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What to look for when buying a used S2000 / or just bought a used S2000

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What to look for when buying a used S2000 / or just bought a used S2000

 
Old 03-23-2010, 12:37 PM
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Default What to look for when buying a used S2000 / or just bought a used S2000

This thread is for anyone shopping for a used S2000 who wants to know the expensive problems to watch out for and/or how to inspect a car before buying. Hopefully after reading this you'll be able to find a good, trouble-free car, or at least know what you're getting into.

Any text underlined in this guide will link you to an S2ki.com thread with more information on that subject. If you're comfortable inspecting a used car skip to the bullet points in red, that is S2000 specific information. Specific details on model year differences and maintenance are not covered here and can be found in the S2K Talk and Under the Hood FAQs.

Here are a few tips for new S2ki.com members:__________________________________________________ ______________

The first thing to do when shopping for any car is to use sites like these:to determine what you think cars in your price range with different year, miles and condition are worth. Once you know the expected price for a given S2000, use this FAQ to determine if there are any problems that significantly affect the value of the car.

For example, a new soft top is ~$1000. If you’re looking at a car with a bad soft top, deduct $1000 from the price you’d expect to pay for that car. The same goes for a car that needs tires, a new bumper, or whatever else is important to you. Once you've inspected a few cars and have their expected price adjusted for condition and problems, it's easy to figure which cars are good buys.

Summary of common S2000 problems that could significantly affect the value of a car:
(A more complete list of common S2000 problems is located here.)

