I get asked a lot what to look out for when purchasing a pre-owned Gallardo. I have owned 2 of them and sold dozens so I wanted to put together a list of questions that any informed buyer should ask before placing a deposit on a car or committing to a purchase. We advise that you always make sure that a car has been inspected by an authorized dealer prior to your purchase. We run all of our cars through the shop to make sure that they are up to spec and up to date on service. Here are the additional items you should make sure to check on/ask
- Check the CARFAX and/or AutoCheck on the car – this sounds cheesy but you need to know. We make them free to download on our site for anything in inventory but it is one way to tell if the car has been in an accident or has a title issue. A clean CARFAX is by no means a guarantee that the car is clean, but a bad one is a pretty good indicator that something happened.
- Ask for service records – consistent fluid changes and inspections are critical on these cars. Gallardos can burn a liter of oil every thousand miles so if the car has not been serviced routinely it could have been run with very low oil levels which can cause bottom end engine issues.
- Get a LARA Report/E-Gear snap performed – This will not be available on a manual car but the computer can tell you on a percentage basis how much of the clutch is remaining. A clutch replacement will cost $5-8k depending on what else is done at the same time. The second half of the clutch will wear faster than the first. The LARA Report will also let you know if the car has been launched or had any transmission misuse which would indicate abuse. The clutch disk on a manual clutch can be visually inspected by a dealer to determine the approximate wear. Beware of aftermarket or re-manufactured clutches. OEM Gallardo clutches are sold as a balanced kit with the flywheel. R8 Clutches and other aftermarket clutches are sold as individual parts. If they are improperly balanced or installed you can have premature wear and other negative effects. Since the cost of a clutch replacement is usually 30-50% labor, the risk of installing a potential inferior product is fairly high.
- Check for oil leaks – Early cars are prone to oil leaking around the oil pan and the rear main seal. Make sure that this is checked. On my 04’s I usually ended up replacing them every other clutch.
- Check the wheels and tires – Tire life will depend on how the car is used but will likely average around 10,000 miles for rears and 15,000 miles for the fronts. Gallardos are extremely sensitive to tire issues. If the pressure in one of the rears is just a few pounds low you may experience a significant amount of pulling and twisting under acceleration or throttle life. Depending on the level of tire that you use, you will see costs for replacement between $1,500-2,500 for the cars. We strongly recommend the use of Pirelli tires on the cars. Many of the other brands, even if the sizes are identical, have different rolling diameters and can cause differential problems. The leading cause of differential problems though, are aftermarket wheels. We certainly understand the motivation to customize and modify your car to your own personal taste but because of the way that Lamborghini AWD systems work, if you alter the rolling diameter ratio from front to rear, the system will experience a rolling resistance that feels like braking upon takeoff. This will result in premature clutch wear and slippage as well as differential wear.
- Check alignment via tire wear – If the tire wear is not symmetrical, it is likely a sign that the alignment is off. You are more likely to see the inside of the tires wear faster because some camber is built into the suspension design but if there is a huge gap in wear, you will need to have an alignment performed. I usually have the car aligned every other set of tires.
- Check the differentials and clutch by driving – If you apply a significant amount of steering lock in either direction and slowly feed in the throttle, you should not experience a significant amount of differential binding in the front and the clutch should disengage quickly. It will take a bit longer than disengagement in a straight line but it should be fully disengaged by 2,000 RPM.
- Check for paint work – While the paint match between panels may not be perfect from the factory, a glaring mismatch is a strong indicator of paint work. Check the door jams and hinges for any signs of shoddy paint work or repairs. They are often the areas that get the least attention from a body shop. Also, run your fingers along the edges of the hood, doors, and panels.
- Be careful with aftermarket exhausts – It is common to change out the exhausts on exotic cars. That can have some benefits in top end power and sound but it often comes at a cost. There are two valve systems in a Gallardo exhaust. The first opens at startup to clear everything out and the second opens around 4,000 RPM to enhance the noise and power. If the second valve system is disabled, the car will not have as much anticipated back pressure at low speed/low RPM. This will cause a lag in takeoff and increase the range over which the clutch slips, causing premature wear.
- Check for heat damage around the rear of the car – It is not the end of the world but heat damage to the rear bumper, side marker lights, and tail lights on Gallardos is extremely common. Check for inoperative market lights and hairline cracks around the lights. It is very common to see some dimpling of the rear panel behind the Lamborghini script logo causing the badge to buckle.
