Used Fords Tips

Read these 5 Used Fords Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Used Car tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Trucks and Kids

Truck fans who have children -- or are looking to start a family soon -- may not like this tip. Many parents and parents-to-be begin searching for used vehicles as their family expands. A big question is whether or not to get a used truck or a used car. While trucks may look big, brawny, and safe, they simply are not safe enough for small children. Children have to sit in the back of a vehicle. This is due to the fact that in case of an accident, the contents of the vehicle (i.e., you and your family) will be shot forward, in most cases. Keeping seatbelts on at all times in a moving vehicle can reduce catastrophic results in an accident, however. To be on the safe side, it's best to choose a used car if you have or intend to have a family. If you're really keen on trucks, select a used truck that has a safe back seat, such as the Ford Explorer.

When should I check my used car's oil?

Checking Your Oil

Whether your car is new or used, one regular maintenance check-up no car owner should neglect is checking the oil. But when should you do it? When the engine is cold (before you first start it in the morning) or when it's warm (after you've driven it and it's cooled down a bit)?

The generally accepted answer is when the engine is cold. That way you have a clear indication of the oil level. The oil hasn't heated and moved up the dip stick and there's no oil coming down off the inside of the engine. There's also no need to wipe the dip stick and re-check after taking the initial reading. However, Ford Motor Company suggests that you check the oil when the engine is warm. This could be specific to their vehicles; perhaps their dip sticks are designed for a warm-engine reading. If you own a Ford, experiment by taking a reading once in the morning and once after driving. Compare the two readings and go with an average.

Should I have a User's Manual for my used Ford?

Ford Fix-its

If you're at all mechanically-inclined, keep a User's Manual for your used Ford car or truck in the trunk or glove compartment. They're remarkably easy to read, and a good safety measure in case you ever get stranded. Having a User's Manual also allows you to better understand what needs to be fixed on your vehicle rather than relying on the kindness of a strange mechanic.

You can download Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury User's Manuals for free at if you have a vehicle from 1996 to 2008. Earlier models' manuals can be located at

Does my 1982 Escort need a new engine?

Got an Old Ford Escort?

Here's a great tip if you have an old Ford Escort -- specifically, 1981 or 1982. These models tend to have timing belt problems. When the belt breaks, the pistons come up erratically and break the valves by smashing them. An obvious response to this is to save up for a new engine, since it's perfectly acceptable to replace and old Ford Escort engine with one from a newer model. However, you can avoid having to buy a whole new engine by having the timing belt replaced every 45,000 miles. These old Escorts need a little more TLC, so be sure to keep up on general tune-ups as well.

What do VIN numbers mean?

Decoding VINs

One of the most important pieces of research you will do before buying a used vehicle is checking its VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). This will allow you to learn about the vehicle's past -- any accidents, recalls, past owners, etc. But what exactly is a VIN? Ford Motor Company has set up a very convenient page on their site where you can look up a used Ford's VIN (from 1982-present), and they've taken the time to explain a VIN's 17-position breakdown of letters and/or numbers.

1-3: World Manufacturer Identifier
4: Restraint System Type, Brake Type, and GVWR Class (for Trucks and Vans)
5-7: Line, Series, Body Type
8: Engine Type
9: Check Digit
10: Model Year
11: Assembly Paint
12-17: Production Sequence Number

It's not imperative that you know what your used vehicle's VIN means, but as they say, "Knowledge is power." Now, don't you feel a little stronger?

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Sheri Ann Richerson