Buying an used Octavia - tips

Applies for both Octavia Tour and Octavia 2

Buying an used car is always risky. Used car dealers know neither friends nor relatives.
All the things I write about buying used cars in the following lines are based on information from index.hu Škoda forum mates and my own experiences.
The Octavia faults I describe below are well-known in Škoda communities around the world, some of them occurred on cars of my friends and forum mates or on my own Octavia 2.

 

General advices

One of the most important parts of an used car is the Service Book. Each new car is provided with one. In the Service Book all the compulsory and regular service check-ups and maintenance operations are recorded and certified by the stamp of the Škoda Dealer.

Since it is possible to create a fake Service Book with never happened check-ups and service operations, you should contact the dealer indicated by the stamp of the last Service Book entry and check the validity of the information. Maybe, privacy regulations of your country or privacy policy of the dealer does not allow them to inform You. In this case I suggest to contact the previous owner of the car, whose address and phone number is always in the Service Book. You can get valuable information!

You should read the Service Book thoroughly, check the mileage and time information between check-ups (are they following logically?), look for other repairs recorded on the last pages reserved for notes.

If the Service Book is filled by independent workshop, it’s not a problem. Especially if you find bills of the used materials enclosed. In some countries Škoda dealers’ prices are very high compared to a reliable private workshop.

Regularly is always a good sign, it shows the previous owner took care of the car and it might get the proper oil, coolant and other parts during service operations.

That’s why I say: No Service Book – No Deal!
Avoid those cars, you can find many others with Service Book!

Remember: odometer of Škoda and other cars can be set to any value in 2 minutes by experts using the proper electronic devices or a notebook. In my country these people recommend their “services” even in papers or on the net. Used car dealers can clean-up, shine and polish the interior and the exterior of any car professionally, so any car can get younger by tens of thousand miles even!

If the Service Book is provided with the car, but no entry for the last few years, check the mileage between two recorded checks and calculate with this value to estimate what the odometer should write on the display.

One more thing to remember: noone sells a diesel car before 165.000 miles or the first expensive repairs!

It’s still better to buy a car with proven high mileage than with uncontrollable low mileage!

If you still want to buy a car without Service Book, you can be sure of the double of the miles displayed by odometer and separate some money to cover the costs of replacement at least the following parts to ensure reliability of the car:


Škoda cars’ first 60.000 miles are without any serious repairs. Parts of running gear can wear depending on the quality of roads in your country. The expensive repairs come at 75.000-110.000 miles: clutch, shock-absorbers, brake discs, timing belt, parts of exhaust system. When buying a car with high mileage you always ask what has been already replaced of these items. What’s not replaced yet, that will be replaced at your cost!
Main units of powertrain (engine, transmission) usually will not require any repair before 155.000-188.000 miles. The older 8V petrol engines and diesels without turbocharger may run the double of this flawlessly.

 

Examining certain parts of the car may tell you much about the history of the car.

Chassis:

Check the lines of the body. The side moldings, the curves. Check the gaps between the headlights and the bonnet, the headlights and the bumpers, the bonnet and the fenders, the fenders and the “A” pillar, the trunk lid and the rear fenders, the body and the bumpers. Gaps should be equal and only few millimeters!

Are the parts of the body all in the same colour?

How the doors are closing? Easily? If not, check, how they’re aligning to the chassis and look for colour tone differences between the doors and other parts of the body.

Examine the body parts, like bonnet, fenders, bonnet lock cross member, lamps. Check the screw heads for damage caused by worn wrench (the rectangular hexagon heads are rounded). The originally painted screw heads (like the ones in the engine compartment, holding the fenders) should be painted and the paint coating should be undamaged. The originally unpainted screws should be clean of paint (like headlamp screws).

Check the headlamps. Are they original or replaced by aftermarket products? Škoda headlights were never manufactured in Taiwan. China-based companies manufacture Octavia headlights but they can be considered original parts only on China-assembled Octavia Ming Rui models, not on european cars! Look after the headlight fastening tabs. In case of damage they’re often repaired or glued by plastic welding experts.

Check the rear lights, headlights, side index lights. Are they the usual on that model from that time the car was made? For example: on a 1997. made Octavia you should not see clear, unribbed headlights or white rear index lights with yellow-coloured bulbs.

