QOTW #51 – Don’t buy a LEMON! Aston Buying advice

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Welcome to BamfordRose and another question of the week. This week is ‘don’t buy a lemon’. I’m cautious about labeling any car a lemon, it’s someone’s pride and joy.

In this particular instance, the car isn’t the lemon; people that worked on it are the lemons. And they have caused problems.

So don’t buy a lemon is obviously at point of purchase; doing your homework to make sure you’re not buying a car with hidden problems.

A v8 Vantage, you know, 2005, up at 20, 25 grand they’re quite Hardy cars, the motors seldom go wrong. Gearbox, you know their agricultural, konkey but last forever.

You can take one of those cars for a drive, and if it isn’t smoking, if it’s not using water and getting hot, you know if it’s driving like a normal car, then you can be reasonably confident that you’re not buying anything which is going to trip you up later on with an extremely expensive repair bill.

The more complex the cars, the more difficult it is to ensure that you’re not buying a problem which someone else has hidden previously.

Db9, you need to do certain things there to develop a tick if the engine is going to exhibit a tick. And ultimately, any pre-purchase inspection should really be sticking in chemical sniffer to the coolant system.

Checking the head gaskets are good, and there’s no combustion gases being pushed over into the war system.

Go to a Vanquish, and it’s another level of complexity. And each time as a garage, we see these problems that creep in. It even raises to us the worthwhileness of a pre-purchase inspection.

If you don’t go to absolute town on checking for everything. And this particular Vanquish, again it’s Vanquish, it’s one of the best models ever made.

It’s got cracking road presence. They’re some things to drive. Okay, the dynamics are not as good as the later cars, but you don’t drive a Vanquish fast through the twisters. Vanquish ownership isn’t about that.

And I’m really loath to label the car a lemon; it isn’t. The owner has been unlucky at the point of purchase. He’s been let down by a few people he entrusted, and the car has been worked on by lemons, thus turning the car into a lemon.

But fundamentally, the car was a cracking piece of machinery from Aston Martin. Of course, it would have never left the factory a lemon, that’s not possible. So what happened to this car?

Well, before the current owner bought it. It’s had a coolant issue of some sort; I guess head gaskets. Because the base engine has been compromised because it ingested its catalyst. It failed the catalysts, probably from misfire.

And the bits of ceramic in the exhaust port, the engines suck back up and ingested. So here’s an invoice in this car’s history, of where a garage says oh, we’ve found a problem, it’s failed its catalysts, and we’ve replaced them.

So this is the first bit of detective work to ensure you’re not buying a lemon, go through all of its invoices, line item by line item. Because there will be a clue there which raises alarm bells.

And the clue here is it’s had new exhaust manifolds and catalysts; this is an immediate point of concern. Because on v12, we all know it’s highly likely if it’s failed its catalyst, but it’s ingested the debris back into the engine.

It spread the debris through the combustion chamber, sucked it back up into the inlet manifold. Distributed it to all cylinders, and now all cylinders are compromised. So what’s happened to this car?

If it failed its catalyst, the garages just replaced them. And it’s then been continued to run. We don’t know if anyone knew that the engine was compromised or had figured out the engine was compromised.

So it’s either been run naive, or it’s a cover-up. Because it’s been continuing to run in that failing state because now ceramic debris is scraping up and the piston rings and liner.

And it’s caused high internal friction, it’s caused an overheat. The line of that sunk a little bit in the block, it’s caused a head gasket failure.

And the car has been patched back up for sale. Now, this is where that current owner steps in, and he did what was thought was necessary; he had a pre-purchase inspection done.

Unfortunately, it was the garage that did all the work that did the pre-purchase inspection. So they’re either naive to the mechanicals in question, what could go wrong because of the component failure, that car has had, or they’re covering up.

Because at the pre-purchase inspection, there was no mention of well, you know it’s had a catalyst failure, and we’ve replaced those.

It had an unremarkable pre-purchase inspection. He’s then driven the car away, and immediately the check engine light has come on. And it’s either going to be for misfire or for torque impossibility, basically.

He’s asking for a certain amount of torque demand from the pedal, and the car is not accelerating at the rate of change it should for the amount of torque the engine should be producing.

And you know this is all plausibility checking that you have to do because it’s fly-by-wire. And the engine management system light has come on because of a torque possibility.

This was bought in America, it’s then gone across states to another state, and put into a franchise dealer for the problems to be fixed.

And they’ve noticed a few things incorrect because, in another invoice in this car’s history, it says they replaced incorrect water pipes. Well, why does anyone fit a non-standard water pipe? What has someone done there?

Why have they tried to change a component or cover something up? It is unfortunate at that point; it didn’t have any of these failures identified, any of the root causes identified.

They’ve seen a few fault codes, they’ve changed a few parts, and they’ve let the car go. So you know this is the second time that this particular customer has been let down by a garage not identifying all the faults.

It then goes to a garage in Europe, then goes to a couple of places in the UK. Again, no one is picking up the root causes of the problems that this car is having.

And then it comes to us for a fix of just a gearbox issue, nothing to do with this engine fold that it’s got.

