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Old 30-09-2011, 21:11   #1 (permalink)
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Things to look for when buying a ZR

Thought id try make a list of common things to look out for when buying a ZR, hope this is helpful to any new members

Head Gastet:
The first thing i would be doing before i do anything is open the bonnet and remove the oil filler, if there is emulsified oil in there then it is a sure sign there is a problem with the head gasket or engine, pull out the dipstick also and inspect it, the oil should be clean, again no emulsification, look at the coolant bottle, if it looks scummy, the coolant looks dirty or is low then it is likely that the headgasket is gone or has gone in the past, the coolant should be a nice red colour, ask the question, has it been done, and have they got reciepts for the work. Looking at the reciepts ideally you would want to see that they have used an uprated Multi Layer steel Gasket, new headbolts, and ideally new waterpump and thermostat, also look at the condition of the radiator, does it look corroded or stained at the edges, a knackered radiator can cause overheating which could cause the gasket to fail in the future.
If the gasket is gone then you can ask for a huge price cut, i payed 200 for my car with the gasket away.

pictures of dirty coolant bottle on car with HGF(top right hand corner of bay):

pictures of new and old radiators:

to have the head gasket done properly it should cost in the region of 400-600 depending who is doing the work, dont skimp on parts when doing it though as it could end up biting you in the rear a few days, weeks, months later and youll have to do it all again, parts are around 200-300 including timing belt, head gasket kit, bolts, thermo and waterpump, again dependant on who you are getting your bits from(have a search plenty of threads on the forum about doing the job if you think you can do it, it isnt a hard engine to build)


dependant on the age of the car corrosion could be a problem, the main affected areas are the front wings where the bumper joins, look for rust bubbles(new wings are cheap but painting isnt), the rear arches also have a good feel round look for any patches, the hinge points at the roof for the boot and the mk1 it is fairly common for them to corrode round the boot release button on the tailgate.

Brake pipes:
if you can have a look under the car at the brake pipes, they arent very prone to rusting but if the car has been sat for a long period or has been near the coast then its a good idea to have a look underneath at the pipes, front brake pipes are eay enough to do but the rear pipes require the fuel tank to be dropped down.

Exhaust system:
if the vehicle has a mild steel exhaust system on it have a look at it see if it is corroded/blowing from the cat back, they are prone to rusting but pattern parts are fairly easily obtained, or even a stainless system.
look at the manifold, on a 1.4/1.8 non vvc it should have an exhaust heatshield on it, they are prone to corroding at the bottom and coming loose requiring a new shield(about 30iirc)

If you can:
jack the car up, and check for free play in any of the wheels, this could give you an indication of whether you will need:
a wheel bearing(play side to side, top and bottom or a roughness through the shock absorber when you spin the wheel)
a top strut mountgrab the top of the wheel and pull back and forth, if theres play then its likely the top strut mounting)
Track rod endfront wheels only)(freeplay when rocking the wheel with your hand at 3 and 9)
A brake bind: (the wheel will be hard to turn)

inside the car:
the seats are prone for tears on most interiors apart from low mileage vehicles, but worth a look very prone for tears at the drivers boltster.

check all the switches and buttons work inside the car, espiecially a car with a round key fob(mark 2 & late mark1) these have an control module which sits behind the glovebox that basically all the electrics go through and unfortunatly is prone to getting water ingressed, so check windows, all lights, washers, wipers, horn, heated rear screen, electric mirrors ect. also feel the passenger footwell, does it seem wet? could be water ingress through the heater intake that needs attention asap.

if the car is a 3 door make sure both the seats tilt off the lever at the side of the seat, the cable is prone to breaking

heater resistor:
do the fans work on all 4 speeds, or just speed 3 and 4, if the latter then it is likely the heater resistor is gone, cheap and easy to replace but worth checking to batter the price down.

if the vehicle has a sunroof make sure you check it well, does the seal look raised up at all? they prone to corroding underneath lifting the seal and letting water in, a new sunroof is around 200-300 iirc although there is a repair kit available on the net, make sure it opens fully both ways and inspect the spare wheel well for any signs of water ingress

Has the car been in a crash:
lift the boot carpet and inspect the boot floor, is there any signs of creases? open the bonnet, is there any sign of damage to the front panel, look at the paintwork, is there colour differences in it? also HPI checks are available by text to see if it has been writen off before

fairly obvios, check sidewalls for cuts, bulges, the tread to make sure it is over 1.6mm(there are wear indicators in the tread, when the tyre has worn down in line with them it is at 2mm)
correct sise tyres: 205/50/16 on 16" rims and 205/45/17 on 17" rims

Road testing the car:
as any other car make sure it drives straight, doesnt have any vibrations through the steering wheel at speed(this could be wheel balance or indication of a buckles wheel) or vibrations through the steering when braking(this could show a warped disc)
if you feel the ABS kick in while braking normally this could be a sign of a broken reluctor ring(note not all ZR's have abs, the lamp should come on when you turn on the ignition if it does)

make sure the gearchange is smooth and there isnt any clutch judder

if it is a 160 dont be afraid to take the revs high(with the owners consent) to make sure the vvc does kick in)

Turning on the ignition:
make sure that te engine management light illuminates when turning on the ignition, if it doesnt then it could be someone has removed the bulb and there is a problem with the car that they are trying to hide.

Locking wheel key:
most cars with alloys have them, make sure it is with the car when it is sold

spare key:
espiecially if it is a mk2 or late mk1 and it doesnt have a spare key, make sure yuou get one coded asap, if you lose your only key then you need to get another SCU and 2 key fobs coded into your car, plus a new lockset.

key itself:
make sure it works in all the locks including the fuel filler, dont want a nasty surprise at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank.

the timing belt is due at 90,000 or 6 years, if it is a 160 it has two timing belts that require changed, most local garages should be able to do this but again another bargaining tool
try get as much of the history as you can off the seller, makes it better when you come to sell as well

try to avoid seeing a car when its dark or raining, a car in the wet can look a hundredsw time sbetter and all the small scratches ect are hidden

please feel free to add to this if you have anything below, hope this is useful and stops you buyin a lemon
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