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When buying a used car, what are some key things to inspect?

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  • When buying a used car, what are some key things to inspect?

    Who has any experience in this field? Help please

  • #2
    Investigating the Car's History

    Go for the test drives

    bring mechanic to check engine and other parts


    • #3
      I checked your profile and you are in California.

      The first thing to do is get a Carfacts report:

      The Carfacts report will tell you if there is a financial lean on the car, if it has been in a serious accident and anything else of note. The cost of the report is reasonable.

      When you go to see the car, bring a magnet, a flashlight and some paper towels. The magnet is used to check if the body has been extensively repaired with putty. The magnet will not stick to areas that have been repaired. Check the fenders, the wheel arches, the rocker panels (lower part of the car, under the doors), the hood and the trunk with the magnet. (If you are buying an all-aluminium car or a Lotus or a Corvette, the magnet will not work of course.) While you're at it, check the roof with the magnet.

      Get on your knees and stick your finger into the exhaust pipe. Your finger should just come out dirty. Wipe it off with the paper towels. If it feels greasy, that indicates a problem somewhere up the line. If you are buying a diesel-engine car, skip this check. While you're down there, look under the car for any leaks. If there are none, don't assume everything is OK; the car may have just been moved to this location.

      Crawl under the car and look around with your flashlight. Look for anything amiss: stains, leaks, rust. Jiggle the exhaust system (if it is cool) and note any loose connections.

      Get back up and look into each wheel well and look for anything amiss. Look at each tire while there, the wear should be even for the front tires and for the rear tires, in pairs. If the tires are new, ask the seller why: this could be a red flag.

      Open the hood and look at the engine with your flashlight. Check the oil level, power steering fluid level, transmission fluid level (if the car has an automatic transmission) brake fluid level, coolant fluid level. Practice on another car before so you know where to look for these things. If you can't find them on the car you wish to purchase, ask the seller. They are in different places on different cars and you can't be expected to know every car's placements. Examine for evidence of leaks. Ask for the engine to be turned on and listen to it. Shine your flashlight and look for signs of problems.

      Get in. Put the car in gear drive off and when it is safe to do so, stomp on the brakes. Does the pedal pressure feel right? Did a wheel lock up? Continue driving. Try all the gears manually, even if it is an automatic transmission. Does everything feel normal?

      If you are satisfied, you can bring it to a mechanic YOU have found and will pay for a mechanical checkup.

      Ideally, you should do all of this with a friend present. His job is to keep the seller occupied with small talk while you do your tests with the magnet, flashlight and paper towels.

      PS...when you come back from your test drive, hang around for a little while. After a few minutes, check under the car for leaks. If you have driven in hot weather with the air conditioner working, a water leak from the thawing frost on the condenser is normal. You are looking for any oily leak. It could be a green, red or black leak.
      Last edited by RogerCarmel; 03-09-2018, 10:22 PM.


      • #4
        Originally posted by RogerCarmel View Post
        ... It could be a green, red or black leak.


        • #5
          1. The easiest thing you can do is check the spot under the car for leaks.

          2. Check under the engine bay and see if there's oil, coolant, or any other fluid that had spilled or sprayed in any area.

          3. Check the color of the fluid- engine oil, transmission, power steering, brakes. These should all be more or less clear. If you see specks in any of them, it could be metal bits that got into the fluid because the owner had never replaced it before, or on time.

          4. If you live in a cold place (like Canada), be suspicious if you meet with the owner and the car is warm. This could mean that the car has trouble starting in the cold.

          5. Start the car and listen for any peculiarities- misfire, knocking, sucking noises (vacuum leak)

          6. Drive it, and make sure you go through all gears whether it be a manual trans or an auto. Shift from 1- 5/6 + R and neutral, or go through P R N D L and see if the car bucks, or does anything out of the ordinary.

          7. Pay attention to any smell or shaking while driving.

          8. Take it to an empty parking lot and do 8- figure maneuvers (literally just drive like the number 8) and pay attention to any grinding or squealing noise.

          9. Make sure all electronics are working- turn signals, head lights, horn, ac/ heat, radio, defroster, seat heater, power seats. Some of these may seem trivial but driving with no radio is soul sucking, especially in traffic.

          10. If at all possible, check the VIN records for any accidents, etc.


          • #6
            Mileage Does the mileage, age and appearance of the car look consistent? Any sign like worn screws that the instruments might have been tampered with? (Digital odometers can be tampered with electronically so clues like this won't exist) Check recorded mileage on service records, MOT 'certificates' and other documents. Does it look consistent with current mileage/condition and increase steadily year on year? Check MOT status and history online (with vehicle registration and make). Accident damage? Any signs of inconsistent gaps between panels or mismatched colours that could be a sign of extensive repairs? Is the paint finish even across the car? Any traces of paint spray on handles, window seals or plastic mouldings? Could the car's colour have been changed? (Look under carpets and in other hidden areas in particular.) Any unusual looking welding under the bonnet or in the boot? Safety Are the tyres in good condition and all of the specification and dimensions? Tyres with less than 3mm of tread will have to be replaced soon. Is the spare wheel or tyre inflator/sealant kit in serviceable condition? Are the jack and other tools present? Do all the seatbelts operate correctly? Check there are no cuts or fraying that could affect the way they work. If airbags are fitted, Check that warning lights operate as described in the handbook – normally they will come on with the ignition and then go out? Do all lights and windscreen wipers/washers work correctly? Test drive Do all warning lights operate normally? Lights will generally come on to test and then go out – unless there's a fault. Are the brakes effective or does it take a long time or a lot of effort to stop? Is braking even or does the car pull to one side? Any unusual noises when you brake? Is the handbrake effective? Any steering vibration or pull to one side? If ABS is fitted, does the warning light go out after the engine is started? Engine Any abnormal noises when the engine is started from cold? Does the oil warning light go out as soon as the engine starts? Any signs of excessive visible exhaust emissions? Does the clutch operate normally? A noise when you press the pedal or a high biting point could mean that repairs will be required soon. Is the catalytic converter in good condition? Look for a recent emissions test, either alone or as part of an MOT. This will confirm that emissions are within the stringent limits applied to modern cars. Is there sludge on the underside of the oil filler cap? This could indicate poor servicing or predominantly short journey use. Is the oil level right? Too low shows neglect; too high could be a clue that the engine is using oil but it could just have been over filled in error. Has the cam belt been replaced according to the service schedule? Locks, windows and general controls Do all the locks, including central locking and remote control, work properly? Do all windows, including any sunroof, open/close normally? Any signs of forced entry, damaged or different locks, suggesting they've been replaced? Have you got all the right keys? Check the handbook to see which keys were provided when the car was new. Modern keys are expensive to replace, particularly the coloured 'master' key provided by some manufacturers to programme new spare keys to the car. Are locking wheel nuts fitted? Check that the special adapter required is included with the tool kit. Make sure it fits too. Do all the minor controls operate correctly – heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, radio/CD, navigation etc?


            • #7
              I think it's much better to buy a used car but a GOOD used car. That's why it's essential to pay attention to a lot of things. I bought my car via customs broker company two years ago. And I have to tell you, I am totally satisfied with my car. So, you can apply to this company -