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Just purchased a used car - help?!

I just purchased a 2000 Ford Contour for my parents. It has 119k miles, but it was cheap. I know I need to take it to a mechanic and have a tune up, etc done to it, but what all should I have done? I know next to nothing about cars, and purchased this car from someone. I had a mechanic look over it at the get-go who pronounced it mechanically sound, but needed basic tune up like work. Any advice or info would be greatly appreciated!!

Get all of the fluids changed / flushed, have a tuneup performed, and figure out if the timing belt has been serviced. The timing belt is the biggie. Look in the owner’s manual to determine the interval at which timing belt service must be performed. Really, it’s not a terribly complicated procedure on this car, so it will be worth it to have it performed if it is due.

Other than that, make sure it’s got good tires, make sure it handles well on the highway, and make sure the brakes feel good, then let Mom and Pop have fun.

If the car has a 4 cylinder engine, it has a timing belt. It should have been changed by 100,000 miles. The 4 cylinder engine is NOT what is called an interference engine; so, if the timing belt goes, it won’t cause serious damage to the engine.
If the car has the 6 cylinder, it has a TIMNG CHAIN. A timing chain is good for the life of the engine.
If there is some kind of proof that the timing belt has been changed, there is no worry. If there is no PROOF of it being changed, change it as soon as practical.

Traditionally, most highway failures involved BELTS; HOSES; AND TIRES. Check them. If you don’t know how, Google for help or ask a friend.

119K miles is just short of the 120K mile service interval. The required service is listed in your scheduled maintenance booklet, or the dealer will have a copy. Here is a copy of the 1999 version:

It calls for timing belt inspection at 120K miles on the 4 cylinder engine. PCV valve replacement would also be important at this time.

Do you have maintenance records for this car? If not, at least the process of going through the 120K inspections and maintenance will give the technician time to look the car over.

The best advice for this vehicle would be to sell it. The Ford Contour was thankfully a short lived mistake by Ford. Probably the worst vehicle Ford has made in the past 25 years or so, maybe tied with the Aspire. Sorry to be a kill-joy.

Kill-Joy, Xebadiah. You Have Given Good Advice, But To The Wrong Question !

I believe that foreverlost wanted advice on getting it ready to turn over to his/her parents.
Here is the gist of the question, as I understand it:

Foreverlost asks, “It has 119k miles, but it was cheap. I know I need to take it to a mechanic and have a tune up, etc done to it, but what all should I have done? … Any advice or info would be greatly appreciated!!”

We could answer any question here by telling people to get rid of their car.

I have owned several cars that were notorious for being “bad” and have had excellent service from them. You are condemning this car before anything bad has happened.

Foreverlost states that the car was “cheap”. Many good buys on used cars are created by reputations for being “bad” cars.

The car was pronounced “mechanically sound,” by a trusted mechanic.

Besides, nobody ever would have owned an MG, Jaguar, Subaru, Dodge, Chevy, Ford, etcetera, etcetera, using your advice.

Sorry … Right answer/wrong question or Wrong answer/right question.

Common Sense Answer

Don’t worry, the car will be fine!
Here are the things which are most urgent to do:

  1. Change the anti-freeze, and the top radiator hose. Put the other hoses on the “to-do” list for next year.
  2. Have the brake fluid, power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid (and filter) drained and replaced. Drained, only.
  3. Change the fuel filter, air filter (if needed).
  4. All the belts may be original. Have them inspected, and replaced, if need be.

That’s about it. Your trusty mechanics may find a couple of minor things. The car should last, with maintenance prevent performed, as long as any

Thank you everyone for your help!! I had everything done that was recommended here, and the car is doing great. It was running fine to start with, I just didn’t want to turn it over to my elderly parents and have them have to do alot of costly repairs. It is a gift, so I didn’t want to ask my dad for advice, as it was a surprise. They are both disabled and on a limited income so they were VERY happy to get it, regardless of whether it was a cheap car or not.

One thing that the mechanic pointed out to me…he pulled out a spark plug dripping in oil. Yep, new valve cover gasket needed. Also, there was this lovely pair of vice grips clamped onto the brake line in the back passenger side tire well. I first thought the brake line was leaking and needed to be replaced but the mechanic inspected it and said it was … and I don’t remember what he told me… a tire cylinder? Something, anyway, fixed. I also had it painted, and the mechanic was raving about what great condition the car was in (lol - I didn’t tell him I’d just had a paint job done) and I got new seat covers and a dash cover. So I think, that with everyone on here’s help, this will be a great Christmas gift.

Thanks again!! I’m very grateful!!

Good, you did the right thing. I think you got replacement wheel cylinders, one of which was leaking. The vise grips on the brake line indicates the previous owner was into short cuts, not repairs. On the timing belt, if you didn’t get it replaced, get it done relatively soon. I think consensus here is that it is difficult to inspect a timing belt and know that it is in OK condition to continue. Better to replace it and water pump if needed, to ensure your parents don’t have an unplanned roadside emergency if the old one does break.

You tore a strip off the poster X, but you failed to try and help the OP.

Did you give yourself the 5 stars?


You were very thoughtful and considerate, good for you. I’m sure you’ve made your parents happy AND proud.