2000-20012000-20032004-2009
  • Pops out of 2nd, 4th, or 6th gear
  • (06+) Dash has bubbles, blisters or wrinkles.
All Years
  • Wheel bearings can go bad and are pricey.
  • Shifting problems. Don't skip shift
  • Oil consumption. This is difficult to evaluate prior to buying but potential owners should read up on it.
  • Stolen seats
  • Soft top tears and holes
  • Using incorrect jack points
Questions to ask a private seller over the phone:
(A used car dealer would not know the answers to most of these questions, you’re on your own there. If you are buying an out of warranty car from a dealer -don't- take their word for anything mechanical on the car. It's the buyer's responsibility to make sure they know what they are buying, not the dealer's.)
  • Get the VIN and run an Autocheck or Carfax. Don’t ask to run VINs on S2ki.com.
  • Check the VIN for theft or salvage here.
  • How many miles are on the car?
  • How many miles were on the car when you bought it?
  • How long have you owned the car?
  • Why are you selling?
  • Where did you buy it?
  • What maintenance records do you have?
  • What recent work has been done to the car?
  • What work does the car need as it sits?
  • Has the car been in any minor or major accidents?
  • When was the last time the oil was changed?
  • How often is the oil changed?
  • How often does the oil need to be topped up?
  • Has it ever been run low on oil?
  • Casually ask them how long the tires last. That can give you an indication of how it has been driven.
  • Has the car ever been raced?
  • Has it ever been overreved due to a mis-shift? This can lead to cracked retainers on AP1s.
  • Where was the car stored? A garage is ideal.
Things to check before leaving for a test drive:
  • Bring something to take notes on and write down any pluses or minuses for each car you look at. After you see a few it can be hard to keep them straight without notes.
  • Ask the owner to not start the car before you arrive to see it. Some problems will only be evident when the car is cold. If you know how to not burn yourself, hold your hand next to the engine or header to verify the engine is cold when you arrive.
  • Try to get a look at their garage. The condition of their garage can (but not always) indicate how well the owner takes care of their car.
  • Check for any leaks where the car is parked. Keep in mind there could be funk on the ground unrelated to the car. I prefer to see where the car is normally stored.
  • Check the oil for level and color. Dark oil is not ideal but can mean it just needs to be changed. Oil below the low mark is very bad. Oil that is cloudy or milkshake colored can indicate a blown head gasket or cracked head and that you should pass on that car.
  • Check the coolant for level and color (Don’t open the radiator cap on a hot engine!) Coolant that is low is not ideal, but may not be a big deal. Coolant that looks like a milkshake can indicate a blown head gasket and that you should pass on that car.
  • Look under the oil cap and into the valve cover. Ideally it should look like the oil on the dipstick. Sludge or a milky color can indicate lack of maintenance.
  • Check the brake and clutch fluid color and level. These can get dirty fast so dark isn’t always a problem. If they are low that could indicate brake or clutch trouble and bills in the $100-300 range at an independent mechanic. Much less if you can DIY. It is somewhat common for S2000 clutch master cylinders to have a slight leak that can result in a wet spot on the carpet in driver's footwell near the pedals. If it's a slight leak it's probably not a big deal. Here is a link that discusses servicing the clutch fluid.
  • Look at the battery terminals. If they are corroded that indicates lack of maintenance by the owner. A battery is cheap and easy to replace, but this sort of thing can help you determine if the car has been well cared for or not.
  • Take a quick look at the tires, especially the rears. Bald rear tires have caused many S2000 crashes, and uneven wear on the tires can indicate anything from bad alignment to parts that need replacing or an accident.
During the initial test drive:
  • Drive on the highway and around town like you normally would. Shift up and down through each gear. Take the car to redline without abusing it or breaking the law. Try braking from different speeds. Let car decelerate in gear from several gears at different speeds. Pull into a parking space. Use reverse. Try to make it show you any faults.
  • Does the car start and idle normally when cold?
  • Does the car start and idle normally when hot?
  • Do any idiot lights flash or stay on during the drive? Oil, CEL, ABS and EPS lights should warn you of potentially expensive repairs. A flashing oil pressure light (not the AP2 oil quality indicator) is very bad, I would probably walk away from that. The others could cost upwards of $1k or more to repair. Adjust the price accordingly if you're buying a car with these lights on.
  • Does it shift smoothly through all gears including reverse? There are many causes of S2000 shifting problems ranging from very inexpensive to very expensive.
  • Is there obvious blue smoke or –lots- of white smoke coming from the tailpipe? Both are probably deal breakers. A small amount of white smoke is normal.
  • Find an empty road, get up to about 30 in third gear and floor the accelerator. If you can see the engine RPMs climb independent of the car accelerating, the clutch likely needs to be replaced.
  • On the same empty road, brake from highway speeds with a light grip on the wheel. Does the car pull to one side? If it’s not caused by the crown of the road that could be things like tire pressures, alignment or bad brake calipers.
  • Is the steering wheel straight when you’re going straight down the road? This is a pet peeve of mine and can be caused by a variety of problems, some inexpensive, some expensive.
  • Does the cruise work?
  • Does the emergency brake work?
  • If it’s an AP1 is there clutch buzz?
  • Find an empty parking lot and do slow figure eights both forward and reverse. Listen for any strange noises. In a FWD car you can check CV joints this way.
Now park the car and inspect the following:
  • Now that the car is warm, is the engine making any unusual sounds?
  • (AP1 only) With the engine off, check the engine serial number for the banjo bolt upgrade. All engines after #1025386 in '02 and all '03 should have the new bolts.
  • Is the engine serial number is within 10-15 digits of the car’s VIN. If it isn’t, the engine might not be original.
  • Pull the air filter out, is it clean or dirty?
  • Is the wear on the steering wheel, pedals, shifter, carpet, seats, etc consistent with the miles on the odometer? This is a good way to confirm that the odometer hasn't been tampered with and can give you an idea of how the owner takes care of the car.
  • Do all the keys work all the locks and start the car? Do the key fobs work?
  • Does the top go up and down smoothly?
  • Are there any holes or excessive wear marks on the soft top? Look inside and outside.
  • Are the seats worn excessively? These are expensive to replace.
  • Do all the seat controls and compartment doors work smoothly?
  • Does the radio work? Stock AP1 radios are garbage.
  • Look under the dashboard on both sides for non-stock wiring that could indicate modifications. This may or may not be a big deal, but it’s worth being aware of and asking the owner about.
  • Is there water in trunk or under the trunk tools? Put your hand on the interior carpet near the footwells. Is there any evidence of wetness or water intrusion?
Now take a look under the car
  • Are there any signs of leaking from the engine, transmission or differential?
  • Any signs of rust in the wheel wells or underbody? If possible, check behind the rubber strip at the rear wheel arches.
  • Any damage from bottoming out, accidents, improper jacking, etc?
  • Torn axle boot, tie rod boots, or ball joints. If a boot is not dry that part probably needs replacing
  • Exhaust leaks or damage. Leaks can usually be identified by black soot where two exhaust parts join.
  • Look at the brake rotors. If they are scored with deep grooves the brakes likely need replacing. If you are confident the brakes are cool, you can run your finger over the edge of the rotor to feel how worn they are.
  • Run your hand along each tire’s tread at both the inside and outside of the tire. Tires can look fine on the outside tread and be worn bald on the inside. Worn more or less in the middle usually means incorrect tire pressure. If the tread feels “choppy” and not smooth there is likely an alignment or suspension problem. This could be anywhere from a $100-1000+ repair, not including the cost of tires.
  • With the steering wheel unlocked, grab each wheel or tire at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock and shake or push-pull it as hard as you can in and out. If you feel clunks that can point to things like bad tire rod ends or wheel bearings. Do the same at 12 and 6. If there are clunks or strange noises, expect a $100-300 bill at each corner, more if it's wheel bearings.
Check for signs of body work or accidents
  • Verify that all the VIN stickers are in place and match the car’s VIN.
  • Look at the S2000 logos on the fenders. Are they lined up properly?
  • Open the hood and look at the bolts holding on the front fenders. Often there will be paint worn off of these if the fenders were removed.
  • Same with the door and trunk hinges.
  • Look at the radiator support. Does the paint look strange or is there evidence of replaced parts? Poor repair work from a front end collision can be visible there.
  • Look for overspray onto any black panels near a painted body panel. Fender liners and door/windshield trims are good places to look for overspray.
  • Check door and panel edges for paint lines.
  • Check the sides of doors or door jambs for bodyshop stickers.
  • Check that body panel gaps are even. This includes the bumpers.
  • Look at adjacent panels from different angles and in different light. Poor paint work can show up as inconsistent color or texture between panels.
  • Check the glass for Honda logos. Glass could be replaced due to minor things like rock chips or it could be a result of theft damage or an accident.
If you're getting a professional pre-purchase inspection:
  • -Don't- let the selling dealer or private seller arrange the inspection. Take it to an independent shop. Your local S2000 community can help you choose a shop
  • If possible, get an Engine Compression test done and pay particular attention to the #4 cylinder. Low compression on the #4 cylinder is a sign of oil starvation from hard driving (i.e. AutoX, HPDE Track Days)
  • (AP1 only) have the mechanic pull the valve cover and inspect for recessed keepers which are caused by cracked retainers.
These are items that came with new S2000s. Be sure to ask the owner if they are included:
  • Original window sticker
  • Convertible top cover
  • Owner's manual
  • Warranty information
  • 2 Master keys
  • 2 Remotes
  • 1 Valet key
  • Radio anti theft card(s)
  • Key number card
  • Tow hook and jack tools
  • Spare tire
  • Wheel lock keys (if there are wheel locks)
  • Seat lock keys (If there are seat locks)
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Old 03-23-2010, 12:39 PM
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These are some things a new owner should do for their S2000

