Although there seems to be a lull in sales of Skylines that doesn’t mean they’re not selling. Whilst most people reading this may own a car that does not mean all and it does not mean current owners will not be changing their preferred ride soon. With that in mind here’s a few useful tips from Big Sev about buying a used car.
Always view cars in daylight. Avoid viewing in rain and ensure the seller has cleaned car. Dirt can hide a lot of sins.
If the Japanese auction sheet is available ask to see it. Have a look at the condition code given to the vehicle, as this will let you know whether the vehicle has any accident history. R, RA or 0 generally denotes accident history. A forum search on auction sheets will reveal more. In addition a BIMTA In addition a BIMTA certificate should also help clear this up. The seller should provide one and make sure it has the mileage statement with it as well. For more details go to www.bimta.org
Check the Blue Nissan Build Plate at the back of engine bay. The plate shows the chassis number and fixed by white plastic rivets. This plate should never be removed except perhaps if the car has had engine bay re-spray so the fixings ought to be original.
Check car close up AND from 10-15ft away paying particular attention to paintwork and panel alignment. Stand at angle to car checking colour matches and for paintwork ripples or signs of blending. Look round the car and underneath for signs of over-spray. If car has been re-sprayed you want to know why. Check wing nuts for signs of removal and the front support bar to see if there are any signs that car has been in accident. Look under sills at chassis legs that run from back to front of car on both sides. Make sure the small mid-way weld hasn’t split; this can be a sign of repaired shunt. Check under carpet in boot, make sure the spare is there. Pay particular attention for rust and signs of accident repair. Open and close doors/boot/bonnet/windows. Make sure all panels line up as should and look for rust in areas water may sit. Inspect underneath the car for signs of corrosion. Surface rust may be brushed off and treated. Check all windows for cracks/chips. Replacing a window on a skyline can be expensive.
Electronics and interior;
Make sure that the engine check light comes on at start up but does NOT stay on when driving; same with the HICAS light. Check all electronics function correctly. If the car is a fresh import on original stereo it will not function without wave expander (not expensive). Nearly all the insurers will ask that your skyline has a Cat 1 alarm/immobiliser and some may ask for tracking devices. Do the odometer readings appear consistent with any service stickers found on car? Stickers are generally located in door jams or engine bay. Is the interior wear (seats/steering wheel/gators etc) what you would expect in relation to the mileage?
Make sure the engine is well cared for with regular service intervals, particularly important on a turbo car. Ensure that the current owner has been running on super-unleaded fuel and allowing turbo to warm up/idle down. Is there proof positive of cambelt change? If not, factor the price of changing belt into your budget. Buying from another enthusiast who knows how to look after the car can be an advantage. When buying a fresh import use a reputable importer with trusted Japan buyer.
Check that the engine appears cared for and ‘looks factory’ with neat wiring and no bodged jobs. This applies to both standard and highly modified cars. Check for fluid leaks; i.e. Clutch, brake, power steering and ABS. Check under the engine for oil leaks paying attention to area around sump plug.
Check fluids are clean. Pull out dipstick and remove oil filler cap to check for healthy, clean oil; black oil suggests poor maintenance. Does the oil smell burnt? Similarly check for clean coolant. Be wary of any greyish or gooey matter in these areas. Check hoses and belts for wear and splits.
Never road test a vehicle with stereo on. You need to be listening to the car. Similarly don’t let the seller talk all the way through your test drive.
Listen out for whistling noises whilst accelerating as this can indicate turbo problems or air leaks. Listen out for detonation (or pinking) under load. Detonation can be indicative of poor ignition setting, low quality fuel, excessive boost pressure or a badly maintained engine. Watch out for hesitations or misfires. Often these don’t reveal themselves until around 5k rpm so accelerate through from 3k rpm in third or fourth gear to see if the car experiences any violent hesitation, misfiring or holding back at this range. Check for blue smoke under hard acceleration and during deceleration. Can be sign of engine wear or turbo problems. Make sure that the operation of clutch, gearbox and brakes is smooth. Ensure that the gearbox is not whining and that there are no crunching synchros on gear changes (it is normal for the box to be stiff when cold). Check that vehicle is showing a nice healthy oil pressure rising under load. Drive vehicle long enough that any temp issues are revealed.
At normal engine temp leave the car idling and check for;
Blue smoke = can indicate a variety of turbo or breathing related problems.
Black smoke = can indicate fuelling issues.
White smoke = possible engine damage, head gasket or cylinder head problems.
Brakes, steering, wheels and suspension;
Check for any vibration through steering when driving and that the car doesn’t pull to one side under breaking. Do a visual check on discs for scoring and check the thickness of brake pads. If these are going to need replacing imminently then try to get the seller to do so or some money knocked off. Check dampers for any obvious leaks. Also look out for grease leaking from ball-joints. Suspect knocking when driven may be result of dry joints. Most RWD GTS models are equipped with HICAS rear wheel steering. You probably wont notice the assistance of this system but it tends to be pretty reliable. Simply check that the HICAS light on dash does not remain on when driving. Similarly most are equipped with Limited-Slip Diff. You should not be able to hear any strange or whining noises from the diff. Like the HICAS this system tends to be pretty problem free. Check tyres for wear on the inside edge and make sure front + rears haven’t been swapped.
The most important advice given to me when buying a skyline was ‘if you have never driven a skyline before then even a bad one can feel good so make sure you test drive lots of cars’. Good luck with buying your skyline.