It took three inspections to find the right car…
We have people ask us almost weekly do I really need to have a newer vehicle inspected? Or how about from a dealer who’s offering a warranty? In our minds it’s cheap insurance to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon. We’ve been doing this long enough to see some pretty crazy things even from only 1-2 year old models from some reputable dealerships.
We recently had a client who was looking for a newer MINI Cooper to buy for his wife’s birthday. He didn’t want to have to take the time out of his busy schedule and initiate transactions with various dealers to look over the cars on the market, so instead he hired us to look over the vehicle prior to even contacting the dealers that he was interested. His requirements were simple: a non smoking car and he wasn’t interested in a car that had been in any type of accident or having any kind of previous repaint. It took three inspections but in the end he found the best car.
MINI number 1 – 2009 MINI Cooper S – VIN WMWMF73539TW83305
The first one we went to look at sounded nice per the ad, “Non smoking & in like new condition” at a small independent dealer in NE Portland. Upon our arrival we found a few rather large flags based on his requirements. First, the vehicle had had some previous paintwork and it was fairly obvious with fish-eyes, spots and sanding marks visible in the paint. Probably the most surprising however, was that the ad clearly advertised it as being a non-smoking vehicle yet there were burn holes throughout the carpeting and in the leather seats. This one was out.
On to MINI number 2 – 2009 MINI Cooper S – VIN WMWMF73509TW86811
This 60K mile MINI being sold by a bigger independent dealer in Milwaukie on Mcloughlin BLVD. We’ve been to this dealer many times in the past with mixed results. This one did have some superficial paint work but the biggest issue was that it had some serious engine issues. It almost immediately became apparent the car had a failing head gasket. Most may have started the car and thought it had some “lot rot” as it did initially run rough for a few seconds, but there were many clues that it had a internally failed head gasket.
- Before starting the vehicle we always look over all fluids under the hood. What first caught our eye was the color and dark carbon like traces noted in the coolant bottle. It didn’t look good for a 60K mile 2009 vehicle.
- When removing the cooling cap on a cold engine there was a noticeable pressure in the cooling system as well as bubbles – This is not normal on a stone cold engine that has been sitting for some time.
- We had our scanner running a full system scan on the car prior to starting and noticed some other red flags such as misfire codes
- As soon as we started the car, it initially ran very rough, and then seemed to clear out but now the check engine light was illuminated.
- Finally, to confirm our suspicions we took our exhaust gas analyzer and sniffed out the cooling system, which instantly confirmed we had a head gasket failure. Cooling systems are sealed from the outside world and from the engine. Under no circumstances should you ever see any combustion gasses or by-products in the cooling system. In this case we had Hydrocarbons (HC-unburnt fuel) and Carbon Monoxides (CO – partially burn fuels) present. We’re currently working on a video that shows/explains this process in detail.
So obviously MINI number 2 was out. When looking back at the Carfax it became pretty apparent that someone had issues with the car shortly after the warranty expired.
Service on 04/11/2013 @ 58,716 Miles
- Radiator hose clamp replaced
- Water pump replaced
- Thermostat housing/gasket replaced
- Thermostat replaced
- Antifreeze/coolant checked
These services suggest the car likely had a overheating issue or a coolant odor issue and a shop without a $5000 exhaust gas analyzer to properly diagnose the shop likely threw parts at it. If we had to guess, the owner likely traded it in after this service was completed at probably $1000 the car continued having issues. It was also interesting to note it was sent to auction only a week after the MINI dealer in CA listed the car for resale. We showed the dealer our findings before we left, he mentioned this happened to him just a few weeks on a similar car. One would think the dealer would send it back to auction, but according to the history report the car was sold 2 months later to some unsuspecting buyer here in Portland.
On to MINI number 3 – 2010 MINI Cooper S – VIN WMWMF7C52ATZ73202
This was the final car and the one he was looking for. The car was absolutely pristine! None of the previous issues, never been smoked in and most importantly never had any paintwork. Needless to say, our client was very satisfied and his patience definitely paid off.
Josh thank you for your professional counsel and extra work on these Mini inspections. I did a deal with Kevin and my wife is delighted with her birthday gift.
I am still on the hunt for something to replace my Suburban. So when I figure it out and begin my search I will once again be in touch.
Again many thanks for the excellent service you provide.
You will always save money having the car inspected prior to purchase and in this case our client avoided the hassles of weeding through the junk vehicles while avoiding a vehicle with a blown head gasket that would have cost him close to $3000 to fix right off the bat.