Themikewoo's post on new owner maintenance is a great place to start - I'm a New Owner What to Change/Check/Replace First?
  • At a minimum, read the FAQ in S2000 Talk. The Under the Hood and UK Community FAQs also have great information on your new car.
  • Register at S2ki.com The information on this site will save you much more than the cost of of a membership.
  • Register the car at Honda's Owner's Link. It will let you know if there are any recalls and if they have been done. You can keep maintenance records, make appointments, etc.
  • Change all fluids and filters
  • Be sure to get the correct oil filter if you buy one from a dealer. If you have to buy from an auto parts store, Pure One and K&N filters are good options
  • Don't buy differential fluid from a dealer, Honda doesn't stock a diff fluid for the S2000. If a dealer puts CRV diff fluid in your S2000 it will likely ruin your diff.
  • Gravity bleed the brake and clutch fluid
  • Check tire tread depth on the inside and outside of all tires
  • Get a good alignment
  • Change the spark plugs if your car has a lot of miles.
  • Check the oil often, some cars burn more than others. Sometimes switching oils will help with oil burning.
  • Some cars burn excessive amounts of Mobil 1
  • Buy seat locks. These seats are stolen all the time and are very expensive. It's really hard to drive the car without seats.
  • Regrease the shifter lever pivot points.
  • Check for spring spacers
  • Verify spark plug torque is correct
  • (AP1) Pull the valve cover and inspect the retainers and keepers
  • Change the belt
  • Replace PCV valve or do the Supra PCV mod
  • Axle nut retorque
  • De-burr the soft top frame
  • Check soft top straps and pick up the Modifry top strap fix if they are sagging.
  • Clean and treat your soft top with Raggtopp or 303 Aerospace Protectant
  • Clean/protect cv joint boots
  • Bypass clutch interlock. (optional)
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Old 03-23-2010, 12:40 PM
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Reserved
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Old 03-23-2010, 12:41 PM
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Feel free to post suggestions or additions and I'll add them to the first post.

Also, if you have a link to any of the topics mentioned, post it in the thread and I'll add it as a link in the first post. I need a good link about clutch buzz among other things.
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Old 03-23-2010, 12:44 PM
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nice write up!
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Old 03-23-2010, 01:04 PM
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Register the car onto honda's owner link. It will let you know if there are any recalls and if they have been done. You can keep maintenance records, make appointments.

https://www.ahm-ownerlink.com/login.asp?pag...2Fprod_home.asp
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Old 03-23-2010, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by s2slow206,Mar 23 2010, 03:04 PM
Register the car onto honda's owner link. It will let you know if there are any recalls and if they have been done. You can keep maintenance records, make appointments.

https://www.ahm-ownerlink.com/login.asp?pag...2Fprod_home.asp
Thanks Added that.
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Old 03-23-2010, 02:14 PM
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If possible, get an Engine Compression test done by a reputable mechanic and pay particular attention to the #4 cylinder. Low compression on the #4 cylinder is a sign of oil starvation from hard driving (i.e. AutoX, HPDE Track Days).
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Old 03-23-2010, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by DaPhatty,Mar 23 2010, 04:14 PM
If possible, get an Engine Compression test done by a reputable mechanic and pay particular attention to the #4 cylinder. Low compression on the #4 cylinder is a sign of oil starvation from hard driving (i.e. AutoX, HPDE Track Days).
Thanks, added. Does that apply to all years or just AP1/F20?
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Old 03-23-2010, 03:50 PM
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If I recall correctly, this issue specifically affects AP1s but I had a compression check done on my AP2 just in case.
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