How To Perform Essential Vehicle Checks On A Used Van

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If you’re considering buying a used van, you need to make sure the one you’re buying is road-worthy, reflects the asking price and is also suitable to carry out the work you need is for. The car must be roadworthy and safe to drive. If it’s not, by law, the seller must explicitly tell you, and you must both agree it’s being bought for scrap.

Buying a vehicle that is unfit for use could put your business at risk as well as the driver of the van and others on the road.

Before paying for the vehicle, you should perform a series of van checks first to establish the health of the vehicle and whether it meets your requirements. It’s always a good idea to take a friend who’s clued up on vans, or better yet, a mechanic who really knows what to look for.

However, if you need to perform a van check on your own, here are some things to look out for…

Visual Checks

Visual checks are pretty self-explanatory, and you should be able to spot most cosmetic issues fairly easily. Things like scratches to the paintwork are not a major concern unless you specifically want a vehicle that is in very good visual condition. Additionally, these are the main areas you need to give a once over…

  • Bodywork: look for any major inconsistencies in the paintwork as these could be hiding repairs or previous damage. Also, check for any rust on wheel arches and doors as a result of accident damage.
  • Tyres: It is illegal for tyres to have a tread less than 1.6mm and uneven tyre wear could be signs of suspension issues or faulty tracking. To check the tread of the tyres, you can perform this 20p test.
  • Suspension: To check the vehicle’s suspension, push down on each corner of the van and if it bounces once and then returns to its normal position, the shock absorbers should be fine.
  • Lights: Check that the vehicle has all of the necessary lights and that they work correctly.
  • Interior: Check the general state of the inside of the vehicle and all the internal features. This includes testing the seatbelts, adjusting the seat positions and testing out the electrics and controls like air conditioning, lights and wipers etc.
  • Dashboard: When you first turn on the engine, all of the warning lights should appear on the dashboard first then disappear if there are no outstanding issues.

Test Drive Checks

Carrying out a test drive is the best way to establish if there are any major issues with the vehicle, however, always be careful and consider if the vehicle is a safety risk to drive first. When test driving the van, you’ll get a general feel of how healthy the vehicle is but the things you should assess are…

  • Engine: If the engine rattles when accelerating or if there is black or blue smoke coming from the exhaust, this is a sign that the engine is damaged.
  • Clutch: If there is noise when you press the clutch pedal or a high bite point this could mean there is substantial wear on the clutch.
  • Axles: If the axels are knocking or squeaking, this could mean the vehicle won’t handle the road well and can lead to prematurely worn tyres.
  • Drive conditions: Steer the car as lightly as possible to assess the tacking. Leaning or tugging can be a sign of uneven alignment.
  • Brakes: Test the breaks on a road which is even and long enough for you to test them. Squealing or grinding noises when you brake is a sign of break damage.
  • Suspension: Does the vehicle balance on the road well or bounce too much or too little? This could be a sign of the shock absorbers being damaged.

Paperwork Checks

Even if the vehicle passes all of the essential visual checks and the test drive, you will still need to check the vital documents.

Ask for proof of the vehicles full-service history to establish how the van has been treated and maintained.

If you’re going to proceed with purchasing the vehicle, the current owner must provide you with the V5C registration certificate which will need to be updated with your details and sent to the DVLA.

Make sure the VIN number on the V5C certificate matches the one on the vehicle. This can be found on the windscreen of chassis.

Need more advice before buying a van? Check out our Guide To Buying A Commercial Van Here.

Have you got the right insurance for your van? Check out our van insurance policy here.

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