There are several things to check in imported cars before use, mainly used ones. Some are key car components, while the rest are essentials that ensure your vehicle’s smooth operation. Second-hand vehicles imported overseas have become a popular alternative to brand-new cars among mid-income earners in developing countries.

Some imported cars can come in decent condition if you’re lucky enough to buy one like that. On the other hand, some may look good but have crucial issues. At worst, you buy one in bad condition due to its previous owners’ inadequate maintenance or a lemon car.

10 Things To Check In Imported Cars Now

Do you know that even if you have imported the best car grade from abroad, there’s still a chance of elemental exposure and damage during shipping or storage? On that note, checking your vehicle thoroughly after delivery is crucial.

In this article, we have put together a checklist of ten things to control your imported motor vehicle before taking it on the road for help.

Summarily, you are to check:

  1. Engine
  2. Lights
  3. Oil and Other Essential Fluids
  4. Mileage
  5. Wheel and Tire Condition
  6. Cabin Interior (Including Dashboard and Warning Lights)
  7. Documents (Including Maintenance History, Import Duty, Owner’s Manual, etc.)
  8. Brakes
  9. Bodywork (Including Exterior and Underneath)
  10. Axles, Driveshaft, and Shock Absorber

1. Engine

The car engine is like the car’s heart, without which the vehicle cannot operate. A technician should carry out a proper inspection before usage. It is necessary to control the following:

  1. signs of a gasket leak,
  2. the smell of burnt oil
  3. Antifreeze (thermostat)

Dark brown stains on the engine blocks are often signs of a gasket leak. If that is the case, consider inspecting and fixing it with a mechanic before the engine’s condition worsens.

Also, consider checking the radiator closely. A broken or leaking radiator could also signify a more serious underlying problem with the engine.

2. Lights

Your brake and other signal lights are crucial for safe driving during the day and at night. Other mornings, such as headlights, taillights, and interior lights, are equally vital for night driving.

Before riding into the sunset with your newly purchased car, inspect all the lights to ensure everything works fine. If you find any faulty lights or burned-out bulbs, you should fix them immediately before using your car.

3. Oil and Other Essential Fluids

Before using an imported car, you must check the level and condition of your engine oil and other vital fluids like engine coolant, transmission, power steering, brake, and washer fluids.

Usually, the owner’s manual contains instructions on how to check your engine oil level. Typically, the oil level should be close to the “full mark” of the dipstick. Check if the oil level is low or if there is none.

The color of the oil and transmission fluid also matters. The oil should be light brown, while the transmission fluid should be red or pink. These factors should be checked before you use your imported car.

Further, check signs of oil leakage in your engine area by looking under the hood and underneath the car. If you notice any sign of oil or fluid leaks, consult an expert for more profound control before using the vehicle.

4. Mileage

After you’ve purchased a foreign-used car or any used car at all, it is essential to find out the actual mileage of your motor vehicle before you proceed to use it. The reason for that is that specific car components and essentials are to change after certain mileage gaps.

For instance, depending on your car’s actual mileage at the point of purchase, you may need to change your timing belt (if it has one) before using the vehicle and, ideally, changing the timing belt after every 60,000 – 100,000 miles.

Other car essentials recommended for change after certain mileage intervals include fluids, air filters, brake pads, etc.

5. Wheel and Tire Conditions

It is essential to check the condition of the wheels and tires in imported cars before using them.

Ideally, all four car wheels should be parallel and perpendicular to the ground. However, if you observe that the vehicle pulls to one side while test driving, that indicates that the wheels might have gone out of alignment.

You should check the tiresmanufacturing date to be sure they have not expired. While at it, you’re to verify that the accompanying tires match the dimensions recommended by the manufacturer. In the future, you should look for uneven wear patterns, cuts, or embedded nails, glasses, or stones within the treads and sidewalls. Irregular wear patterns on the track could also indicate poor wheel alignment or problems with steering, frames, and suspension.

Finally, it would help if you inspected the tires’ tread depths to ensure they are intact. An easy way to do this is to insert a coin or a small screwdriver blade into the grooves between the treads and measure off against a millimeter rule. A depth of 1.5mm – 2mm is considered safe for driving. For anything less than 1.5mm, you should consider changing the tires.