So when the car comes here, okay, we know straight away because the gearbox isn’t shifting properly that there is a gearbox issue. But we’re more concerned about the engine because it’s way down on power.

It’s running a bit rough, and it’s got a little bit of a rattle to it. You have to listen quite closely. You have to develop the rattle on and off the throttle, but it’s definitely rattling. So our concern immediately when this car came in wasn’t for the gearbox issue, it’s for the engine.

It’s got a problem. And this is now coming to answer the question, don’t buy lemon, and how you can prevent that from happening. So these problems were always present, probably by the first garage that bulged it back into life after its failure.

I’ll show a picture now of the harness which plugs into the coolant level sensor in the expansion tank. So it’s been breached. Now it was taped to the underside of the expansion chamber, so it looked like it was in position.

But now, you can see the expansion chamber and see at the bottom here. Someone has plugged the hole where that sensor should be sitting. So this car has had a coolant issue, it’s had a head gasket issue.

It’s got hot liners of sunked, and it started to pressurize the water system and push water out and lose water level. So what has someone done to hide that? Well, it bridged the level sensor and taken the sensor out of the expansion thing.

The next thing wrong with this car, and it is more than likely going to explain some of its shifting gremlins, is look at the ECU’s here, and you can see some flower seeds, and there was a bit of bedding around there.

There’s been some rodents in the ECU’s. So this is another thing that a pre-purchase inspection, especially the more complicated the cars get, Vanquish needs to be looking for this stuff.

Need to take the under trays off, need to take covers off, engine covers, and stuff like that. You need to have a really proper look around the car.

You know, a pre-purchase inspection isn’t something that’s done in a car park by a branded van, from well-known recovery outlets who just drive the car.

You know, I see people saying, oh, I would have had the pre-purchase inspection done by these people.

Well, if you were to take the car for MOT, then the MOT test station would actually do a better pre-purchase inspection than those because they put the car rollers.

Test the brake out, test the emissions output of the engine, and MOT would be a better pre-purchase inspection.

But even that isn’t going to pick up these sorts of things. You know someone has tried to hide something on the coolant system, there have been rodents in at the ECU.

And there is history to say that components have been replaced, and the failure of those components can cause catastrophic issues.

So the more complex the car, the more expensive it is to repair if something goes wrong. Really need to go to town on a pre-purchase inspection. It starts by putting the car on the ramp, taking the under trays off, and you’re looking for anything untoward.

We’re looking for any nuts, washers, components that have been changed that are not non-standard. And that leads you down a path of asking why is this being done, and that will open the door to bigger issues that are wrong or trying to be covered up.

As I say, I loathe to label a Vanquish a lemon, and as you can see by the outline of this story, this car has been failed by all the people that have worked on it. Because rewind the story, at the point the car suffered its catalyst failure, just putting new manifolds and catalysts on the car was the wrong repair.

And maybe the direction was to do the minimal repair, to cover up a wider problem. And garages have to question themselves, whether that’s actually an okay thing to do.

Because you know your customer might be instructing you to do something for them, and paying you a sum of money. But basically, what you’re doing is cooking up a huge problem for a poor, unsuspecting future owner.

And that’s why garages should really question the morals behind patching a car up for sale. You know if the car had been repaired properly at that point in time, then you know it’s going to save the future owner a big sum of money.

Maybe the current owner didn’t have the money to repair the problem, but you know, sell it distressed.

At least be transparent about it. because with the incorrect repairs that this car has had from various different garages before coming here, and now the repair to get this car running properly, both in terms of it’s fix and its gearbox fix.

This is going to exceed 50,000 pounds worth of repairs, yes. So you can get away without doing your checks on a v8 Vantage, because even if it’s a catastrophic motor, few of the components, the repair belonging to a V8 isn’t going to rack up to that amount.

But as I say, the more complex the car is, a Vanquish, then parts labor will amount to a huge amount of money. And when people phone up here and ask us to do pre-purchase inspections, we offer that service.

And what we always say is okay, we need a ramp where we’re going, and we need to outstrip the car where we’re going, and most people get unhappy about this.

Because if a vendor was selling a car, you know we’ve stripped under trades off quite a few covers, found some problems.

The person doing the inspection, therefore, doesn’t want to go through with the purchase; this is all big hassle to that vendor.

And maybe when you’ve taken a trace off, fixings of shirred because they’ve not been off for a long time, and this causes a problem and this why vendors are not open to pre-purchase inspections of that intrusive nature.

But unless you’re happy to take the gamble, if you’re going into a purchase, especially of a vanquish, eyes wide open, the pre-purchase inspection needs to be of that level. And it has to be done by someone independent of the sale.

Anyway, it’s a bit of a pet hate subject of mine; I hate people being stitched up buying lemons.

Because mostly, when someone’s buying into Astons, they’re putting many years’ worth a savings into it.

And immediately after the point of purchase, if he’s then got to fund a substantial repair bill, it’s just very uncomfortable.

And that dream that you’ve been aspiring to for many years turns into a nightmare, and it’s just regrettable all around. And you can solve it by having the very strict, very thorough bit of detective work on a proper pre-purchase inspection.

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