On the bonnet lock cross member of Octavia Tour, between the headlights, close to the battery you can see a 4-digit code. This is the week and year of production of the cross member. For example: 22/04 means 22nd week of 2004. If no code can be seen or the code shows a later date then the car was manufactured, the cross member was replaced and probably because of a collision damage. Octavia 2 has no such identification code.

Are the plastic wheel housing liners unharmed?

If longitudinal members are not hidden, check them after damage.

If the car shines too intensively, check for polishing material remains. White dirt on window rubber sealing, side moldings, lights.
Maybe, the car was polished only for painting shine restoration purposes, but it is possible that some parts of the body was re-painted and the colour differences had to be vanished. So, watch for paint drops too!

The best way to unveil the truth is using paint coating layer thickness meter. This device can be lent, but all the dealers have one, since they’re using it when buying used cars. You may ask them for one, but if they say they don’t have any, you’d better leave that car for someone else.

Most of these devices are not suitable to measure paint coat thickness on plastic parts, because they’re working on metal surfaces only.
Factory painted cars have typical layer thickness of 70-180 microns (micro meters). The paint layer consists of base coat, paint and lacquer. When body parts are replaced, the dealers using factory technology can produce 200-280 microns. If parts were not replaced but repaired with body-cement and re-painted, layer thickness always goes above 300 microns.

Use the measurement device yourself. Measure every body part at 8-10 point. The layer thickness must be even at all points, only small differences allowed. Cars painting sometimes damaged during manufacturing processes or maybe, the painting process is not perfect. In this case the quality check unveils the problems and the car is sent back to repeat some phase of painting work. The layer thickness must also be even after this re-work.

If the car was damaged at the front, check the body at suspension strut mountings. If traces of repair can be seen, or painting thickness is more than 50-100 microns (no lacquer applied on these surfaces), don’t buy the car. The running gear alignment will never be perfect.

It is worth checking the plastic and rubber parts of engine compartment. Missing elements, nuts, screws, bits means the car was repaired, and was not assembled too precisely.

If serious damage is possible, check the door sills. Paint layer thickness should be measured on the surface covered by the doors when they are closed, because the outer side of the door sill is covered with thick underbody coating and this coating is painted. So open the doors and measure the surface on the bottom of door openings.

If all you can find is several small repairs, don’t worry, people do use their cars and a parking lot is not as safe as a garage. But, it’s a good reason to bargain. When you find traces of body repair on a body part, like a door, check the window next to it. All the windows has several numbers engraved, but there is a lone digit, that shows the year of manufacturing date of the glass. If the glass is original, it was really a small injury. Although, it’s better to check the layer thickness of the door sill and the roof next to the door at several points.

It’s hard to find an unharmed used car, but most of the stone chips, scratches, dents can be repaired with the newest technologies in a very short time, without any visible marks left. Don’t forget to bargain!

 

IDs, labels:

Chassis number is always a 17 character long code. It's name is VIN, stands for Vehicle Identification Number. Car manufacturers all around the world use this code format for many decades now.
Some brands encode engine and trim level information into the VIN. So Škoda does (and other VW related brands do).

VIN number can be found at several parts of the car body. In the engine compartment engraved into the chassis, on a small metal plate with other information and in the left lower corner of the windshield. This code must be the same than the one in the documentation of the car!

All Škoda cars have the model year (MY) encoded into the VIN. Cars manufactured in 2000. or later surely have trim level info (Classic, Ambiente, Elegance), engine info, number of airbags fitted, and even the ID code of the manufacturing plant encoded into the VIN.

Model Year does not equal to the year of manufacture!
One MY starts in the summer of one year (July, August) and ends before the summer of the next calendar year (May, June).

So, a car that was manufactured in August, 2004. is surely a MY2005 car, and the other, manufactured in May, 2005. is still a MY2005 car.
Car makers usually do some changes to their models in a new model year (new colours, new engines, new extra options).

Engine number is pressed into the engine block or on a label on a plastic part (like toothed cam belt cover).
This must match to the engine number in the car documentation!

All the new Octavias have 2 self-adhesive labels under the lining on the bottom of luggage compartment, next to the spare wheel.
During the take over procedure one of these labels is placed into the service booklet, the other is onto the metal bottom of luggage compartment.

The label has the VIN, engine code, body colour code, transmission code, carpet colour code and several 3-digit, so-called 'option' codes referring the options installed as default or by customer's request (like: heated seats, towing bar, advanced audio system).

