How to Check Used Car Engine Condition

Daksh Jangid
Daksh Jangid

Updated on: 29th February, 2024 IST

How to Check Used Car Engine Condition

Buying a used car is not an easy job. In fact, evaluating the value of a used car is a really tricky affair as there’s just too much to inspect and assess. However, the value mostly depends on the used car engine condition as it plays a vital role in deciding the value of used cars.

The engine performance of the car is one of the biggest factors and any buyer of a second hand vehicle should inspect the engine to know the best about the car’s health. Here, in this post, we have shared some of the tips to check car engine health:

Signs Of Weak Car Engine

Below par performance or weird sounds coming out of the exhaust pipe could be clear signs of a weak car engine. It is vital to understand such factors and get the car’s engine inspected by an expert before things go out of hand. Other than the check engine light, here are some more ways to inspect signs of weak car engine.

Car engine

Also Read : How much does it cost to convert your car to electric?

1. Loss of power

Take a test drive and see if the engine revs drop unnaturally as you accelerate hard. This, plus, below par performance are clear signs of engine knock. 

2. Unusual or excessive noise

While all internal combustion engines make sound during operation, the exhaust system muffles this sound. An overtly loud engine or some strange sounds like hissing or knocking are clear signs of car problem

3. Poor mileage

It’s not just a drop in performance that indicates issues in the car engine. Even a below par fuel efficiency is one of the many signs of weak car engine. Mostly, this issue arises due to a faulty fuel injection system or a problem in the compression stroke. Regardless of the issue, it’s best to stay away from buying such a car. 

4. Engine Stalling

The stalling of the engine is highly unlikely in automatic cars. So, if you find this issue or even notice signs of engine knock, it’s a sign of poor maintenance. While such issues can often be rectified through a proper engine tune up, it’s still better to avoid buying such used cars. 

5. Odd smells

Identical to unusually high or bizarre sounds, even strange smells can be a sign of problem with the car engine. These are mostly caused due to improper functioning of the exhaust stroke. 

6. Engine Feels Rough

An engine might feel rough if there is an issue with the spark plugs. In fact, this is a problem that can be even caused by unauthentic fuel or a low battery.

Also Read : Top 5 Used Cars For Beginners and Learner Drivers

Things to Check to Know Used Car Engine Condition

Given below are some easy steps to check out the used car engine condition -

Car engine

1. Service History

Always ask for service history when buying a used car. Cars with clear service records give a clear idea of maintenance. Every car has a fixed service interval such as 5,000 km or 10,000 km.

If the vehicle has been serviced at regular durations, it’s a sign of good maintenance. Also, you can check through the service records if the car has been serviced at proper intervals.

2. Starting problem

If the car takes too long to start or doesn’t start at the first instance, these are signs of a weak car engine. The vehicle should always start in the first attempt and within seconds of turning on the ignition. 

3. Cold Start the Car

This is the best way to figure out the used car engine condition.To do this, it’s best to inspect the car early in the morning and after it has been parked unused for many hours.

Once you start the car, notice the smell and sound coming out of the engine. Any strange sound and/or blue smoke coming from the exhaust pipe are signs of a weak car engine. 

4. Smell from the engine

Any sort of strange odor coming from the engine bay is a sign of worry. It could be anything, from an issue with the spark plugs or the burning of coolant due to a leakage. Any strong smell is a sign of poor car engine maintenance. 

5. Oil Leaks

Generally, oil leaks are not easily visible under the hood. To solve this issue, take a video from your phone of the lower part of the engine. Watch it carefully for possible leaks.

6. Inspect the bottom of the car

Another method to check car engine health for proper valuation is to inspect beneath the body. Look for spots, leakages and stains. In case you see any, it could be an oil leakage from the engine compartment. 

7. Coolant leakage

A coolant leakage refers to issues with the radiator. It’s a clear sign of a busted radiator and could lead to more serious problems. It’s highly recommended to avoid buying such cars. 

8. Belts and Hoses

Look at the service records to understand when the belts and hoses were last changed. Any sort of cracks in the rubber means that the part would soon need replacement. 

9. Check the internal parts

In case you’re not sure how to investigate the internal components, leave it for an expert. However, checking out the internal parts of the engine is a good way to check car engine health and determine the used car engine condition

10. Check the turbo

Many cars these days come with a turbocharged engine. In case the used cars in question are turbocharged models, make sure you start the engine and look for any leaks or weird noises from the turbocharger. Also, drive the car to understand if the turbo is working in sync with the engine. 

11. Check the Colour of the Exhaust Fumes

The exhaust fumes from a car need to be transparent or slightly whitish. It’s normal for used cars to emit colorless smoke but it should be mostly odorless. Also, steer away if you see a lot of black or blue smoke being emitted by the exhaust. 

12. Assess the Car’s Idle Noise and Feel

This is another simple method to get a fair idea about the used car engine condition and come up with an accurate judgment of the car engine performance. Start the car and leave the engine idle for a few minutes. Look out for sudden drop and rise in the engine RPM and strange noises (if any) coming out of the engine compartment. Ideally, the engine should settle at a comfortable level and maintain the revs smoothly. 

13. Take an Expert Along

Of course, no one can check car engine health and understand the engine performance better than an expert. In case all of the above seems tough to carry out on your own, it’s best to take a trusted mechanic or an auto expert along. This will help you easily check car engine health. 


Q. How many years does an engine last?

While there is no straight answer to this, it can be safely said that in today’s world, a car’s engine lasts for anything around 10 years or about 5 lakh kilometers. 

Q. Can a damaged engine be fixed?

Theoretically, yes. However, for most practical reasons, any sort of major damage wherein a lot of parts need replacement turns out to be totally infeasible. In such cases, replacing the entire engine makes more sense. 

Q. What causes engine problems?

There are many problems, ranging from poor maintenance to incidents of hydrolocking, that can cause a car’s engine to go awry. Some of the most common causes of engine problems include - 

  • Overheating 
  • Broken Timing Belt
  • Low Engine Oil Levels
  • Hydrolocking

Recently Added Cars to Buy

Other Blogs


Popular Cities to Sell Car