely obvious, or even unnecessary, but you want to be sure your gas tank is actually full. I say this, because on a used car there is a chance that the fuel gauge may not be working properly, and this is one way to tell if it is. You don’t want to be left stranded with an empty gas tank you didn’t know was empty!
- Get your alignment checked.
If your tires tread is uneven or the car pulls to the left or right while driving, it’s a good idea to have your alignment checked and corrected if need be. Having an uneven alignment can cause undue stress on components of your vehicle, and should be corrected sooner than later.
- Replace your brakes.
Somewhere around 80,000 miles, most stock brakes start to wear down to a point you will want to get them replaced. Having healthy brakes is vital to your safety while driving, and is better for your rotors. Plain and simple, this is one thing you’d best not wait on doing.
12. Replace your rotors.
Rotors are as vital to your stopping power as your brakes, as one without the other will never be operating at 100%. Rotors usually last a bit longer than brakes, but it may be worth killing two bird with one stone to replace your rotors when replacing your brake pads.
13. Use fuel system cleaner
One quick and inexpensive way to extend the life of your car is run some fuel system cleaner through it. If you’ve replaced your spark plugs and ignition coils, but still seem to be lacking some power, your fuel injectors may need a cleaning. There are loads of different products out there; I personally use Seafoam, as it does a good job of cleaning out carbon deposits, but I would read reviews and compare products to decide what is best for your vehicle.
14. Wash it, and not just through a car wash.
Many people wash their car immediately after buying anyway, but don’t just drive down to your local touchless wash and drive through. Either find a self-serve car wash or grab a hose and deep clean the exterior of your car. Be sure to get underneath it and clean off any rust or dirt built up underneath. This is especially important in states where they treat the roads with salt during winter months; the salt can build up underneath your vehicle and cause corrosion.
15. Treat the rust
If, either during washing or beforehand, you notice rust building up on your vehicle, treat it as soon as possible. Rust does not go away on its own, and will only get worse. So buy some rust treatment and take care of any and all rust you may find as soon as possible.
16. Clean the throttle body.
Most auto parts stores will sell throttle body cleaner, but brake cleaner will also work just fine. On most vehicles the throttle body is not hard to remove for cleaning, and is an expensive part to replace. So, instead of waiting for it to break, you can be proactive and simply keep it clean. Be careful not to put pressure on the valve, as this is usually controlled by plastic gears in the inside of the throttle body, and are subject to breaking if you put them under too much pressure.
17. Go for a drive on a bumpy road.
Take the car for a drive over some bumpy roads, gravel, or some speed bumps. By doing this, you’ll be able to feel or hear and problems with your suspension that may need addressed, or hear a loose exhaust rattle.
18. Go for a drive on the interstate.
Some cars just need to be driven and tested at high speeds to show any sign of an upcoming issue, so going for a cruise on the interstate is a good way to do both of these. This is also the most likely place you will feel any alignment or tire issues, and might be worth doing this before you get your alignment checked, and after rotating your tires.
19. Check for any history faults.
Using an OBD II scan tool, you’ll be able to check for any past (or “historic”) fault codes. These will tell you about any past issues the vehicle has detected, and might give you a little bit of a warning about upcoming maintenance that will need done.
20. Name the car.
Admittedly, you don’t need to do this, but it makes owning a vehicle all that more special. Every car deserves a name, and make sure it’s fitting. Every vehicle, especially used ones, have little things that make them unique. You may not be able to think of it right away, but you car’s name will come to you. When it does, you’ll know.
And there it is, twenty things you should take care of after purchasing a used vehicle. I hope you found this list useful and wish you the best of luck!