I'd highlight one of the option codes. It can be found in the last row, this is the first code of the line.
It can be QG0, QG1 or QG2.
This code shows, how the car was manufactured: with a normal service and oil change period of 1 year or 15.000 km (9.000 miles) or an elongated, felxible service period when the car is watching some parameters (no, not the wear of oil as most people would think) and depending on them, instructs the driver when it's time to change oil and have a service check. If the driver handles the car properly (few cold starts, long journeys, no high revs with cold engine), then the maximum service period is 2 years or 30.000 km (19.000 miles).

QG0 and QG2 mens that the car must be taken to check-up and oil service in every year or in every 15.000 km (9.000 miles).

QG1 means, that it's an elongated service interval, the on-board computer will notify if time of service check and oil change has arrived. This depends on how the car is used: number of cold starts, the time the engine spent in high rev zone, etc.
The maximum period possible is 30.000 km (19.000 miles) or 2 years.
This service period requires special oil that fulfills VW standards. It's a little bit more expensive than a regular oil for the same engine but with short service period. It's far more expensive, if You buy the oil from the dealer.

If the service booklet says, that an originally QG1 car was serviced in 1-year or 15.000 km (9.000 miles) period, it means that either the owner asked this, because of the cheaper oil or the dealer (intentionally or not) set the service interval wrongly during the pre-delivery revision.

IMPORTANT! An originally QG1 service period car set to QG0 period later, cannot be set to QG1 again!

The most expensive service procedure of Octavias usually at 90.000 km (56.000 miles), except diesel or large petrol engines.
This includes the change of whole cam timing mechanism (toothed belt or chain, tensioners, water pump) which may cost several hundreds of GBP or EUR.
That's why a car with 100.000 km (62.000 miles) and surely being after this expensive service (owner has an invoice about the repairs!) can be a better deal than one with less mileage but before this service procedure.

Safety belts of the front seats all have a small label near to the floor level. The year of manufacture of belt can be found on this label. If tha safety belt is younger, than the car, it means, tha belt had to be changed.
It's only have to be changed if the belt had stiffened during an accident, because a rigid belt provides no safety in an other collision.

In case of the failure of safety belt retracting mechanism the safety belt might have been changed (in warranty or for cash).
Always ask the seller about it, if the date of the safety belt does not match to the car production date!
He or she should be able to show you an invoice or a document about the problem covered by warranty.

 

Windows:

All the windows have the year of manufacture printed, with one digit. So, 7 means 1997 AND 2007 too...
Some of the glasses can be older, than the car itself, maybe, it was manufactured earlier. For example: rear windscreen wiper was not a default for 2-3 years on Octavia 2. That's why the rear window with a hole in it for the wiper motor was rarely used, most of the cars was ordered without rear wiper. Some of the rear windscreens made in 2004 used only on cars built in 2005.
Any glass younger than the car means, it was replaced. Ask the seller, why...

Check the manufacturer's name on the windows. Replacement windows usually after market products from another maker than the original windows.

Check the rear windscreen heating lines, they must be continous, or the rear window heating will not work!
Also check the electric connections!

If the front or rear windscreen is cracked, it can be because of a stone chip, but maybe, the car was rolled over and the body was not repaired properly so any new windscreen will be cracked after some time as it will be squeezed by the metal.
Check the body if the cracked windscreen is not the original!

If the car's windows are covered with protective foil, ask for the certificate of the foil. If the owner has no such documentation, the traffic authorities or the police may have you to remove them or will fine you!
You should also check the operation of window lifter mechanism, door handles and everything on the door, maybe, the door was not assembled properly when the foil was put on.
Look for traces of wet around the doors! In case of improper door assembly, there can be sealing problems resulting water ingress.

In my country it's strictly forbidden to place any foil on the front windscreen! What about yours?

 

Engine compartment:

Check the colour of the coolant. It must be purple or red, and NO traces of oil, NO rainbow-coloured stains or foam! Only the G12 or G12 Plus coolants protect the aluminium parts of the cooling system from corrosion, and those are in red or purple colour. If you find coolant wiht other colour, the car may have problems later!
Coolant level must be between the Min. and Max. markings on the reservoir even at cold engine. When engine is hot, the coolant level can be over the Max. level.

Check the oil level when engine is cold. It must be between the min. and max. markings on the dipstick. Colour of the oil should be black or dark brown. Cars with elongated or flexible service interval have very thin "Longlife" oil, after 20.000 km (12.500 miles) it can still have gold-brown colour.