6. Cabin Interior (Including Dashboard and Warning Lights)

A thorough check of the interior cabin’s overall condition is necessary before driving your foreign-used imported car. Besides confirming that all essential accessories are working, you should also ensure that seats are tightly fixed to the floor and adjusted appropriately for safe driving.

The most important is to pay close attention to the dashboard light signals. It is where any check engine or warning light indicative of any underlying issue will appear. If you’re unsure what a particular warning light means, consult your owner’s manual.

7. Documents

Here are the documents you should check for an imported car before using it:

  1. Car Registration: This proves the car has been registered with the relevant authorities.
  2. Payment of Duty/Taxes: This document shows that all necessary duties and taxes have been paid.
  3. Change of Ownership: If the car is pre-owned, this document shows that the ownership of the vehicle has been legally transferred to you.
  4. Current License: Ensure your driving license is present before taking the car out.
  5. Vehicle’s Service and Maintenance History: This provides valuable insights into what the previous owner did with the car and how best to maintain it subsequently.
  6. Owner’s Manual: This is a crucial document you should consult when you have doubts about your vehicle.

Remember to have all these documents in order before you start using your imported car. Safe driving!

8. Brakes

If, while test-driving your imported foreign-used vehicle, you hear a grinding noise when you apply your brakes, it could be a sign of worn-out brake pads. Such requires immediate intervention. Even without hearing the noise, you may want to visually inspect your brake pads to see if they need replacing.

Still, on brakes, your brake pedal should be neither too hard nor too soft to push when you apply the brakes. A defective brake booster is a common culprit of brake pedal stiffness in modern vehicles. A brake booster is a component in the brake system that provides vacuum assistance during braking. If there is a defect, its brake assist function is lost, and the brake pedal becomes too hard to push.

You may experience a soft or spongy brake for many reasons. A common one is damage or air in the brake line. A quick fix for this is to change or flush the brake fluid. The fluid helps to get rid of the brake line’s air – this activity is called bleeding.

The brakes mentioned above could be lethal if left unfixed in a car. If you experience either of them and are unsure how to fix them, it is best to have your vehicle checked out immediately by your trusted mechanic.

9. Bodywork (Including Exterior and Underneath)

If you’re one to fuss over dents or scratches on your vehicle, you should inspect the overall condition of the bodywork of your foreign-used vehicle before using it. If you happen to find some minor scratches, maybe you should get them fixed to make your car look lustrous and new again.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, it is recommended that you check underneath your newly imported vehicles to ensure no signs of oil or fluid leaks. Checking underneath the car will also help you assess the degree of rusting underneath the vehicle and how best to slow it down.

10. Axles, Driveshaft, and Shock Absorber

Axles transfer power from the transmission to the wheels. The axles also bear the weight of your vehicle as a whole. Before you drive your newly purchased used auto, check for signs of failure in the axle. Vibrations accompanied by rumbling noise underneath your vehicle, tire wobbling, sluggish steering, or driving are all signs of defective (either bent or broken) axles. If you suspect a failing axle, you should let a mechanic check this out.

Your car suspension system consists of shocks and struts that ensure your car rides smoothly and maintains proper contact with the road. You can tell if your shocks have been damaged if the riding quality is no longer smooth and you feel the little bumps in the cabin.


The first ideal thing to do when you receive your imported vehicle would be to physically inspect the various components and essentials, as discussed above. Next would be to take your purchase for an intensive test drive. While at it, you should pay attention to any signs of faults or component failure, just as we’ve discussed above.

Lastly, it is essential to check your vehicle’s details, such as your vehicle identification number (VIN), color, and model, against what is contained in your Customs clearance document to be sure they match. In a country like Nigeria, you could get into a lot of trouble with the Customs Authority on patrol if one of the numbers or letters of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) contained in your customs clearance document does not match the actual VIN on your car.

We have concluded this article by discussing the list of things to check in your imported cars before use. We hope you’ve found this article very helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions or experiences you would like to share in the comment section below.


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