If you’re buying your first car in Dhaka, chances are high that you’ll be buying used. Very few have the financial ability or the range to buy and maintain a brand new or reconditioned car straight off the bat – first time buyers usually settle for early to mid-90’s vehicles, found on classifieds sites like Bikroy, when taking the step towards car ownership. This presents a few problems – relative inexperience can mean disaster while buying the used car, even more so when the car turns out to be a lemon and starts breaking down frequently after purchase. Luckily, there are a few things you can do right after purchasing the car that will ensure a relatively long period of time where the car runs smoothly and is less troublesome to own and drive.
First thing you should always do after purchasing the used car of your dreams (!) – allocate a budget. Take what little change you have from the purchase and create a budget. This allows you to set out proper parameters for the repairs you’ll be doing to your used car and operating on a budget allows you to strictly go for the repairs that are most crucial. If the other tid-bits require you to extend the budget, you’ll automatically get into the groove of maintaining the car as you’ll probably keep tabs on what you’ll need to spend on next.
Another great practice after buying the car is to open up major areas of work at a trusted workshop. To find a good workshop, ask around, find a gear-head who knows the ins and outs of different places, or ask on social media – Facebook has a plethora of car-related groups where your queries will be answered pretty quickly. After you’ve settled on a workshop, take your used machine and have them open up all four wheels – allowing you access to the brakes, suspension, shocks and springs, steering, wheel bearings, gearbox and more. Most of the time, just removing the front wheels will open a can of worms which need to be tackled, with wheel bearings, CV joints, and suspension (ball joints, knuckle joints, tie-rods, various bushings) requiring the most attention on old cars from the 90’s, regardless of make or model. If any parts require replacement, getting reconditioned parts from Bangla Motor or Dholaikhal is a cost-effective option instead of getting brand new parts – downsides include more wear and tear on the replacement parts than meets the eye. To resolve this issue, take a gear-head friend along to buy the parts and have them double check the quality, or do your research on online forums for specific parts and how to spot bad replacements, since almost anything can be found online these days. Avoid taking your mechanic along to buy parts, unless you’re prepared to pay a hefty premium at the parts store – mechanics in Dhaka usually take a cut off every single part they can push your way from specific stores. If you’re buying brand new parts because you feel safer knowing they haven’t been used before, its worth taking note that most suspension parts in the country are Chinese knock-offs that will last half as much as the reconditioned parts – this is not a rule of thumb, but still worth considering the risks of.
Since the majority of the used cars sold in Bangladesh are Toyota‘s, its worth knowing what parts from other cars fit on your specific make and model – buying parts for those other cars may lead to significant cost savings and increased longevity. Case in point – the Toyota Ceres/Marino, a gorgeous series of hardtop, swoopy sedans produced from 1992 to 1997, are basically Toyota Corolla AE101/110/111 underneath, with most of the suspension components shared between them. Buying a set of shock absorbers for the Ceres will cost you on average about 2000 Taka more than Corolla shocks, since you’re going to the shops with a relatively uncommon name. Most manufacturers have such parts compatibility within platforms – keep in mind what parts are compatible between different cars.
Brakes are a major issue that most people ignore after test-driving and eventually purchasing a used vehicle. The logic is pretty solid – if the brakes work when testing the car, they will work after you’ve bought it, right? Not necessarily. It’s always a good idea to service the brakes and replace brake pads and if the previous owner did brake repairs, finding the areas worked on previously is crucial – don’t let someone else decide how and when your brakes work properly. If everything checks out and the brake system works fine, service the brakes by turning the brake discs or drums, replace the pads and top up on brake fluid anyway, so you have a reference point with which to do brake work in the future.
Speaking of reference points – it doesn’t matter if the previous owner serviced the car and topped up on engine oil before selling the car. To keep your own reference point of when you’ve serviced the car, do it all over again, especially so if the car runs CNG. The wear and tear on engine internals triple when CNG is used as an alternative to petrol, due to the excessive heat produced during normal operation with CNG. That heat will reduce the viscosity of the engine oil lubricating your engine internals, requiring you to change the engine oil more frequently to keep it purring like new. To do that, set up your own reference point and based on usage, change the oil every 6 months or so – check with professionals or online as to when you should be changing the oil. At the same time, clean the throttle body and replace the air-filter and make sure all the sensors and wiring are done properly – a missing sensor or a sloppy wiring job will give you long term hassle that you’ll want to avoid.
Have an AC expert look at your air-conditioning unit and keep track of which parts are close to being worn out – the compressor and the condenser will cost you a fortune to replace, so it’s a good idea to have prior knowledge of what might go wrong as opposed to being dunked into a pit of sudden expenses later on. Never trust a seller who says “you just need to top up the gas, the AC will work fine then” because in 100% of cases, if there is not enough gas in the system, there is most definitely a leak, which won’t go away if you just “top up the gas”.
Aside from the purely mechanical parts, it’s also worth changing the tyres if they’re worn out or have bubbles. Look for signs of repair and throw out the old tyres and invest in new ones – a good set of tyres will last you for years and provide a great boost in stability, braking performance and ride comfort.
Forget the body damage and missing trim and so on – if your used car is fine mechanically and works well on a daily basis, keep running it. Set aside a small budget monthly so you can either save up and fix the exterior bits such as headlights and paint and bodywork, or replace worn out interior trim and missing components. The easiest way to freshen up the interior on an old car is to save up and get a full set of doors (with door cards, windows, power window motors, central locking, etc.) and a dashboard from “Dholaikhal”, as it’ll cost you a fortune to buy the small bits individually. However, these are non-essential and probably not necessary at all if you intend on selling off the car and getting a new one in a few years’ time.
It’s really not all that difficult, buying and maintaining a used car. If treated properly and with care, the used car may even return a good price after it has served its purpose of being a metaphorical vessel taking you through the experience of owning a car. You’ll learn a lot about cars in general, possibly find a patient side to you that you never knew you had, or be reduced to tears and rage as your lemon breaks down for the 200th time on the side of a muddy road in “Kalshi” as a torrential downpour threatens to drown you and your rust-bucket of a car. Either way, it’s an enlightening experience and one that should not be taken lightly. Some might even say its better than owning a new car, so why not peruse the page after page of used car ads on Bikroy and pick one up?