Unscrew the oil fill cap. If you see a brown-white coloured material, maybe the car was used in city area mostly. In this case this material should disappear after a longer out-of-city journey and only oil can be seen on the cap.
In the other case the engine coolant gets into the oil. You should check the colour of coolant (see above)!

Check the ignition cables for damages of the rubber insulation. All the 1.6 litre engines (except 1.6 FSI of Octavia 2) have high voltage ignition cables. VW-originated 1.4 engines and above 1.6 litre engines have separate ignition coils for each cylinder.

All Octavia 2 cars have a bottom plastic engine protection cover. At Octavia Tour only some engines have. 1.4 or 1.6 enginges usually don't have any or have a very small one.
Check the engine top cover, check the hoses and wires. They all have their own place, originally they were always fastened to a fix point of the body or the engine, or to another hose or wire with a clamp. The engine top covers always have some hoses or wires attached to it, on the bottom side.
If you find some loose hoses or wires, the car was repaired by a not very precise mechanic.

If the engine compartment is very clean, it was washed recently. Maybe, because of oil leak. After the test drive, check the engine again and look for traces of oil.

Let's check the battery too! Open its compartment (if it has, like on Octavia 2). Batteries usually work for 4 years, some of them even 6 years. If the car is older than 4 years and the battery is still the original one (check the date of the manfufacture, it's printed on the battery), the battery may flat-out on the first cold morning.
If you see green or white material on any of the battery clips, the battery has problems.
If you see rust on the metal surfaces around the battery, there is or there was an acid leakage from the battery. Beside the corrosion problems you may pay for a new battery soon!

Some Czech Akkuma (Octavia Tour) or Varta batteries (Octavia 2) have the so-called magic eye. It's a small window with a coloured spot behind it. If you see green colour, the battery is OK. If you see black, knock the small window. If it turns to green, it's OK. If it stays black, the battery voltage is under the required value. In this case, maybe the battery need some fill-up with distilled water, but maybe, it has to be changed soon.

Check the V-ribbed belt (generator driving belt) for damages.

 

Tires:

Octavias are equipped with many different, middle-class tires, usually 2-3 years earlier developed types. I could not find any logic or order about the brands. It does not depend on the trim level, so if you order an Elegance with tons of extra options, you may still get a car with Matador tires or a Classic with Michelin ones.
Bad news: on all the Octavia Tour cars I saw, Matador Elite tires were fitted.

NO winter tires were ever fitted on Škoda cars by the factory!

The spare tyre is always on steel wheel, even if the car is originally equipped with alloy wheels. Exception: the spare tyre is substituted by a flat tyre repair kit by the factory.

Original tires wear off between 40-60.000 kms (25-37.000 miles), depending on the way of usage.

On the side wall of the tyre many numbers can be seen. The numbers after "DOT" show when the tyre was manufactured. DOT 4905 means that the tyre was manufactured on the 49th week of year 2005. Check, how those dates match to the age of the car!

If you see a bulge on the side wall of a tyre, one of the inner steel belts may be broken. It's extremely dangerous driving a car with a tyre like this!

I saw Barum tires with a little bulge on each of them and there was no broken steel belt in the side wall, but it is worth have the tires checked in a tyre workshop or bargain the price of a new tyre set.

Check the surface of the tyres. If the inner side of tyres are worn, the toe-in can be wrongly set, the tires running opposite to each other, not parallel.
It can be because of some large potholes, but maybe, the running gear settings went wrong during a collision.
Check the straight running of the car and look for traces of repair on the front longitudinal members in the engine bay. If you see any uneven wear on the tires, have the parts of the running gear checked by an expert.

It's good to know, that tires will go wrong in 5-6 years even if they are not worn, because of the UV radiation of the sun. The rubber gets rigid and the tyre looses grip earlier, resulting in longer braking distance and aquaplaning even at lower speeds.
You should calculate the costs of a new set of tires.

You should use the same make and type of tires on all wheels, even if your country's regulations allow different types on the front and rear axle.

If you see different tyres on one axle, how the owner cared for the car (if he did not care for his own safety)?

It's good to know, that cars with front engine and front wheel drive need to have less worn tires on the REAR axle!
Why? Because there is much less weight on the rear axle than on the front, so rear tires loose grip much earlier, than the front tires.