- Check for any error lights – This is an obvious one but pay attention to any lights on the dash. The Check Engine lights in Gallardos are fairly sensitive and have a variety of triggers. It is important to know what a problem is prior to purchase for emissions inspections.
- Check the brakes – look to make sure that there is a good amount of pad left under the calipers and run your finger outward on the rotor to check for a lip at the edge of the rotor. This can cause brakes squealing. Typical Gallardo brake life is approximately 30k miles. You will usually replace pads and rotors each time (might skip rear rotors in some cases). This will run around $3k.
- Watch out for aftermarket stereos – the factory radios are pretty weak, we know that, particularly on the 04-05 cars. Replacing them is not a terrible thing, you just have to be careful. If you put additional speakers behind the seats, the magnetism can hurt the ECUs which ride there. If you wire the system in poorly, you can cause draws that will drain the batteries very quickly.
- Check the VIN – The engines of the first 1,500 cars were built in a different location and are a bit prone to rod bearing issues. It is still worth owning them, you just need to be more mindful of oil levels, abuse, and a modifications.
- Check the interior – Anyone browsing eBay can tell that seat bolster wear is a common affliction of early Gallardos. It is more a cosmetic than functional issue but a worn out interior makes a car a tough sell.
- Check for rock chips and front end scrapes. The cars are low and the front end lift did not come out until 05 so check for scrapes and cracks on the underside of the front bumper. It is a good idea to keep a clear bra on the cars to protect from rock chips. The paint, particularly the 3 layer pearlescent paints are tough to match so not having to respray is a good thing.
- Listen to the engine and transmission – you will hear the transmission pump prime when you open the driver’s door on an e-gear car. You will also hear it when you come to a stop or whenever the system feels it needs pressure. If you do not drive them frequently it can be difficult to tell if the noise is lasting too long or happening too frequently. Any valve tick or knock is serious on a Gallardo. If it sounds strange, figure out why before proceeding.
- Watch the oil pressure – it should develop at least 4-6 bar pressure under acceleration and not drop below 1 bar at idle. On 20k mile plus cars we recommend running a thicker oil to help bolster oil pressure but low pressure can quickly cause problems.
- Shift at varying throttle inputs and speeds on a test drive. If the car shifts peculiarly it can be a sign of the hydraulic shift pressure dropping. This is bad. A shift actuator is a rare part to fail but it is about a $15k replacement.
- Press the buttons – quickly after startup turn on the headlights, activate the turn signals, and turn of the traction control. Gallardos are occasionally prone to electrical errors developing from bad grounds, low voltage, and failures in the slip ring within the steering column.
- Watch your Mirrors – The windshield mounted rear view mirrors are extremely prone to leaking. The auto dimming fluid in the mirror breaks down over time and you will start to notice some movement of the fluid within the face of the mirror. As soon as you start to see this, or ideally before, you should replace it with a non-dimming mirror. This should be less than $150.
- Good Whistle/Bad Whistle – the architecture of the intake system can frequently cause a whistle, particularly under acceleration when the engine is cold. This is not a problem and will likely be exhibited in some form on any Gallardo. It is usually OK to ignore an RPM based whistle. If there is a whistle that begins or changes significantly during a shift it could be an indication of a worn throw out bearing.
- Recognize the learning capability of the E-Gear System – It is not uncommon for a Gallardo that has sat for a while or been driven in traffic to shift and drive very poorly. It happens because the clutch position sensors get disoriented and do not engage and disengage the clutch smoothly. If you drive the car properly and hard for a few miles most of the time they will reset and drive beautifully.
- Know the cars and know the market – There have been nearly 12,000 Gallardos built since 2003 and they have changed a lot over the years. Know the differences from year to year. I will repost my “Evolution of the Gallardo Model” guide tomorrow and a good idea of where prices are today after that. Keep in mind that some cars can have over $80,000 in options and will deviate considerably from standard pricing.
- Enjoy the process – shopping for an exotic car is a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Ask a lot of questions, consult people who you know are knowledgeable and find the best car that fits your budget. The end result of a properly executed buying process will be many years and many miles of happy motoring.
Please feel free to share any of your Gallardo buying experiences and lessons learned.
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