Used Car Maintenance: What about Transmission oil?

For many of us new cars just aren’t in the budget, so we get to go used car shopping. The problem with buying a used car is that used car maintenance records are seldom kept and questionable at best. Usually there is no record at all and you have to take the seller’s word. There is almost NEVER a record of a transmission fluid change, and if you ask the seller you’ll get a mixed bag of answers. There are 3 basic places that most people will buy a used car from

  • Dealership (or as I like to call them – Stealership)
  • A used car dealer
  • Private Owner

I prefer to look at used cars for sale by owner when I can because if you are any good at reading people you can tell if they are feeding you a line of bull about the vehicle. Used car salesmen are not so easy to read, and you expect them to tell you what you want to hear. This is a problem when you ask about previous maintenance records. Dealers are sure to tell you that a little old lady from Pasadena owned the car and only drove it to church on Sundays and had all scheduled maintenance performed. Not likely.

How to tell if a used car needs a transmission oil change

If the car is an automatic something you should do before, after, or during the test drive is check the transmission fluid. You’re not really checking for the fluid level (although if it’s significantly low, that’s a sign of poor maintenance), you’re really interested in how the fluid looks and smells. Automatic transmission fluid should be red. If it’s brown, then it’s time for a change and the more dirty brown it looks the longer it’s been since the last change. Also, keep your eyes (or nose in this case) out for a burnt smell. As the oil degrades it will take on a sort of burnt carbon smell that’s usually pretty noticeable. Lastly, mileage is a pretty good tell tale. If the car is over 30,000 miles it’s due for a transmission oil change. I’d say any car over 50,000 miles is going to want a change done after you buy it regardless of what you were told. Better to be on the safe side, and you won’t find many fluids out there that have a life past 50,000 miles.

If the vehicle is a manual transmission you’re probably not going to get a chance to inspect the fluid unless you want to take the time, energy, and possible money to bring it to your auto mechanic of choice. You could check it on your own, but it involves pulling plugs on the transmission itself and that’s probably best left untouched since you don’t own the car yet. However, you can still get an idea whether the fluid should be changed or not. Again, mileage is a good indicator and anything over 50,000 miles should have the fluid drained and filled with some fresh fluid. Pay attention to how the transmission shifts when you go on the test drive, is it smooth, does it go from gear to gear easily? Also be listening for sounds that could come from the transmission, if the fluid hasn’t been changed and the car has high mileage there is a possibility that the bearings are getting worn. You can usually hear them spinning if they are going bad.

So no matter which transmission the used car you’re looking at has, be sure to check it out on your test drive. You don’t want to buy a used car only to need transmission work shortly afterward. To learn more about oil and fluid changes be sure to check out other good sites online.

4 Tips To Make Money Flipping Cars

“This is a guest post by a guy that I meet while I was working in Texas, He has worked at this so he really does know what he is talking about when it comes to making money at this. ”

 – Tom-

Buying and selling cars can either be an extremely lucrative side business or quickly turn into a money pit. There is a fine line between making a large amount of money “flipping cars” or losing your shirt on every transaction you make. The difference lies in the details and what can seem insignificant can really cost you in the long run.  Here are some suggestions for successfully buying and selling cars so that you can make money.

Do Not Be In A Rush

This is the first lesson I had to learn when I was engaged in this business. I am an impulsive person by nature and was quick to jump on what seemed like good deals at the time.  This trait cost me thousands at first.

Whenever I made quick decisions I paid for it.  No matter if I bought a car at an auction or from a personal individual I had to learn to never be in a rush.  Good deals will ALWAYS be there and impulsive purchases always turned out bad several hours down the line when I found something major was wrong with the car I just bought. Instead, think about the purchase you are about to make and get several opinions about it.

Check Under The Hood

I quickly learned that appearances can be deceiving. A nice looking car that looks in perfect shape might have an expensive mechanical problem underneath the hood that the owner is not currently disclosing. To be fair, he or she might not know about the problem.  For this reason it is a good idea to let a mechanic check out the car before you buy it.

After I had to spend a large sum of money fixing one costly repair I got into the habit of paying a mechanic $50 to do a used car inspection on every vehicle I was serious about buying. That might seem expensive but when you buy a vehicle and then find out later that you have to spend another $600 to fix the timing belt then that figure becomes really cheap.

Little things add up. There is a good chance you will have to make some significant repairs to any used car you buy. They are labeled “used” for a reason and parts break down. However, you want to know what is going to break down or what has already broken down before you buy this vehicle. This way, you can take off what the repair will cost you off the total purchase price.

Know And Consider Its Low Value

This seemingly insignificant detail cost me thousands of unnecessary dollars over the three years I was flipping cars for profit. It was not until the third vehicle I figured this out and made the necessary adjustments.

When I was looking at the value of a car I would always check NADA or Kelly’s Blue Book. Sounds smart enough, right? I did not know that these values are subjunctive and that you have to not only make your purchase based on the low resell value but also take $1,000 off that (KBB and NADA will usually give you three amounts: high, medium or low).  You must consider the worst case scenario when making the decision on whether you can make money from a car purchase.

If a vehicle’s low resell value is $5,000 then you might have to sell it at $4,000-$4,500 if you do not want to sit on it for several months. In this business you need to be able to turn money quickly. I always hated when I could not sell a car within two weeks of buying it.

Sure Kelly’s Blue Book and NADA might say you can get $5,000-$6,500 for it but that might not be what the local market can bear.

The current economy and demand influences how much you can sell a car or truck for. Any car or trucks that runs well will eventually sell but you might have to wait a long time to get “high blue book,” if that is what you have based your profit on.

Think About A Car’s Demand

You need to factor in the demand as well. Currently, Jetta 1.9 TDIs are in high demand.  The public loves how these vehicles look and they love the fact that they get over 40 miles per gallon. If you were to get a good deal on one then there will be a good chance you can resell it quick.  Honda Accords and Honda Civics are selling really well right now.

Think about the demand of a specific vehicle. Trucks and SUVs are harder to sell and you need to spend more money to get them. Parts and repairs are also more expensive on bigger vehicles.

As I write this gas prices are going up and when that happens the public gets spooked and stops buying larger vehicles.  When gas prices go down they buy them with a lot more frequency.

Consider a vehicle’s current demand and strive to get cars and trucks that you can sell quickly and do not have sit on them for six months before you can move them.


These four suggestions were written by Albert Randle of A & L Auto Transport Service, located in Houston, TX. His company specializes in transporting cars and trucks for individuals and dealerships. However, he spent three years buying and selling vehicles and blogs about the subject on various websites including