Under The Hood

Selling Your Car? Fix These 6 Things First And Get Top Dollar

It's happening.

You've made the decision to say "adios" to your old car. But is your trusty steed prepared to be sold for the best possible price?  

Here's 6 things you should fix to maximize the value of your car before you sell it. 



Checking for old tires is one of the very first things used car buyers do. When yours are worn, it's painfully obvious 

Here's a handy way to access the condition of your tires using good ol' honest Abe.  

Find a penny and hold Abe's body between your thumb and fore finger. Choose a point on your tire where the tread appears to be worn down the most and stick Abe's head into the groove. If any part of his head is covered by the tread, you're good to go. 


Photo courtesy of Michelinman.com  

If Abe's head is fully visible, your tires are balder than the American Bald Eagle, and you better get new ones before you sell your car.  




Most used car buyers expect there to be some wear on the brakes. However, it's going to be a deal breaker (pun super intended) if they hear grinding noises upon coming to a stop during their test drive.  

Brake pads should be replaced every 20 60k miles, depending on your driving style and the make of your car. Those subjected to stop n' go city traffic will have to change their pads more often, while those who drive in long uninterrupted stretches will fare better. Regardless of your situation, it's  important that you pay attention to how your brakes are sounding when you stop.  

Depending on the wear from the brake pads, you may also have to get your rotors replaced.  If possible, opt to just get brake pads and your front rotors resurfaced, as this is much less expensive than buying brand new rotors.  



  • Oil

Check what your mileage was the last time you got an oil change. There should be a sticker on the inside of your windshield on the driver's side from the last time you got one.  




As for how often you should be changing your oil- the short answer is "it depends". Specifically, It depends on how new your car is and how terrible your driving conditions are.  

According to AAA Technical Services Director Mike Calkins, most new cars today can go 7,500 and even 10,000 miles in between oil changes. That being said, check if your car is equipped with an oil life indicator if you're planning on driving over 7,500 miles.  

An oil life indicator lets you know when it's time to change your oilnot only based on mileage, but on the actual conditions that affect your oil quality.  

For older cars pre- 2007),  mechanics generally recommend changing every 5,000 miles if you drive in regular conditions, and every 3,000 if you drive in severe conditions.  

According to AAA, "severe" driving conditions are defined as follows:  

  • Driving on short trips of less than five miles in normal temperatures or less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures. 

  • Driving in hot weather stop-and-go traffic. 

  • Driving at low speeds of less than 50 miles per hour for long distances. 

  • Driving on roads that are dusty, muddy or have salt, sand or gravel spread on the surface. 

  • Towing a trailer, carrying a camper (if a pickup truck) or transporting items on a roof rack or in a car-top carrier. 

  • Making “jack rabbit” stops and starts — are you slamming on your gas AND brakes in between red lights that are 100 yards apart?  

So basically, if you live in a city in the Midwest....congratulations, you drive in "severe" conditions.  Hey, we can't ALL live in Florida.  

If you use full synthetic oil, you can expect around 5,000-  7,500 miles between changes, even if your car is older and you live in a state with crazy temperature fluctuations.  

Synthetic oil costs more than conventional, but with the additional mileage you get in-between changes, you'll most likely save money in the long run.  

In addition to changing your oil, you'll also want to make sure the following fluids are up to snuff.  


  • Antifreeze
    Power Steering Fluid 

  • Brake Fluid  

  • Transmission Fluid  

  • Windshield Washer Fluid  

The changing of these fluids will be part of a standard tune-up that you can get at any local service shop.  

Air Filters  


Dirty air filters can hurt the performance of your car. According to a study done by the U.S Department of Energy, a clogged air filter can decrease acceleration by 6-11%.  

Modern cars have two air filters. The cabin air filter, and the engine air filter.  Like oil, the answer for how often you should change them depends on the make of your car and its driving environment. At the very minimum, you should get your air filters changed every 30,000 miles.  

Often, you can tell if your engine air filter needs to be changed just by looking at it. If there are black spots on the filter where outside air enters, there's the evidence you need. 



Check out the difference between a brand new and dirty engine filter, courtesy of Yaman.com 


Lights are a crucial part of safe drivingFortunately, they are relatively easy to check and cheap to fix. You'll want to make sure your headlights are shining bright, and that your turn signals and brake lights are functioning normally.  

To make sure your brake lights are working, have a friend stand behind your car and verify that both light up as you put your foot on the brake. 

If there is not a friend available, put a heavy object on your brake pedal to engage it, walk around the back- and check yourself.  


  • Image courtesy of Chill Insurance  


    Last, but certainly not least- you'll want to make sure your car battery is working properly. The newer your car is, the more essential it is that your car battery is functioning at top performance.  

    The reason for this is that new cars utilize electronic technology that old cars don't. The battery is doing more than just starting the engine, it's responsible for powering the on-board computers in your car, and all the functions that those computers make possible!  Here’s just a few things that a new car's computer plays an integral role in regulating:

    • Anti- Lock Brakes  
    • Automatic Transmission  
    • Air Bag  
    • Keyless entry/ security system  
    • Advanced climate control  
    • Any radio or CD player that has a digital display 
    • Cruise Control