 

Passenger cabin, carpets:

The wear of pedals, steering wheel, gear shift knob, handbreak handle indicates the real usage of car, whatever the odometer show. Check the door handle and door latch of the driver's side. Also check them on the other side, if they are worn, the car might have been used as a taxi. Not rare among Octavias.

Try the seat moving mechanism in every direction, especially, if the seat is moved by electric motors. Examine, how the driver's seat holds you. If it's uncomfortable, the seat took the shape of the previous owner, who spend a lot of time in it - probably spent the time with driving or waiting, so the car ran a lot or as a taxi. The seats must be secured tightly to the floor, they can move only if the setting mechanism is operated!

Touch the floor carpet and the seats. Always look under floor mats! Search for traces of wet.

If the car is equipped with rear windscreen wiper, check the roof lining and the luggage compartment lining for stains and wet. Rear windscreen washer fluid hoses sometimes come apart at connections and all the fluid flows on the lining.

 

Electric equipments:

Try everything, especially the expensive equipments. Air conditioner, seat heating, motorized seats, sun-roof.

If the car is equipped with 2-zone automatic air conditioner, check all functions thoroughly. Especially the changing of airflow direction. The changes between the operating modes should happen fastly and without noises. Also check the switch that closes the way of incoming air.
Any problem occurring can be repaired expensively, since the whole dashboard must be disassembled, what's more, after the repair you may count on noises from dashboard if the assembly procedure was not precise enough.

After turning on the ignition, all the control lights of the instrument cluster should lit up and some of them should go out after a few seconds.
Check the airbag light, because sometimes the bulb is removed to hide the lack of airbags after an accident. Also check the EPC or small engine shilhouette lamp, and the ABS lamp (if ABS is installed).
IMPORTANT: if the airbag light stays on, there's a problem with the air bag system and airbags will not be activated in a possible accident! Other possibility: no airbag(s) at all.

Have the headlights equal brightness?
If not, there can be an earthing problem.

Check the lamps for moisture, or dead insects inside. If you find any, the sealing of the lamp is wrong. Hopefully, just because of a previous bulb change, not a damage to the car or the lamp unit.

If the car has a factory fitted audio head unit, ask the owner for its security code. It may be needed when the battery is disconnected. If the code is not in the service booklet or the manual of the audio device, or none of them is available, only a dealer can get the code for us.
At Octavia 2 pre-facelift models the factory fitted audio system will not ask for a security code, even, if the battery is disconnected, only when the radio is installed into another car. The factory fitted audio unit's security code is not provided with the car's documentation.
Facelifted Octavia 2 cars come from the assembly line without the audio system coded to the on-board electronics. During pre-deliery inspection the dealer has to ask for the code of the audio device (audio device must be disassembled, because its serial number is on a label on the side) connecting the car through a VAS instrument to an on-line system. This methode is began with Superb 2.

If the factory fitted audio device was changed under warranty, it's security code can be found on a small label. Ask the owner.

VW-group cars have a weak point in the door lock mechanism. A small micro switch that tells the computer whether the door is open or not. This switch simply wears off, because it's made of plastic. First on the driver's side. That's the case if you experience the followings: you open the door, but the cabin light does not turn on, you turn on the headlights, take the key and open the door but no warning sound. The whole lock mechanism must be changed, because VAG did not provide any other solution, or a separate switch in the last 2 decades. It costs HUF 30-40.000 (GBP 100-140)
Fortunately, the switch can be purchased as an after market product for HUF 5000 (GBP 15).

 

Test drive:

Test the car with cold engine. Even the firs start-up can tell you much about the state of the engine.

Buy a diesel car in winter, the old wise men say. :-) It's fairly true. If the car does not start easily, or the battery is noticeably larger than it should be (in size and in capacity) the engine is surely worn.

As the engine is getting warmer, the diesel noise should become more and more silent. Petrol engines' hydraulic valve lifters should behave the same. When the engine reached the normal idling revolution, only the ticking sound of the fuel injectors can be heard, or the clicking noise of the activeted charcoal filter of petrol fuel system.

Test the behaviour of the car on the road, try to start and reverse with steering wheel completely turned in right and left direction. If a knocking noise comes from the first wheels, front axle shaft joints must be replaced!

 

*** Thanks to Stevie Wonder forum mate for his cooperation!

©2008-2013 Zsolt Sz.
Last update: 04. Feb., 2013.
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